Outdoor riding or training in the Winter isn’t always fun. Lets face it, who wants to be cold, get covered in mud and religiously have to clean their bike every ride just so you can do it all again? Well, thats where indoor training can help you. Whether you move indoors for the entire winter season or just, like me, compliment you outdoor riding with a few indoor sessions, it has a lot of advantages and can help get you through the dark days and provide some focus.
Riders have different names and explanations for their pain cave. I know others say their pain cave is a particular workout or call it something like their hurt locker. For this article, my pain cave is my room where I train indoors.
But what do you need to be able enjoy riding indoors? Here are my 10 Pain Cave Essentials
Smart Trainer + Screen
If you are going to ride indoors regularly, get a smart trainer. The investment is worth it. The ability to hook it up to an app and see what you are doing on the bike, in real time, gives you focus and makes the sometimes painful and long, boring sessions palatable. I have an old 40″ flat screen TV I use as monitor. Dirt cheap second hand. TIP: There are a lot of apps available now which can offer riders not just workouts but rides and online races too. Try them, most have free trials available, so find your favourite that suits you.
They are relatively inexpensive given how much we spend on our kit but an absolute must-have for turbo training. They protect your floor, collect your sweat and dampen the drone sound of pedalling on laminate or wooden floors. If you live in an apartment, you will need one just to keep your neighbour’s downstairs sweet! TIP: A cheap off-cut (or two) of vinyl flooring will do if you are on a budget.
This isn’t so relevant for a lot of serious indoor riders that use direct-drive trainers but if you are a bit old skool still like me and use a wheel-on trainer, then using a trainer tyre is essential. If you don’t you will chew up and flat spot your rear tyre. It will be ruined. Trainer tyres are designed specifically to deal with the heat they can generate and will last years. Well worth the investment. TIP: by a dirt cheap rear wheel and have a dedicated trainer wheel you can easily swap out to save the need for changing tyres every indoor ride
If you train indoors, its a given you will sweat a lot. For some like me, its buckets. Having a fan can really help keep you be cooler when you are trying hard. If you overheat it can skew your heart rate and affect your session so get a fan to get the best out of your indoor workouts. I use a 14″ pedestal fan which I can adjust the height of, I can tilt it and it can oscillate too but any fan is better than nothing. TIP: Buying fans in winter is a lot cheaper than summer and don’t buy cycle branded rip offs. A fan is a fan.
Training indoors isn’t always eyeballs out, legs screaming. Sometimes the weather can be so bad we just want to ride to recover, a steady one to keep the legs ticking over or you’re in between intervals. Thats the time you will check your phone, app, change a tune, a video or take a drink or a gel. We need somewhere to put the gadgets! I used to simply use a chair next to my bike but now, as my bike is perpendicular to a wall, I’ve built a fold-down table that sits just in front of my bike so I can use my PC and my phone. Keeping bits and pieces to hand while riding is really useful. For me, my table is essential. TIP: just a small stool or sideboard within easy reach will do
Whatever you want to call it, its imperative you protect your bike from yourself. The salt in your sweat will simply rot it. I use a simple towel draped over my cockpit but you can buy ‘sweat thongs’ which are a triangular shaped piece of material that attach to the seat post and stretch over your bar area. I’m not a fan but anything is better than nothing. TIP: I use old tea towels that have been replaced. They are cheap and soak up a lot but you can get new from a pound shop for next to nothing
I keep saying it. Fan or not, you are going to sweat like a turkey before xmas so use a humble towel to dry yourself during your ride. A fan can help your face but your back will be dripping too so use it to wipe your body down too. Less sweat, less chance of damaging the bike. TIP: Hand or tea towels are best
You’d be a bit daft not to have a drink on your bike when training indoors. That wet stuff pouring out of your skin needs to be replenished somehow and you’ll probably sweat more than you drink so make sure you have enough to drink after your session too. How much you say? TIP: weigh yourself before and after to see how much sweat you’ve lost. You’ll be surprised.
If your session is short and sharp, its probably not necessary to eat but you can still make sure you have a post-ride snack or shake to hand. If I’m riding 60 mins+ or if I’m going to race online I’ll have a gel to hand. Anything more extreme like a 2hr ride, I’ll have food available like a normal outdoor ride. TIP: Gels and Bananas are my go to nutrition for indoor riding
There is nothing more motivating in life than listening to your favourite music. Turn it on and turn it up! I’m sure the neighbours can cope for an hour while you get your sweat on. TIP: If you’re online in your cave, I have a YouTube playlist of my favourites I can just click and watch
………and here are some optionals worthy of a mention
If you have a room you can have your bike setup all the time then you will be more inclined to use it more during the winter months. I have a converted garage thats my man cave. The bike sits there 365 days a year ready to go if I need to ride indoors
If you are lucky enough to have a permanent bike/room setup like me, then deck your room out with some motivational memorabilia to add a bit of flavour so people know its yours and what it is. I’ve got old event numbers, finisher medals, my kit is hanging in there and I have a big pic of my son staring straight at me with a wry little smile as if to say I’m not trying hard enough. I also have an oil painting of Sean Kelly and a picture of Tom Simpson.
Its a relatively new thing but you can now mount your trainer onto a trainer that ‘rocks’ under effort so give you a more realistic feel. Users also claim it helps if you get a bit numb in the saddle area! What started as DIY gimic is becoming commercial.
If you are a very serious rider and ride indoors a lot (and have some spare $$$) then a dedicated indoor bike has merits. There are a few options available now with the Wattbike probably being the most recognisable of those but with the Tacx Neo bike coming out shortly, the Wahoo bike and bikes from Cycelops that have been on the market for a few years, I think they will become more common over the next few years
If you want to totally immerse yourself while riding indoors, Wahoo offer the Climb and Headwind. The Climb replaces your front wheel and will elevate your bike to simulate gradient in your app and the Headwind (a posh fan) will speed up as your speed and heart rate do.