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The Beginner's Guide to Indoor Bike Trainers
When the weather makes cycling cold, wet and uncomfortable, it’s time to take your ride indoors. Cycling indoors with a bike trainer is not just a substitute for the open road or single track - it’s actually a fantastic way to maintain (and even improve) your fitness during the off season. And if you’re thinking of noise, wear on tires and a boring, lonely ride whenever you hear the words bike trainer, we’ve got news for you! Here’s everything you need to know about the exciting world of indoor cycling and smart trainers.
Types of Smart Trainers
The new generation of smart bike trainers are truly next level - not only are they quieter and way more efficient, they can also allow you to train on your favourite routes, with your friends next door or across the globe. We carry three types at Wild Rock:
Zwift-compatible Fluid Trainer
Quiet and smooth are the key benefits of a fluid trainer. These trainers use a magnetic flywheel and fluid chambers to create a realistic amount of resistance as you increase your pedaling speed. They are also compatible with Zwift and other training apps.
Much more interactive, a smart trainer allows you to connect to apps like Zwift. The resistance on the trainer will change to match the conditions of the virtual workout you’ve chosen, and you’ll receive feedback on your performance metrics. The really fun part (especially these days)? You can ride with friends the next street over or the next country over, on a route anywhere in the world (virtually, of course).
Direct-drive Smart Trainer
A direct-drive smart trainer is well worth the investment if you’re serious about your riding. You’ll remove your rear wheel to mount your bike on the trainer, which means you don’t have to worry about wearing out your tire. It offers a more realistic road feel, quiet operation and more efficient power transfer. Of course, direct-drive trainers are also typically compatible with Zwift, so you’ll get all the benefits of the virtual cycling world.
What is Zwift?
Training apps like Zwift have transformed the indoor cycling experience. Zwift connects to your smart trainer wirelessly, and that’s where the fun begins. It’s fully interactive, taking input from your bike and translating it onto the screen. The harder you pedal in real life, the fast you go. Aside from allowing you to ride with others in the app and download workouts and rides from all over the world. With the right trainer, you’ll also get feedback directly from the app - you’ll feel increased resistance on an uphill, or an ease as you draft behind another rider in the app. Zwift is a solution that attempts to solve many of the boring parts of indoor riding - and we think it makes for a pretty good time on a bike!
What Kind of Bike Do You Need?
The bicycle you already have! It can be cheap or expensive. It can be a road, mountain, or hybrid bicycle. It just needs a smooth rear tire and some gears. Bike trainers are designed to fit a wide variety of bikes, and the advantage of riding your own bike is your comfort and the ability to train on what you normally ride. Come spring, your muscles and whole body are ready to ride. If you’re at all unsure, ask us to double check the specs on the trainer you’re considering purchasing.
Essentials and Accessories
As with anything, there are the must-haves and nice-to-haves with indoor cycling. The key thing to remember is you’re going to get sweaty, hot and thirsty!
This one is a no brainer. You need water during your ride, and even if the kitchen is just behind you, you don’t want to jump off mid ride to go hydrate. Have a bottle or two nearby.
When you ride outdoors, you have the wind and your speed to help you cool down. In your living room, there’s none of that. A fan will keep you from overheating, and keep you happier.
Since there’s no wind to cool you down, you’re going to get hot, and when you’re hot, you sweat. A lot. Keep a towel on your handlebars to mop yourself up as you’re riding - it's proof that you’re working hard!
A floor mat has three purposes: 1) to protect your floor from your sweat; 2) to provide a stable, firm surface for your setup; and 3) to reduce vibration and noise from the trainer - your family or work-from-home office mate will appreciate this! If you don’t have a mat, we recommend using an old towel under your setup instead.
A block will raise up your front tire in line with the back, since the trainer will lift your back tire an inch or two. This makes for a much smoother ride, but if you don’t want to invest in a rider block, a phonebook will work.
Where to Put It
Whether you want to build out a full home gym, or you just have a corner in the basement, there are just a couple of things to consider in choosing a location for your indoor bike trainer.
- Enough space for your trainer, bike, and enough headroom when you’re sitting in the saddle.
- Room for a smart TV, Apple TV or a place to put a laptop or tablet in front of you.
- A sturdy floor that is easy to clean. If the only spot is carpeted, be sure to put down a mat to protect it.
- An outlet close enough to your setup to plug everything in.
2020 is the year to try indoor cycling and the exciting virtual world of Zwift. Wild Rock is here to help with the best trainers and best advice. With brands like Wahoo and Tacx in the shop we are excited to help riders of all abilities reach their training objective and have a pile of fun along the way!
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