Indoor Cycling Trainer – a beginners tale

Ok, so by now you know that I finally got a trainer, and I had some interesting experiences, most very good, but some, not so. As with everything new in life, a trainer also has a learning curve. My friends know that I am the analytical kind of a guy, which means I did plenty of on-line and in-store research. However, some things you simply can’t research. For example, what it feels like when you sit atop your bike strapped to the trainer for the first time and start pedaling! Weird!!!

But NO, don’t get me wrong, not weird in a bad way, it is a weird as in – why am I not moving forward? Weird as in – am I doing this right? Weird as in – how does this effort translate into real riding? Weird as in – what gear should I be in? Weird as in – for how hard and how long should I pedal? Weird as in – how do I measure my effort? Weird as in – why does my Garmin Edge just cycle on and off without recording any data?

OK – by now you should have a feel for the little things I went trough as a newbie, and you rightfully ask: “so what are the answers?” In no particular order these are my ‘a-ha’ moments (I marked the things I thought you might have already with $ and those I think you might have to buy with $$$):

  • when you first get onto your new trainer, just get comfy – spin easy, and YES, you can use your shifters
  • $$$ if you own a Garmin cycling device you will need to TURN OFF GPS ( I don’t know about other brands),  and your device will become an invaluable tool to track your heart rate and cadence
  • in the first couple of sessions, keep it to 45 minutes max and just get familiar with the trainer; i.e. experiment and see the difference of spinning, lets say in the big gear and a 15 cog in the back, at 70 rpm, at 80 rpm, at 90 rpm and so on…. you will be surprised by the change of resistance (disclaimer: I have a fluid trainer, thus – the higher the cadence the more resistance)
  • $ you NEED ventilation (and lots of it – a tall fan is a perfect choice)
  • No PLAN – no WORKOUT
  • Do NOT workout hopping on a trainer just spinning – (I know this is repetitious) – but you need a workout plan a.k.a. training DVD
  • $ speaking of DVD – whatever floats your boat or budget, you need either a little DVD player, or a laptop, or a TV or a big screen in front of your setup
  • $$$ no sense of having the above equipment without a training DVD – so you will need one (well, to avoid boredom, more than one)
  • $$$ now that you are training with a plan you will literally sweat buckets – protect your floor with a training mat under neath your setup; a lot cheaper than replacing your carpet or oak floor
  • $ use your Garmin ( or Polar etc), if you don’t have one train by “perceived effort” on a scale of 1- 5
  • $$$ get yourself a training DVD you can enjoy, and one which comes with a training plan. My personal favorite company is epicRides
  • $ listening to workout music on your iPod, iPhone, BB or whatever really will help (my favorite workout music is a free download from Podrunner – incredible workout tunes)
  • follow the workout instructions from your DVD – interval training is all about its jacked up to be
  • it is OK to feel your muscles screaming
  • it is OK to STAND up in your trainer
  • it is OK to SCREAM
  • it is NOT OK to give up
  • track your training and know the level of effort (gears you are using)
  • $ have your drink bottles on your bike – you will need them
  • just like on the road – hydrate!!!!!
  • $$$ a spare wheel with a training tire is very handy but not needed
  • $$$ a climbing (or stabilizing) block is very helpful, a climbing block will hold your front wheel in place, while giving you the option of a downhill-, even- or climbing simulation

Earlier I stated that there was some disappointment, and I wanted to let you know what it was, and most importantly, that it was only temporary. And the disappointment was created by inexperience; getting on the trainer without knowing what to do. Just sitting there, spinning, minute after minute, no music, no exercise plan, not going anywhere – the first couple of times, were simply discouraging.

I am so thankful to Alan Jones ( @epicplanet on Twitter) , producer of epicRides for an incredible series of inspirational and breath taking DVD’s of truly stunning rides. The structure and training instructions supporting these epic rides, sets my indoor riding sessions apart. I am likely in the minority when I say that I look forward to my training sessions. Do you?

