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A Beginners Guide to Indoor Cycling: Trainer, Rollers and more

Updated on January 22, 2015
Indoor rollers are just one of the options out there.
Indoor rollers are just one of the options out there. | Source

The Basics

Indoor riding equipment has progressed much in the past few years. So much so, the only thing you can't do on an indoor ride is learn how to hold your line through corners. You can ride for general fitness, strength or speed. In recent years companies have developed equipment that allows you to race your bicycle over the internet against other riders connected through a computer.

The technology and market for quality indoor training equipment has grown by leaps, and thus there is a variety of gear to suit everyone's fitness and training needs and their budget.

Tips & Tricks

  1. Use a sturdy, inexpensive smooth tire. The less tread the better, a slick makes a perfect option. If you ride a lot on a trainer, consider purchasing a tire whose compound is specifically made for riding a trainer
  2. Pedaling creates energy, this energy is converted into heat on the metal cylinder and other heat sinks on your trainer. When you are done riding, avoid touching your trainer at all costs, at the very least be careful to not burn your skin.

The Stationary Trainer

The main advantage of stationary trainers is that they allow you to ride everyday, with very little effort. Most require no bike dis-assembly and support the bicycle and your body weight with a simple clamping systems. The rear wheel then rests on a metal cylinder that is attached to a resistance mechanism.

Magnetic Resistance

Magnetic resistance is the least expensive trainer type. Magnets provide an adjustable option as well, as the resistance is created by changing the distance between the magnets internally. Magnetic resistance; however, is not progressive and will not increase in resistance with the speed of the rear wheel. Because magnets can only be placed so close to each other to properly provide resistance, they is a slight humming or vibration feeling to the resistance.

Fluid Resistance

An upgrade from Magnetic resistance, fluid resistance is created by a disc spinning in fluid held within the trainer. Fluid provides a more realistic resistance to road conditions. As the wheel speed increases, so too will the resistance in the trainer. Fluid resistance is a smoother completely uninterrupted resistance, unlike magnetic trainers.

Inertial Resistance

The most accurate to road conditions, inertial resistance is progressive in it's resistance justy like fluid resistance trainers. Inertia resistance; however, uses the momentum of a free weigh wheel to add to a more realistic ride feel.


The oldest form of indoor riding equipment. Rollers are a set of three smooth, rolling drums strung together on a frame by a large band that keeps the front and rear drums spinning at the same rate. While rollers are limited in the amount of resistance they can provide, they have the most natural riding experience of all the trainers. Rollers will engage your body's ability to balance itself. Rollers can be intimidating since they don't safely keep you in place, and you can very well ride your self off them and hurt yourself. Practice makes perfect and patience will have you riding rollers like the pros.

Electronic Trainer

New to the screen, electronic trainers have the ability to automatically adjust resistance for any interval based session and change your indoor riding work out like you could could imagine. You can program them to provide resistance for climbing sprinting, or driving the pace on a downhill segment. Electronic trainers are extremely expensive but provide the ability for a diverse and well rounded trainer experience.

Tips & Tricks

Hacking out 30 minutes may be easy, but staying in the same sport for 90 minutes to 2 hours can be a drag. Keep things exciting with the following tips

  1. Action movies make a great training companion, the high energy will keep your attention and you can even do intervals during the car chases.
  2. If you are watching a TV show, soft pedal during the show and hammer out some hard efforts during the boring commercials.
  3. Join some friends, a weekly group trainer session can make the winter months seem like the summer. Do yourself a favor and seek out other to stink up your or their basement. There is a reason spin classes are popular.

Set-Up Properly

Each indoor riding session will require a little bit of planning, but setting things up properly will make all the difference in the world. If you know you will be riding frequently inside, you can even leave yourself set-up for later.

  1. Make sure that your bike is securely attached to the trainer and that the trainer is stable
  2. Ensure you will have an adequate temperature and set-up a fan to keep you cool. If possible open a window for fresh air and increased air circulation.
  3. Get your entertainment set-up. Movies, music, television, or anything to help you get by. There are training DVDs out there to even give you some structure to your ride.
  4. If you are on a stationary trainer and not rollers, you will need to use a riser block, or you will be leaning on your hands the entire time.
  5. Sure you can stop and get a drink if you are thirsty, but that will interrupt your session. Have a bottle of water or sports drink there for you to drink
  6. A towel can go a long way, you can use it to wipe your face, your bike and even blow your nose into.
  7. If you will be riding for more than 60 minutes ensure you have at least a 100 calorie snack to keep your stomach from growling.
  8. Keep everything you will need with in arms reach. Tv remote, phone, baby monitor etc.

It's not hard and can take a few minutes but it make the session that much easier. Do yourself a favor and try to always plan, so that you can train and gain the best results.

The Next Level

If you are finding you need to improve the quality of your work outs while riding indoors, you can purchase other devices. Item such as heart rate monitors and Power Meters, will give you an out put reading of your effort. You can use these numerical values to give you that extra few percents better in the quality of the indoor ride and see huge gains on the road or trail.


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    • dobo700 profile image


      7 years ago from Australia

      Very useful, I'm looking to move my training indoors over the winter. Thnaks


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