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Winter turbo trainer tips

12 Oct 2017

It's getting cold outside, so why not create your own 'pain cave' and get your indoor workout on?

While many of us like to think we’d ride in any weather, it can sometimes be too much. That’s where the turbo trainer comes in. Designed to hold a bike in a stationary position, turbo trainers use a whole host of different systems to realistically recreate the feel of riding on tarmac.

Types of turbo trainer

There’s a variety of systems to suit your budget or preferences. At the lower end of the scale you’ve got the cheapest – and loudest – magnetic trainers (they’re called magnetic because that’s how the resistance is generated). Prices for these start around £100.

Next up are fluid-resistance machines, which offer a quieter, more realistic ride – these start at around £200.

At the top end, meanwhile, you’ve the fancy electromagnetic direct-drive devices which see you actually remove the rear wheel and connect your bike’s chain directly to the trainer itself. Entry prices for these start at around £800.

Why should I get a turbo trainer?

Apart from avoiding the obvious troubles of that terrible weather brings, a turbo trainer can allow you to train specifically.

Cyclist’s columnist and top cycling coach Pav Bryan tells us why trainers are a key bit of kit for modern cyclists:

‘Turbos are great for leg speed and technique training, such as cadence or single-legged drills.

Consistent results

‘Isolating certain training efforts in this way will help you produce stronger results in the long run, because road training can be so inconsistent.

‘We all know what it’s like to be hammering a really good ride only for a set of traffic lights to stop your flow.’

How does turbo training work?

Ideally, sessions need to be planned, so set aside a period of time to do it and stick to it.

‘Build up to 60-90 minutes on the trainer,’ Pav tells us. ‘Any longer and you might as well split it and do half in the morning with half in the evening.

‘That way you’ll train your body to recover quicker and for many, two shorter sessions are more productive than one long one,’ he explains.

Beat the boredom

And he’s got some advice, too, about the possible tedium of static training.

‘I’d say that if you can train to live with the boredom then you’ll be mentally strong for those longer sportives, improving your pain management into the bargain,’ he explains.

‘By overcoming your mental barriers in training, you’ll be better equipped to hold your own out there on the road. If it all gets too much though, you can always stick on a movie, music or training software like Zwift to get you through it!’

A quick HIIT

As with all training, exercises need to be tailored to what you’re trying to achieve but a good starting point on a turbo trainer is to try High Intensity Interval Training (or HIIT).

Like many longer winter rides, which look to improve your stamina and endurance, HIIT is an excellent way to build fitness and means much less time in the saddle, too.

After an initial 10 to 15-minute warm up, do maximum-effort sprints for 30 seconds interspersed by low-effort recovery pedalling for 1-2 minutes.

Do this as many times as possible before doing a 10-minute warm down effort keeping cadence high but the resistance light.

This will stop any lactic acid from the sprint efforts from sitting in the muscles.

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