As winter approaches, many cyclists are putting away their bikes for the season and are left considering how to train indoors. Training is as unique as the rider and there are plenty of different ways you could stay fit when the snow flies. But before you even consider jumping on a trainer or hitting the local spin class, consider what you want to achieve. Are you looking to train for a century charity ride in the spring? Are you looking to win the season opening race or to peak late in the season? Or, are you just riding so you can look good in your spring wardrobe? Once the goal is determined, then you can look at the options you have to get there.
The two basic choices are to either go it alone by riding a trainer at home, or to find a studio to take part in an instructor-led group spin class. Both can be beneficial to your off-season training and have their own pros and cons.
Riding on a trainer at home means you’re in charge, but self-motivation is key. There are all kinds of DVDs, books and online tools to keep you focused on your winter training goals. Unlike group fitness classes, riding solo means you can listen to the music you want or watch that replay of your favourite Grand Tour stage over and over, if that’s what works.
Working on your trainer with the aid of a heart rate monitor or power meter can be a great combination to help you see results for spring. It can be lonely, but training in your basement can recreate those moments of long solo rides where you have to dig deep to keep going. There’s no one there to push your pace, challenge your sprint, coach you through the ride or comment on your form. Trainers can range in price from around $200 to more than $1,000, so there are plenty of options available. For cyclists who can motivate themselves and don’t mind a bit of self-torture, or want to be able to ride whenever they want, training alone at home is a good choice.
Group Indoor Cycling
An indoor spin or Computrainer-style class can be a great way to spice up winter training. Many cyclists still have the idea that a spin class is aerobics on a bike, and at one time that may have been true. But, times have changed. There are now many excellent indoor cycling studios across the country with qualified instructors and organized, interesting programs that teach true endurance (back to the basics of aerobic building), interval-based (pushing your limits with recovery) and cycling-specific winter training classes. Spin bikes today are also getting more advanced with built-in power meters, cadence sensors and some with frame designs that mimic road riding. The key is to find a studio that fits your needs and goals. Search online, check out reviews and ask your friends. An indoor ride can be a boost to winter training. It’ll get you out of hibernation and is a good way to meet new cyclists. It’s also a good way to get some inexpensive coaching on things like form, pedal stroke and heart rate zones. Some studios also offer more advanced testing for power, lactate thresholds and VO2 max.
Some cyclists find group training to be more motivating and helps them push harder then while training alone. As for pricing, spin classes cost around $10 to $20 per 60-minute session, but buying a package can help reduce that price.
Whichever route you take for winter training, set your goals and stay committed. The winter may feel long and miserable, but you’ll be back out on the road soon. If you put the training in, your legs will feel good and ready for another (hopefully) long season of cycling.
Jen Fawcette is the manager and coach at CYKL, an indoor cycling studio in Toronto. She’s an all-around bike nut who tries to keep her group rides interesting – indoors or out.