Friday, January 15, 2010

Why I love indoor riding . . .

Call me crazy, but I actually enjoy indoor riding. When the thermometer dips below freezing, the skies darken at 4:30, the shoulders become clogged with ice and that nasty white film of salt covers the land, I move indoors to turn those cranks. Sure I prefer riding outdoors. Like others, I plan to log thousands of miles through wet, windy, dark and unfamiliar roads this year. It's not that I can't stand pain and suffering. So what is it about winter that sends me indoors?

The top 15 reasons I like to train indoors:
  1. No bulky clothes.
  2. No traffic.
  3. It's safe to ride at all hours.
  4. No need for lights.
  5. No spare tubes.
  6. No frozen fingers.
  7. No frozen toes.
  8. No frozen water bottles.
  9. No flats!
  10. Ride for 6 hours without having to stop to warm up.
  11. Train without muscles freezing up.
  12. Improve form and cadence.
  13. Listen to loud music.
  14. It's warm!
  15. When I'm done with a workout, I feel great.

The good news is that with the right preparation, even long indoor rides need not be boring. Distraction is key to working through tough peiods on the bike: both indoors and out. It's one reason why riding with friends can make a dreadful stretch of road or weather more bearable. This year, I've been using two new DVDs from the Spinervals "On the Road" series: the Lake Placid Training Ride and the Madison, Wisconsin Training Ride to structure my work outs. These DVDs last three hours each and don't require any special equipment other than a laptop or TV/DVD. Coach Troy Jacobson provides gear advice, a countdown clock and motivating commentary throughout as we watch him pedal his way through these two Ironman bike courses. It's even possible to turn off the music track to listen to tunes of your own choosing. The Spinervals "Hardcore 100" is my DVD of choice for 6 hour "century" rides. Streaming films through Netflix works pretty well, too, but you need to be mindful of mixing the gears up a bit and not just spinning aimlessly.

In the northeast, it's virtually impossible for a person with a full-time job to get in enough base miles without some serious indoor work. This season, I've been trying to fit in both a long mid-week ride of 3+ hours and a long weekend ride of 4-6+ hours in addition to a few shorter 1-2 hour interval sessions each week. If weather permits, as it did today, I may be able to replace a shorter session with a commute to work. sent out a special indoor cycling issue this week. One author compared indoor riding (or the "Tour de Rec Room" as he put it) to Elizabeth Kubler-Ross's five stages of grief. You know, denial, anger, bargaining, depression and ultimately acceptance. You can view that here if you do not already receive these free weekly updates. This is the second year I'm participating in this five month UMCA Indoor Challenge.  The mileage competition is free and open to all UMCA members. I'm shooting for a top 10 finish this year.

In ultra cycling it's important to push through pain, discomfort and boredom. Why should winter training be any different? I'm surprised by how many randonneurs scoff at indoor riding. If you have a hard time imagining being on the trainer for more that an hour, find a good video, crank some great tunes and give it another try.


  1. Great post. I aim my trainer out the front kitchen window to watch the deer in the morning. A herd of between 8 and 10 bed down in the yard. Other critters are occasionally out there too.

    I hadn't thought of using my laptop to play the DVD's, but now I will.

  2. Thanks. Forgot to mention that my trainer is pointed at two windows as well. Probably the safest way to cycle by a heard of deer is to have a wall between you. I did a 7-hour session today. Maybe I'll write up a ride report some day soon.

  3. I think spinervals are great too.

    George, if you had a spare $1500 - $2000, you could get a virtual reality trainer. If you had a few buddies with that kind of spare cash too, then you could each get one and have a virtual race against each other.

    Unfortunately, I've not been able to try one myself, but I hear the hill simulation works really well.
    I can just imagine over winter in my ideal world, hooking one up in my home theatre and racing over the French Alps against a virtual Lance Armstrong.

    If you do a search on YouTube for a Tacx Fortius Multiplayer there's a very cool promo for that particular brand.