If you can hear loud roaring and moaning, out of my room (that’s not fully drowned by some pounding music), my flatmates know exactly what’s going on right now: I am training on my turbo trainer. The rear wheel of my road bike is fixed in place, but I am keenly pedalling to put the watts down… Hammer time!

This torture normally starts right on time with the first snow falling in our Innsbruck’ garden. It is loud, hot, humid and ultimately, it hurts. It sounds quite masochistic and sometimes it truly feels like it. The sweat dripping everywhere makes me miss the fresh air of riding the beautiful alpine passes right on my doorstep. My thoughts wander to the warm summer days when I was riding outside, searching for a nice coffee stop with the crew…

You know these feelings right? Training on the turbo or rollers can be boring, monotonous and stupid. But – using it the right way, it can be quite efficient to improve your cycling! While you are making plans for the upcoming season, no one wants to lose all the hard-won fitness and end up on the couch with too much cookies and crisps.

jana on the turbo trainer

Unlike me, perhaps you are not torturing yourself on a turbo trainer which is older than you. There is a big variety of rollers and home trainers to choose from: ‘smart’, fixed, free ones and now direct mount trainers, where the rear axle of your bike is fixed directly with the trainer, are an option. By the way: an overview of the latest rollers and trainers by Tacx, Wahoo & co. can be found here. But, if you don’t want to invest all your money on a fancy new trainer, read below how I found out to train the ‘smart’ way without Zwift…

I spoke to sports scientist and trainer Patrick from the STAPS Institute in Munich and here are 7 steps for smart turbo training he taught me:

Hints from a pro: visiting STAPS institute

Patrick knows what I am talking about from the moment we start discussing. He himself was a competitive road cyclist in the U23 German national team and knows how boring and long indoor training can be. Even with the latest trainers, only a few of us can make it longer than 2 hrs max. But, according to Patrick, we don’t need to ride behind our fans and open windows for this long! Patrick recommends to keep the training time short but intense and to better use the extra time for stability, strength and fasciae training. Which, if we’re being honest, we don’t really do a lot of in the summer time.

The turbo trainer is a perfect tool to focus on training quality and this is also true for mountain bikers! There’s no distraction from cars or the unexpected headwind and climbs. A regular intense turbo session can keep the training entertaining, rich in variety and is guaranteed to be highly efficient. Sounds perfect for the colder season, right? Patrick also give me a little piece of advice and told me to ride the following interval program using my old trusted trainer:

  • Start with 10 mins. easy pedalling to get warm (basic endurance)
  • Continue with 10 x 30/30 intervals
    → This means: 30 sec. training load (lactic threshold endurance, 125-130% of your anaerobic threshold) alternating with 30 sec. recovery (easy pedalling with a higher frequency). You repeat that 10 times, which means for a total of 10 minutes. But take care, you don’t go “all out” – you should keep the intensity as constant as possible over all intervals.
  • Series break 1: 5 min. easy pedalling (basic endurance)
  • And once again: 10 x 30/30 intervals
  • Series break 2: 5 min. easy pedalling (basic endurance)
  • One last time: 10 x 30/30 intervals
  • To bring it to an end: 10 min. easy pedalling to cool down

If you are just starting out with indoor training, it may be best to start with just two repetitions of the 10 x 30/30 intervals. If you want to progress the session, increase up to three or even four repetitions. After a few weeks, you could also try to change the length to 40 seconds training load in lactic threshold and 20 seconds of recovery in basic endurance for each interval.

After these hints from Patrick, I am trying this program for myself at home. It’s still sweaty, hot, loud and my legs shake, but due to the variety of training load and recovery the 35 minutes of torture seem to be shorter! Who would have thought it? He tells me to train 1-2 times per week like this on the turbo, but not to hesitate going out on the road for a ride. If the roads are dry, the trails not too muddy and the temperatures not too cold, just go for it! Structured training sessions can still be done outside even in the winter.

Your winter cycling gear

For rides outside in the cold season, I don’t use my beautiful (and expensive) carbon wheels. Instead, I have a cheaper set made of aluminium, which sustain the cold and salt on the road a little bit better. Some of us may even ride another different bike completely when it’s gets uncomfortable outside… Thanks to Bikmo, an additional wheelset or even a second “all-weather” bike can be insured within a single policy. On top of that, you don’t have to worry about your fluffy warm winter tricot or your windbreaker shoe covers, they’re all covered too.

I guess there are no more excuses to not to train all year long, no matter the weather. Training on the turbo doesn’t have to be boring and we don’t need to renounce the wind blast in winter.

Have fun and ride safe (yes, indoor crashes happen too… )!

Jana, Team Bikmo Germany & Austria

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