Louisville Wheelmen

Louisville Wheelmen Newsletter -- January-February 1996

Going Nowhere Fast

by Edd Johannemann

The Ohio Valley winters, being blessed with cold, damp, rainy weather and early darkness, can provide some interesting challenges for individuals trying to stay in shape for cycling. Our neighbors to the North, thanks to their colder climate and snow can enjoy cross training activities such as cross country skiing or snow shoeing. Milder climates to the South allow for hiking, mountain biking and even road riding throughout the winter. For those of us living in the “valley,” outdoor training is often not an option and alternative methods must be employed. One method of maintaining and even building fitness through the winter months is cycling indoors. A variety of equipment and workouts are designed specifically for this type of training.

Indoor trainers can be broken down into four basic categories: rollers, wind trainers, and mag-trainers, and bicycle ergometers. Rollers consist of three or four drums mounted on axles in a metal frame. The wheels of the bicycle roll on the drums, but otherwise the rider is not supported. Wind trainers and magnetic resistance trainers come in a variety of styles, but all hold the bike's frame rigid. Resistance is supplied by either fans, a fan and fly wheel combination, or with a fly wheel and resistance unit. The resistance is controlled by shifting the bike's gears or adjusting the resistance units themselves to different levels of difficulty. Bicycle ergometers are essentially stationary bikes with large flywheels, and meters or computer displays that will estimate how many calories you have burned or watts of power you are generating. Each of the units can be incorporated into a successful winter training program.

Okay, you know what's available, so which one do you get? The answer depends on the type of training you want to emphasize. If your goal is to maintain general fitness, and improve bike handling skills or develop a smoother spin, rollers may be the best choice. Rollers provide very little resistance, so training in zones one or two is the norm. Handling skills and pedaling technique are fine tuned because the rider is unsupported. To get started, try setting the rollers up in a doorway or hall. This will enable you to learn to ride them without falling. When you lose your balance just lean on the door frame or wall, but watch the elbows. Start in a moderate gear with an 80-90 rpm cadence so that the gyroscopic effect of the wheels will help keep you upright, and keep pedaling.

You want to build strength and power? Let's talk about wind trainers, mag-trainers and bicycle ergometers. Each of these devices allows the rider to work against a variable amount of resistance, either by adjusting the gearing on the bike, and/or the setting on the resistance unit. Additionally, because the rider is fully supported, 100% concentration can be given to workout goals. This is important because balance is the last thing you need to be worrying about when trying to complete a set of five-minute, zone-four intervals. These types of trainers are great for interval work, time trials, and shorter tempo rides. There are no distractions so your entire focus can be on maintaining your target heart rate, and completing the effort.

Whatever our goals for indoor winter training, there are some basic principles to keep in mind. Limit your training efforts to approximately one hour, with no more than three sessions per week. More than this and mental burnout becomes a real possibility. Take a day off between trainer sessions and vary the workout intensity from one session to the next. Keep water or sports drink on the bike, and keep a fan blowing on you. Dehydration and heat exhaustion are real possibilities if adequate steps are not taken to cool the body. A pool of sweat under the bike is not an indication of a good workout, but rather an inefficient one. Crank up the stereo, set goals, play games on the bike; keep the workout mentally interesting. (See New Year, New Fun.)

Indoor cycling can be a rewarding and fun part of your overall winter training program if done correctly. Rollers and stationary trainers will never replace the joy of cycling outdoors. They will also never be quite as bad as riding in freezing rain. It is all a matter of perspective. Remember, spring is just around the corner, and a little effort now will make it a lot more fun when it gets here.

Return to the Newsletter Table of Contents
Return to the Louisville Wheelmen home page

Copyright ©1996 The Louisville Wheelmen

last updated: 22 December 1995
by Duc M. Do