Indoor training is experiencing an unprecedented boom in 2020 due to the pandemic (Covid-19) linked to the novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2). Confined to their homes, many professional sportsmen and women have been training indoors to ensure they are in the best possible condition for the reopening of the competitive season. Amateurs have been inspired by the champions, following them on social media to find tips, tricks and secrets to transform their living room, guest room or garage into a perfect indoor training station.
Even as many countries ease out of lockdown, and riding outdoors is again permitted, many cyclists have discovered indoor training as a practical and viable alternative that will help them keep fit when bad weather, darkness or time constraints lower their motivation to take to the outdoors.
What are the best recommendations for a better indoor set-up?
A major consideration is the comfort of the cyclist, who must be able to train in an environment that encourages concentration and efficiency, and – importantly – that has good ventilation. So, it’s best to choose a corner of the house where you can feel comfortable pedaling, potentially for several hours, perhaps with a window view to relax the gaze beyond the wall or the floor, and benefit from natural lighting. But what’s also important: finding a position where there are minimal distractions that can decrease performance.
The choice depends on the cyclist. Greg Van Avermaet’s (CCC Team) set up a very simple room, covering the window light, when he won the Virtual Tour of Flanders, while Oliver Naesen (AG2R La Mondiale), second, was racing in what resembled an underground bunker. Zdeněk Štybar (Deceuninck-Quick Step), tenth, chose the opposite, positioning himself and his indoor trainer setup on a large balcony overlooking greenery.
Equipment around and under the bike
One of the most important components for indoor training is also one of the cheapest: the mat placed under the bike. It avoids slipping and improves stability, captures copious sweat generated by effort, protects the floor from scratches and dirt and, last but not least, reduces the noise generated by the home trainers and vibrations. It is an indispensable piece of kit, especially if you live in an apartment building, where respect for others is fundamental.
Without the natural cooling airflow effect of riding on the road, body temperature will rise considerably during indoor training, so it is very useful to have one or more fans to create a breeze that can help avoid overheating. There are affordable options such as standard fans – like the one seen in Mike Teunissen’s (Team Jumbo-Visma) setup – ranging up to more professional models including systems designed specifically for indoor cycling.
There are training station systems available with an integrated display, but the large majority of indoor cyclists use a computer connected to a monitor, a laptop or a smartphone or tablet to check real-time data, and often to immerse the rider in a cycling virtual reality. To avoid muscle pain or inflamation in the back and neck, the screen should be placed at the right height and angle to promote the same posture adopted when riding on the roads. Buying a phone holder for the handlebars is a cheap and popular option.
It is important to have a place at your fingertips where you can reach extra water, food, gadgets and especially towels for sweat. There are stands designed specifically for indoor training, such as those produced by Tacx and Wahoo. You can also opt for small tables or DIY supports. Wireless headphones are another useful accessory for listening to music, podcasts or for voice interactions with training apps: it’s better to avoid wired solutions, which can be uncomfortable and present a small but distracting risk of getting hooked up on clothing, drinks, hands and bars.
The set-up of the bike
With the surroundings prepared, dedicate time to the bike set-up. Another cheap but useful component is a front wheel block. This can help counter-balance the higher position of the rear end that often goes hand in hand with a mount-in training system, and can thus minimise discomfort and additional weight on hands and wrists. There are also more elaborate versions, such as the Elite Sterzo, which can provide steering functionality with compatible apps, generating a more immersive experience.
We explained in detail the differences between traditional and smart trainers, and the best apps to download. So the choice is up to the rider whether to invest in a more realistic system or to go for something more minimalist.
Thanks to streamed virtual races featuring professional riders ‘working from home’, it is possible to discover the hardware chosen by some of the most famous cyclists.
For example, Zdenek Stybar, Remco Evenepoel and Yves Lampaert (Deceuninck – Quick- Step) chose the Tacx Neo Smart Turbo Trainer, as did Alberto Bettiol (EF Pro Cycling), Thomas De Gendt (Lotto Soudal), and Mike Teunissen (Team Jumbo-Visma), while Tim Wellens (Lotto Soudal) raced with a Tacx Neo 2T smart trainer. Meanwhile Greg van Avermaet (CCC Team), Oliver Naesen (AG2R La Mondiale) and Nicolas Roche (Team Sunweb) went with an Elite Direto X and Jasper Stuyven (Trek–Segafredo) chose the Saris H3 turbo trainer. Finally, Chris Froome (Team Ineos), who has set up one of the most popular pain caves on social networks, has opted for KikR.
For further reading about indoor cycling training you’ll find some valuable advice from three experts here.