Getting Fit: Indoor Bike Training

Cycling: Indoor Bike Training

by Colin Holte

Living where I do in Canada the Winter months are not conducive to training outdoors on a bicycle. This is largely true for all of Canada and the Central and Northern United States as well. A few years ago I discovered the benefits of indoor bike training and have been getting progressively more serious in my efforts. This article serves as an opportunity to share some of what I've learned.


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First and foremost are two ingredients when it comes to indoor cycling. Those being a bicycle and some form of resistance trainer. Trainers can take many forms in terms of how they provide resistance, most commonly trainers can be fluid, magnetic, or wind resistance based. Trainers can be “smart” or “dumb” and vary widely in price.


This is the Road Machine by Kurt Kinetic, it is the same model of trainer that I use. It is a fluid resistance based trainer that is known to be virtually bomb proof. Mine has served me well for over three years now. For the current price at which they sell I likely would select a different resistance trainer but if you can find one used it could be a wise investment.
Here Team Sky warms up on their Wahoo Kickr direct drive smart trainers. This is likely the trainer I would look at purchasing now or at least one of its similar smart trainer cousins.

A smart trainer incorporates some form of power measurement in watts. The watts you produce can then be used to guide and inform your training. Typically someone who wants to train with power will perform an FTP test to determine their Functional Threshold Power. FTP is a measure of the power that you can produce over a 1 hour period. This number can be determined by tests ranging in duration from 8 minutes to the full hour or extrapolated from previous race efforts or by testing in the lab. A fairly common standard is to perform a 20 minute test and take 95% of that number as your FTP.

In addition to a trainer that measures power there are several on bike options for measuring power. These include measurement at the rear hub, cranks, crank spindle, pedals or less commonly at the chain. The chief advantage to an on bike power meter of course is that it is portable for those occasions when you actually take your bike out on the road as nature intended.


My bike is a 2012 Project One Trek Madone. It's equipped with a complete Ultegra 6800 build featuring a 52/36 crank incorporating a Pioneer power meter and an 11-28 cassette. The cockpit consists of a Bontrager aero bar and RXL stem, the bike rolls on Bontrager RXL wheels with 25mm Continental Grand Prix 4000 SII tires and I'm seated on a Selle Italia SLR flow saddle.
The Pioneer power meter is a very interesting option for measuring power output. It relies upon strain gauges mounted within pods on the left and right crank arm to translate bending forces into an objective measurement of power. In conjunction with the Pioneer cycling computer it can provide a lot of advanced metrics related to how you spin. Unfortunately I've found Pioneer's computer to be very cumbersome and no longer use it, instead relying on my trusty old Garmin 910XT. The clearances can be a little tricky with the magnets for this power meter on a Madone with a wide bottom bracket so unfortunately this winter I just used inferred power readings from trainerroad.

Previously I had my trainer set up in a spare bedroom which serves as more of a storage/library room in our house. With the door closed it could get quite humid in this room and my girlfriend was worried that I would damage our books. As a compromise my training space now occupies an unused corner of our living room which is where the majority of these photos were taken. As an added benefit this is further away from our bedroom so probably not quite as noisy. I still wouldn't mind a basement or garage for our next place however!

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