Bicycling Blog


It's winter and with cold days and snow on the ground most recreational cyclists are checking the scale to see how much weight they've put on over the holidays and dreaming of warmer weather when they'll be able to dust off and lube up their bikes and get back out on the road again. But for those cyclists that are truly dedicated to the sport or have ambitions of racing in the upcoming season the opposite is true. Now is the time of year that the foundation for a successful season is laid.


Now is the time to accumulate base miles, or miles/minutes of riding at a relatively easy pace. An hour to an hour and a half a day of easy riding is ideal. There will be plenty of time for high intensity training when the weather begins to warm up but for early season riding or spring racing now is the time to do the low intensity miles that you will build on all season.


“How do I do this when the weather is so bad?”, is the question that you may be asking yourself and the answer is that there are many ways. One way is to invest in an in home training device. This is a device that you can buy and set up in your house in the garage, basement, or spare room and with it you can ride indoors. These start around $100 and go up form there. They fall into three families: trainers, rollers, and exercise/spinning bikes.


Trainers are devices that clamp to the rear wheel of your bike, lift the wheel up off of the floor so it can spin, and provide resistance so you're not just spinning in the air. Trainer come in three varieties: Wind Trainers, Mag Trainers, or Fluid Trainers. The deference between these trainer is how the resistance is generated.


Wind Trainers use a turbine style fan to generates the resistance. An advantage of this style trainer is that it mimics outdoor riding because the faster the fan spins the more resistance it generates. This is similar to how air resistance works against you out on the road. A disadvantage of these trainers is that they are extremely loud. If you share your house with anyone else or live in an apartment you'll need to be careful about how you schedule your trainer time.


Fluid Trainers work just like Wind Trainers except the turbine spins in a fluid filled canister instead of air to generate the resistance. This makes them much quieter. Otherwise they work the same way a wind trainer works.


Mag Trainers generate the resistance by magnet. This makes them much quieter that their wind cousins. The magnetic resistance doesn't mimic air resistance but these trainers have the benefit of having adjustable resistance. On the low end of the dollar scale, they have a lever that you can use to increase or decrease the amount of resistance. At the high end the resistance is computer controlled and can be programmed to mimic your favorite local ride or roads made famous by the pros.


Any of these three types of trainers are a good way to get a ride in during the cold months. You can increase or decrease resistance by shifting gears and can log base miles. They are also perfect for doing structured interval programs and can be used for this even in season. Additionally, they are a common sight pre-race since they are easily portable and many riders use them to warm-up on before the race.


Rollers are different animal altogether. They have three cylinders mounted in a frame that your bicycle sits on top of. A belt turns the front roller while your real wheel turns the two rollers in the back. Your bike is not attached to the rollers so you must maintain your balance and steer while riding on them. Rollers are an excellent way to develop a smooth pedaling style which translates to more power on the road. And they are also a great way to develop your bicycle handling skills. Doing hardcore intervals on them is a little more difficult though. They can also be used in season pre-race for warm-ups and are a common sight at velodromes.


Training bikes are like trainers but you don't put your actual bicycle on them. They are commonly available in gyms and fitness centers and many gyms offer Spin class on training bikes. These bike can get pretty high end in terms of features and dollars. Although you can buy these for home use you are probably better off joining a gym that has one and that way you can do some cross-training while you're there as well.


All of these devices give cyclists the opportunity to get some serious training in during the winter without getting out and battling the elements. But I think the one thing that nearly all cyclist agree on is that training indoors can't compare in terms of enjoyment with out door riding. They way cyclists talk about their trainers you would think that they were invented in the middle ages as some type of torture device. Rumor has it that the Guantanamo detainees were required to spend an hour or two a day on the trainer if the water-boarding didn't work. Just kidding. I recommend setting up a fan to keep you cool while you ride indoors and keeping a towel near by to mop the sweat from you and your bike while you ride.


No matter what the weather conditions are it is nearly always possible to get out and ride. I'll talk more about strategies for outdoor winter riding next week.