4 Steps to Make the Most of Cycling Indoors

Peter Glassford
by Peter Glassford
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4 Steps to Make the Most of Cycling Indoors

As the leaves change color, temperatures drop and daylight softens, many cyclists start transitioning their training indoors. To be ready to train inside this winter, there are several considerations to make to ensure your ‘pain cave’ is at its best.



If your goals are not until later in the season next year you might consider delaying your indoor riding in favor of taking time off the bike. If your previous season was quite demanding, an off period is usually necessary before gradually easing into cycling-specific workouts using 2–3 sessions a week, while also building your fitness with cross-training and strength work. For these athletes, the trainer setup is less important and more open to variability. Perhaps you’ll set your trainer up for each ride rather than having a dedicated room or use spin classes as a supplement.

If you have a bold goal for next year, especially one early in the season, then indoor training is going to be more important to help you develop your form in time for the early race. These cyclists will have to ride indoors more frequently, using cross-training where possible to supplement the time and focus they can put in indoors. For these clients, a dedicated trainer space and a specific plan are important to ensure they progress toward their big goal in a timely fashion.



Many athletes live in small apartments and can’t have a dedicated room for a trainer. Consider putting a fan, mat or towel, your trainer and the associated cords and gadgets together in a big bag or box that’s accessible. Keep it organized enough so you can get set up quickly and avoid losing the motivation to ride.

Athletes who ride most days will generally have a dedicated room or area to train in. The advantage of this permanent setup is that the reasons to avoid doing your workout are fewer. You can put on shorts and start pedaling. I encourage athletes to add exercise mats, strength-training equipment and even other cardio machines into their exercise room to allow for some more variety and help get some of the benefits of cross-training.

Try doing a 5-minute core/strength routine followed by 5 minutes of riding alternated 3–6 times for a fun and varied workout.



Remember indoors is not the same as outdoors. It will feel harder and most cyclists will not push the same wattage as outdoors. Newer trainers are helping with this, but by anticipating this lower output and resetting your threshold and training zones, you can avoid frustration.

One of the common causes of lowered output that you can control is temperature. Get an amazing fan (or three) and aim to minimize how often you need to wipe your face with a towel. Controlling your temperature allows you to perform better and make the workout more enjoyable. You could use garages or unheated rooms to aid in cooling and minimize noise sleeping family members don’t want to hear.

With the technology available today it is easy to get caught up in downloading workouts, movies and logging onto online platforms, but don’t lose sight of the reason you are training. It is possible to pedal and shift and listen to great music to get a great workout done. However you plan your workout, make sure you have a plan to pass the time. If you can chunk up the workout into small blocks or intervals it will go faster and help you stay focused.



Look at what portions of your goals and limiters work as well or better indoors. For many athletes, coordination in the form of high rpm and cadence work is a great focus. Lower cadence work can also be done effectively to build force or ‘on-bike strength.’ Steady muscular endurance work to build your threshold is also well suited for athletes who can tolerate longer efforts.

For athletes who have trouble clipping in and out of pedals, the trainer is a great way to work on this. You can do clip out and pedal with one leg then switch every 20–40 seconds to work on pedal stroke and greatly improve your ability to find the pedal. Likewise, shifting can be complicated outdoors but can be practiced effectively against a fixed load on the trainer, without concerns for steering the bike around obstacles or terrain.

The upcoming fall and winter season brings an opportunity to focus on our goals and progress abilities that we cannot easily do during the summer. Set your training room or tools up for success and develop your plan for the upcoming season starting with an effective winter of training.

About the Author

Peter Glassford
Peter Glassford

Peter is a cycling coach and registered kinesiologist from Ontario, Canada. He travels frequently to work with athletes at races, camps and clinics. He also races mountain bikes for Trek Canada and pursues adventure in all types of movement. Follow @peterglassford on Twitter, or check out his online and in-person coaching at www.smartathlete.ca.


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