The 5 Biggest Mistakes Cyclists Make on the Indoor Trainer

Marc Lindsay
by Marc Lindsay
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The 5 Biggest Mistakes Cyclists Make on the Indoor Trainer

While cycling on an indoor trainer can be a great way to stay in shape during the winter and supplement your outdoor cycling during the summer, you’ll need to do things the right way to stay clear of an unnecessary injury and get the most out of your training time.

Avoid these five common indoor training mistakes to stay in shape, be as comfortable as possible and become a better overall cyclist:

Indoor trainers offer a great bang for your buck, allowing you to sneak in a quality interval session in a short amount of time when you might otherwise be inclined to skip your workout. However, if the indoor trainer is your primary method of cycling during the winter, you’ll want to avoid the habit of crushing every ride with a high-intensity zone 4 or 5 effort.

No matter where you train, you’ll want to follow the basic principle of doing no more than 2–3 hard interval sessions per week to avoid overtraining and injury. Make sure you space your interval sessions at least a day or two apart and recover properly with easy spinning or drill work in between.

One of the big downfalls of indoor training is you’re not moving, which can be incredibly boring if you choose to sit and stare at a wall for an hour or longer. Fortunately, there are plenty of entertainment options to keep you from losing your mind while you train indoors.

From training against other cyclists in a virtual race on Zwift to watching your favorite cycling movie, don’t forget to spice up your workouts with variety and motivation to keep your mind occupied. Music can also be a good option, and if you’re looking for structured workout programs, give Trainer Road a try.

Like outdoor workouts, you’ll want to avoid the temptation of simply hopping on the bike and riding for a predetermined amount of time. To get the most out of your indoor workouts, it’s important to always have a goal in mind.

It could be losing weight, improving your pedaling efficiency or intervals to increase your VO2 max. Whatever it may be, ride with a purpose and have a plan. Working out with a goal of getting better at a specific aspect of your cycling helps you stay motivated and makes it easier to push yourself on those hard days when you don’t feel like riding.

Choosing to pull the trainer out in the middle of the living room is a good way to upset your spouse with a puddle of sweat on the carpet, not to mention annoy anyone below you with an hour of racket and noise. With a lack of wind, setting up in the middle of the house can make things really hot when you decide to crank up the intensity — all of which can make you less motivated to go through all the trouble of setting things up and riding day after day.

If you want to enjoy your training time, keep everyone happy and be as comfortable as possible, setting up a dedicated indoor training space is a must. Whether it’s your patio, garage or spare bedroom, set up a space where you can keep your trainer ready to go at a moment’s notice. Make sure it’s well ventilated with fans and open windows or doors. Have a mat beneath you to dampen vibration and collect sweat. Entertainment setups with a TV or computer are also good to help you get the most out of your workout. Here’s a list of items to get you started.

Since you don’t have to worry about balancing or looking up the road for hazards and obstacles, it’s easy to slip into bad habits when you’re riding indoors. This can make things hard when you head back outdoors when the weather warms, and make the transition to spring cycling more difficult than necessary.

Here are a few things you’ll want to avoid as much as possible:

  • Looking down: For whatever reason, it’s really-easy to spend a majority of the time looking down at your feet rotating the pedals instead of keeping your eyes forward like you would on the road. While it saves your neck muscles, if you don’t train them during the winter, you’ll be in for a sore neck once you head back outside.
  • Not standing enough: Indoor cycling can be tough on your backside. To combat the extra pressure placed on your sensitive areas, change handlebar positions frequently and stand occasionally for relief just as you would on the road to prevent numbness.
  • Mashing: When you’re doing intervals, it can be easy to let your form slip and mash the pedals down instead of spinning in smooth circles. Make an effort to work on your pedaling efficiency whenever you’re on the trainer since you don’t have to worry about things like staying upright or traffic. It’ll pay big dividends when you head back out on the road.

About the Author

Marc Lindsay
Marc Lindsay

Marc is a freelance writer based in Scottsdale, Arizona. He holds a master’s degree in writing from Portland State University and is a certified physical therapy assistant. An avid cyclist and runner of over 20 years, Marc contributes to LAVA, Competitor and Phoenix Outdoor magazines. He is the former cycling editor for


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