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How to build the perfect home training setup

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25 Nov 2021
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The first steps for maintaining your fitness this winter

Keeping your fitness up through winter has never been easier, more accessible and, most importantly, fun. The introduction of online training platforms such as Zwift has turned the turbo trainer from a boring necessity to an enjoyable social experience. What's more, training, exploring and competing in its immersive virtual worlds mean that, come next spring, you'll be able to hit the ground running (well, riding) when you saddle up for an outdoor ride.

Getting started with virtual training can be confusing though. Fortunately, we've rounded up all the kit that you'll need, and have tailored it to different setups – from kit that is quiet, compact and ideal for a flat to the ultimate inclusions for a dedicated pain cave...

The space-saving setup

The size of your home shouldn't be a barrier to indoor training. If you can store a bike in your flat, then it's not a stretch to fit in a turbo trainer too.

The turbo trainer you opt for will depend on your budget, but there are great options whether you're looking for an entry-level wheel-on smart turbo or an all-singing, all-dancing direct drive model.

Although wheel-on trainers are stereotypically bulky bits of equipment, the Tuo from Elite brings some Italian design flair to proceedings. When opened, it does everything you could want from a smart wheel-on trainer – anti-slip rubber feet provide stability, the elastogel roller's resistance is modified wirelessly by changes in Zwift's virtual terrain, and it's compatible with practically any bike. But it has a neat trick up its sleeve if you do need to pack it away after each use. When folded, it has a compact and low profile shape that's only slightly bigger than a carry-on suitcase, allowing you to store it under a bed or in a cupboard with ease. Plus, its wheel-on design means you don't have to find somewhere to store your rear wheel when in use.

If you can stretch to a more expensive direct drive model, then the Wahoo Kickr V5 ticks the compact box, as well as being an amazing all-round smart turbo trainer. Its three-pronged feet can be closed to a svelte 23cm when not in use – narrower than a set of handlebars – and leaves you with a set-up only slightly longer than a road bike when in use. You will have to find somewhere to store your rear wheel though...

The silent setup

Training on Zwift isn't a quiet experience. From the grunts of pain during a particularly tough workout to the woops of elation when you win your first race, you're going to be making some noise. What you can minimise though is the whirring noise of the turbo trainer – important if you live in a shared house where sound travels easily or you can only squeeze training in during unsociable hours.

Wheel-on turbo trainers are a no-no – the friction caused by the rubber of your tyre meeting the trainer's roller leads to a lot of decibels – leaving direct drive models as the only option.

At the cheaper end of the smart direct drive scale is the Saris H3. With a claimed 59 decibels at 20mph, this trainer is quieter than the hum of an air conditioner unit and will keep the rest of your housemates happy.

If you're looking for a more premium experience and don't mind paying for it, then the Neo 2T from Tacx offers up a near-silent ride – in fact, the whirr of your chain on the cassette as you pedal is likely to be louder than its flywheel and magnetic resistance.

The dedicated pain cave setup

If space and noise are not barriers, then you can tool yourself up with a fully immersive experience every time you fire up Zwift. Aside from a turbo trainer – with the models listed above a great way to start your indoor cycling journey – you can add some accessories into the mix that will revolutionise your virtual riding.

The first thing you'll want to invest in is a fan or two – the lack of airflow when riding indoors soon becomes apparent, with overheating and excessive sweating having a negative impact on your performance. While any fan will do, if you've got the budget to deck out your pain palace in style, the Wahoo Kickr Headwind smart fan responds directly to your avatar's speed, keeping you cool when chasing the pack in Watopia and simulating real-world conditions in the process.

Airflow sorted, it's time to focus on elevation. While not an essential by any means, these accessories transform your turbo training sessions into a sensory overload, translating the virtual elevation changes to the IRL environment. Wahoo again has an answer in the Kickr Climb, which can simulate inclines of 20% and declines of 10%. But it might be worth checking out Elite's Rizer, which enables you to steer your virtual avatar – allowing you to choose your path and overtake other cyclists on Zwift – as well as get the feel for ascents and descents.

All of these rely on the use of a bike, which can be frustrating if you plan on combining indoor training with outdoor rides over winter. If money is truly no object, then there is a solution – a dedicated smart bike. The two most renowned models are the Wahoo Kickr Bike and the Tacx Neo Bike. The main differences are that the former features tilting simulation for ascents and descents, while the latter can change the ride feel to make it seem like you’re riding on road, gravel or cobblestones. Excessive? Maybe. Immersive? Absolutely. But an indoor training experience like no other.

Transform your training

Whatever setup works for your situation, you'll be left with an amazing set of tools that enable you to ride, train and race on Zwift, and ensuring that you reach your cycling goals like never before.

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