About GT in LA

Retired - Overlanding, fly fishing, backpacking, HAM, are some of my interests
This entry was posted in Cycling, Exercise, Garmin Edge 705, Indoor Trainer, Training and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

17 Responses to Indoor Cycling Trainer – a beginners tale

  1. Pingback: Epic tales for epicRides™ | GT in LA

  2. merider says:

    I love the trainer except for having to take the back wheel off and on. For some reason, that just annoys the hell out of me. I wish I would buy a new bike & then just leave my “spare” bike on the trainer. (grumble grumble). I’m happy for you, but already, I’m not able to keep up. This just means you’ll be dropping me in less time. 😉

    • GT in LA says:

      No excuses – you are fortunate to have a ‘spare’ wheel – much easier than switching skewers….so get those wheels changed and get on that trainer….

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  4. kurt says:

    So, does mean I won’t be able to keep up now ??

  5. Love it GT! Especially the “It is not ok to give up”!! Describes you well my friend!
    Thank you for a very refreshing post!
    mari-joxx ;o))

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  7. jeff says:

    GT, Good luck with the trainer. It’s not the same as the road, but warmer in winter. I’m glad you mentioned epicRides. I’ve wanted to try their stuff, but have been waiting for a Colorado ride. I have used a Charmichael Training dvd that almost killed me, and I’ve watched a lot of Sopranos, Curb Your Enthusiasm, and various movies.

    • GT in LA says:

      Jeff, I agree – the trainer will never replace the road, but I really find it useful. If I am not mistaken epicRides has their sights on a Colorado training DVD. Maybe Allan will stop by and chime in?
      I tried watching a movie, but find that I do a lot better with a structured training session, which keeps me on point and moving with purpose. Thank you for your comments!

    • Allen Jones says:

      Hey Jeff, GT is right Colorado is definately on our radar for this summer. Any suggestions for routes or CO based cyclists we should connect with?

      Ride on!


      • GT in LA says:

        Allen, that is great news….I gave Jeff your contact information…CO is his cycling playground, and he just might know of a handful of good rides 😉

  8. Love the piece GT! Trainer riding is definitely a different beast but one with a fair amount of benefits. Glad you’re acclimating to it!

    I know that people may be asking – “a trainer?? You guys live in LA, the land of perfect weather right? Why the heck do you need a trainer for Christ’s….? Well there are some real benefits to having one that really augment our outdoor riding in yes – (near) perfect LA weather.

    One of the key benefits, at least for me, is that once I’m out for a ride, just an hour won’t do. By the time you completely kit up, have all your safety and nutrition stuff all sorted, GPS initialized, and start really rolling; well you really want to make it worth it and get some good quality time and miles in. Just an hour ride – no thanks! But on a trainer – it’s no big deal to kit up and do an hour spin session. Can also easily toss in a little complimentary core strength routines and be done in an hour 20 let’s say. A trainer ride just takes a little less prep and is more informal – even with a definitive plan (agree – always have one!!!).

    Besides the wonderful rides on DVD like those from epicRIDES (I have their Epic Arcadia – highly recommended! – I like and recommend using the trainer sessions for specific skill/strength training. You can focus (or at least I can…) focus better on more structured training such as engaging different muscle groups in this environment. There’s no cars, other riders, pedestrians, cracks, pot holes, wind, etc… to have to content with. Heck you don’t even have to worry about failing to unclip after you’ve turned your legs to jello after an intense interval! In support of this I highly recommend Graeme Street’s CycloCLUB training products I especially use the CycloSpin DVDs fairly often – they are one heck of a work out and will introduce anyone to some great pedaling skills/dynamics (as well as breathing dynamics too – great for climbing!).

    A couple last notes. Firstly, regardless of how much ventilation you have – in addition to the floor mat – keep a small towel handy. It can be used to wipe down a sopping wet forehead (and possibly forearms… I’m a sweater…) and can also be draped over the top tube to help catch the rivulets of sweat that are dripping off you and thus mitigate the risk of corrosion to your front derailleur, chain rings, etc. Lastly – commit to it and have fun. I’ve heard from many that they look at trainer riding as extremely dull and boring but armed with a good set up, goals and a plan to support them, and good training aids (DVDs) they can be truly challenging and fun sessions that can really yield benefits when you’ve go all the proper conditions to fire up the GPS.

    Now – where’s that Tuscany Climb DVD…

    • GT in LA says:

      Steve – Outstanding and well articulate response – thank you so much for sharing your insights and the introduction to an alternate cycle training tool. I really believe you hit the nail on the head, when you said: “Commit to it and have fun” – with that attitude the workout will pay off. Thank you so much for all the detail in your response!

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