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  Last updated: 3/1/2012


Indoor riding on a stationary bicycle or rollers, although monotonous and close to the most boring activity imaginable to a roadie or mud loving mountain biker, has advantages above and beyond off season training (as a way to avoid the problems of darkness and bad weather). Some reasons you might consider stationary training include:

Used correctly, indoor riding is a key component of a 4 season cycling training program. It is a great way to maintain cardiovascular fitness, and is often combined with weight or other resistance training to increase muscle strength.

Some cyclists have noted that using a stationary trainer or rollers seems much more taxing, target heart rates being similar, than riding outdoors. Why is that? There is an old saying that goes: an hour on the trainer is worth two on the road. One possibility is that when you're on the road, you get "to rest " when you're freewheeling down a hill, are drafting, or halfwheeling in a group. On the trainer, you tend to stay at a fairly constant rpm, which is not your normal style. Another is that the absence of distractions such as traffic lights, changing scenery, traffic and road conditions result in more focus on your effort - and discomfort is more annoying the more you think about it!

Another option is to use step intervals as described in the section on off season training. And if you have the time to make it to the gym, spin classes may offer the best of all worlds - aerobic training, using all your cycling specific muscles, without the boredom of that stationary trainer in the basement.

The biggest drawback of stationary cycling is the monotony and boredom of sitting and sweating in one place for an hour. What are some techniques that might make it a bit more palatable? Consider these:

Options for "cycling like" indoor training during the off season include:


Having a plan will help fight the boredom, and is a key to making this a positive part of your training program. There are many plans on the internet, but there are common themes in all of them.

But before you turn up that stereo, a study of untrained men and women revealed that they rode an average of 27% longer when they cycled in silence rather than listening to music. And another study of trained cyclists found a poorer workout when they cranked up the decibels. What's not clear is whether the hard core riders preferred silence (and perhaps the ability to focus on pushing their limits) or whether it was the distraction of the music that kept everyone from maxing out.

Since you will most likely monitor these sessions using your heart rate (a heart rate monitor is very helpful if you have one) review the section of this page on the use of a heart rate monitor.

Looking at a week's work of riding, you will probably want a day or two at 65-72% VO2 max as your recovery days, a day or two at 84-90% VO2 max. to build your aerobic base, and one or two interval sessions:


You are pedaling in the Tour de France. The crowd is cheering as you push yourself up a steep hill. Your thighs are burning. Your breath is coming in gasps. Will you make it? "You've reached the top!" a voice commands. "Back off that tension!" You reach down and loosen the tension on your stationary bike, and come back to reality.

Spinning is one of the newest and hottest exercise classes. Instead of merely tooling along on your stationary bicycle as you thumb through a magazine or watch the latest headline news, you burn up the imaginary road with a roomful of other exercisers, with the lights turned off and the music loud.

Like other exercise classes, spinning is led by an instructor, who barks out commands throughout the 40- to 60-minute session. And like most other exercise classes, spinning starts out with a warm-up and stretching. Then comes the ride, alternating intervals of "hill climbing" (increased tension on the bike) and "sprinting" (less tension). The classes conclude with a cool-down and stretching.

What enthusiasts say they like about spinning is that the amount of tension on the bike is determined by each rider. You can make it as tough or easy a ride as you want to -- only you know for sure. And to help the riders concentrate and set the mood, the lights are usually switched off.

So when it's raining or you get home late and the sun is setting, there are no more excuses. It's either time to head for the basement or the garage where you can catch the evening news, or take an hour at the gym to join in the camaraderie of a spin class. Whichever choice you make, you will have the satisfaction of knowing that you are going to get that edge on the rest of your cycling buddies.


Questions on content or suggestions to improve this page are appreciated.

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