Embrace the trainer time Its probably the best bike training you will do all year.
Everyone has different goals for their cycling season but no matter how good you are at hitting the gym or cross training to be the best cyclist you can be there needs to be specific on bike training involved. In a traditional periodized training plan that specificity should begin as your race season approaches and continues through your season.
2 I hesitate to put a number on it, but I will say to accomplish some workout objectives, like time in zone, KJ burned, time spent pedaling, hitting those targets and objectives can come from less overall time on the saddle inside vs outside.
Here is a 4-hour indoor ride, coasting time is zero, lots of time spent in zone 2. 2879 KJ in 4 hours at a very consistent effort. The physiological adaptions we are aiming for with endurance react well to this type of steady output.
This is the same athlete doing a 5 hour (moving time) 5:40 elapsed time, coasting time 45 minutes, so pedaling time is 4:15, and burns less KJ. Time in endurance zone is much less and recovery is much higher. This isn’t a “bad workout” by any means, the athlete climbed a ton, spent time in various levels of exertion, and probably enjoyed the ride a little more.
Translate that back to a typical 2-hour group ride, how much time do you spend coasting or soft-pedalling? How much time do you spend stopped? Now think about that 1 – 1.5-hour trainer ride I bet your getting a little more bang for your time.
Don’t get me wrong there is a time to take it outside and hit some hills, rolling roads and spicy group rides with friends. As this brings another layer of specificity but think of that as the final layer of putting all the bodies systems together. The trainer is where we can target a very specific part of your cycling by controlling several variables without the noise of outdoor riding.
I’ve been using the term trainer broadly and can also include rollers which offer their own pros and cons. Rollers are great for longer steadier rides and efforts. They allow you to move around a little more naturally on the bike and are great for working on coordination and pedaling skills. If you can ride out of the saddle comfortably and ride smoothly at 120 rpm on the rollers, then chances are you’re well coordinated and have some good technique. Biggest drawback to a set of rollers is safely doing short maximal efforts and not flying off. Smart trainers and online platforms like Zwift have also come a long way to increasing the enjoyment of training and just riding inside.
If your time crunched or weather restricted and stuck on the trainer, go easy on the time expectations and focus on the quality you are getting out of that time on the trainer.