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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 avoiding darkness and bad weather. Used correctly, indoor riding can be a key component of a broad based cycling training program, particulary during the winter months. It is a great way to maintain cardiovascular fitness, but should be combined with weight or other resistance training if you plan on increasing muscle strength.

Some cyclists have noted that using a stationary trainer or rollers seems much more difficult, target heart rate 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 "rests" when you're freewheeling down a hill,in a draft, or halfwheeling in a group. On the trainer, you're at a reasonably 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 of a focus on your effort - and pain hurts more if 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.


A stationary trainer allows you to use your own bike without the need to think about your balance while exercising (i.e. you can read a book or watch a movie). If you could buy just one indoor training device, get a good fluid trainer. A model that clamps the bike by the rear dropouts and leaves the front wheel on is much less likely to stress the frame than a model that clamps the front fork and bottom bracket.

Another advantage of a trainer is the ability to vary the training resistance. With good ones you can dial up 700+ watts. Although you can develop strength, you lose the biggest advantage of rollers -- developing a smooth, even pedal stroke. But there is an alternative, you can do one-leg pedaling drills (which may be even more effective for developing a smooth stroke than riding on rollers).


Rollers are an alternative to a fixed, stationary bike. But they have that additional challenge - balance!! Here are a few tips if you decide that rollers (which allow you to train on your own bicycle) are for you.

First thing is to set the rollers correctly. Put the bike on the rollers and set the height of the front wheel the same as the rear one with adjusters or blocks of wood. If this is not done you will be riding up hill and the ballance will be wrong causing untold damage to the perineum etc. The next thing to do is to set the length the same as your bike. A plumb bob from the front axle of your bike should pass as close as possible to the centre of the front roller. A centimetre either way is OK. After this check the level again.

It helps to place the rollers in a doorway so you can hold onto the door frame to get started (an alternative is to have a buddy standing by to give you a hand). Place the bike in the middle of the rollers and start by holding the left of center of the handlebars. Put your right foot in the clips. Keep your head up to keep a focus straight ahead. Practice riding smoothly without bouncing. Try 15 second spurts until you are steady on the bike. Cadences above 140rpm or so can easily be maintained, reaching over 180 rpm in a sprint.


Reasons to consider stationary training:

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 to make it a bit more palatable? Consider these: TRAINING PLAN

Remember that having a plan helps fight the boredom, and is a key to making this a positive part of your training program. There are many plans available, but most have common themes.

But before you turn up that stereo, a study of untrained men and women demonstrated 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 that a poorer workout when they cranked up the decibels.What's not clear is whether the hard core riders preferred silence and suffering and made the difference or whether it was the distraction of the music that kept everyone from maxing out.

Since you will 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.

For the week, you will probably want a day or two at 65-72% VO2 max. as 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 cameraderie 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 buds.


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

Cycling Performance Tips
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