I like to consider myself a cycling purist. What do I mean by that? Well, I use it in the sense that I would much prefer to ride outdoors than indoors. This is in contrast to Trevor, who prefers to ride outside under very special circumstances, like ... well .... races.

While this sounds great, in practice, the majority of my bike training is done indoors - even in the summer. There are a number of very good reasons this is the case, including:

  • I live in Calgary, where the ground is covered with snow 6 months of the year, gravel 3 months and cars the remaining 3 months. Heading outside is not always practical.
  • Riding outdoors is a time commitment - by the time you prep, get all dressed up, reach your destination you've committed an additional couple hours easy.
  • A lot of outdoor riding is more often than not a social event, not a training event. Which obviously has its place in ones life, but the difference does matter.

So, while I do love getting outdoors - indoor cycle training captures the majority of my training miles. 

Bike Training Indoors

To the non-triathlete, this sounds awful and when you really think about what is going on, it is hard to not to relate to their point of view.

As a triathlete, we've all got the question - "So what, you just sit there for hours and go no where?" Yup. That's it! Sort of.

Below is my so called Pain Cave, my set up to help keep me motivated and focused during an indoor ride. My nice bike set up on a fancy trainer, in front of a TV or a computer. I'll listen to music, podcasts or audio books, watch Netflix, stare at the wall, stare at my Garmin or cycling program. There are even programs where I could race virtually with friends and training partners. It really isn't a bad set up. Picture sitting on the couch watching TV and doing nothing, but instead of doing nothing, your spinning your legs. Not that different.

My paincave. TV, Computer, Bike, Trainer, Running Shoes Ready For Transition

My paincave. TV, Computer, Bike, Trainer, Running Shoes Ready For Transition

Let's also not forget, that as an athlete - amateur or otherwise - I am there for a purpose. I've got a goal in mind. I'm in pursuit of something more than just a spin. Driven to look past the observation from outside of what appears to be wasted hours spent spinning into never never land.

HOOOWWWWWWEEEEEVVVVVVVVEEEEERRRRRRRRR ........... even I get bored. Start to feel the monotony of spinning and spinning and spinning but going no where. Get distracted and antsy. The riding starts to feel fake. So unlike a ride outdoors that one wonders what value there is anymore.

I often start to sit up, move around, fidget to pass the time. Ride upright while I take a drink. Form going to complete shit. I then hop of the bike, feeling a sense of accomplishment because I made my hour session and move on to the next ride.

I think there is a better, more effective way to get more out of your indoor bike sessions.

I look back at many of my bike trainer sessions and I see so may missed opportunities that could have provided me with directly transferable skills on the race course, while taking little to no additional time in my training schedule.

If this sounds like you, here are three actions you can take that will pay dividends when your bike hits the pavement in your next race and you're let loose from your trainer. I've been incorporating them into every session, with great success.

Practice Body Positioning

It is no shock that the more aero you can make yourself, the faster you'll be on the bike. It might also come as no surprise that your body creates the most drag, slowing you down, especially in those windy situations. A dropped riding position can reduce your drag by as much as 7.8%. Not insignificant at all.

So it goes without saying, the longer you can stay in your aero position, the better off you're going to be and your times are going to be. Bobbing up and down is only going to slow you down and keep you on the course longer, no one wants that. Luckily, your trainer session is the perfect time to practice staying aero for longer!

Try this:

  • Start with 5 min sessions in aero, followed by some reprieve, followed by another 5 mins and so on. (don't have aero bars, try using those drop bars that probably don't get used enough on your fancy road bike). 
  • Add a few minutes longer each sessions and reduce amount of time sitting upright, until you can do a full hour or maybe two!

It will be hard at first, but the more you keep at it, the longer you'll be able to go each time, the quieter you'll keep your body, and the faster you'll be when you get outside.

Practice Fueling

This one seems obvious but you'd be surprised how easy it is to cheat. I often found myself using a little table beside my bike to hold all my water and food. While handy, what the fuck good is that? I certainly won't have the table there on the race course. I also often would sit up to drink, because I could and it was convenient. Convenient yes. Helpful? Not at all, drinking like that while racing is inefficient and undoubtedly leads to slowing down or reckless cycling.

If you find yourself doing this on your training sessions as well, stop. Treat every session like race:

Try this:

  • If you're doing longer sessions, eat and pack your fuel like you would in a race. Practice consuming it like you were on the course, including putting your wrapper from gels or bars in your pocket - remember, know one likes a litterer.
  • As for hydration, practice accessing your rear water bottles while in aero position, with the purpose of trying different ways to minimize movement and limit the breaking of your aero position.
  • If you have a front hydration system, practice filling it while you're pedaling. Get a feel for the most effective way to do this for you. It may seem silly, but it will pay off and increase your comfort level when you get outside. 

End each session with a "mock" transition

Finally, I often found myself just getting off my bike after the end of my training session and immediately getting down into some cooling down stretches and thinking about eating something. After some time, it finally occurred to me why not practice a little mock transition? It doesn't seem like much, but being able to get out of your cycling shoes and into your running shoes quickly and efficiently can save a lot of time.  It adds limited amount of time to your training session, but is a great skill to practice in order to make your transitions quicker and smoother.

Try this:

  • End every session with a jump off the bike, removal of the cycling shoes and lacing up your runners. A nice little mock transition. Easy, effortless and likely to have big payoffs later in the season.

Don't let those hours on the trainer go to waste. There are plenty of things you can do with the time to make sure you're ready to tackle your next race. Be sure to let us know what you do to get yourself race ready while training indoors!

Master these and I'm sure your times will improve!

Happy Training!!!