Nearly Christmas, the temperature here in the UK has fallen sharply and many of my friends have migrated in doors to their turbo’s. You will be pleased to know that this isn’t going to be another “Zwift” bashing post!! but rather a few thoughts on what I am learning about indoor v outdoor training. Would be pleased get other views too…
I found the video below from PEAKS Consultancy rather good (hence have embedded it for you!). But also incomplete in that for me it only tells half the story. For sure as the roads become more treacherous and the days are shorter then there is a safety angle to consider. And that of course is the obvious reason people migrate to ‘indoor’ cycling. But having now experimented with turbo set-ups and sessions I think two things stand out for me:
- Control the environment
- Road & Turbo are different and not interchangeable.
Control The Environment
As I have started to get much more specific abut different bike sessions, then it has become obvious to me that to execute them effectively you need a consistent, replicable and controllable environment. You don’t need variation in road gradient or weather, let alone traffic and general road hazards to worry about! So for this, the turbo is obviously perfect.
If of course you see no value in conditioning different muscles, energy systems and cardio response through targeted sessions… Then this is not going to work for you. However if all cycle training means to you is time on the bike then good luck (!!) and you might as well wait for sunny days. Or watch a film whilst sitting on your turbo turning the peddles.
But if you happen to share my views in targeted sessions then you will start to appreciate that you might want to build turbo sessions into your year round plan for exactly that specificity.
Different & Not Interchangeable
Having said that, time on the bike is important. Of course it is! But to me that needs to be real time on a real bike in real conditions. I think you actually need all that variability for endurance sessions and you need to be on the ball riding in the real world.
Now going out in the rain or in sub zero conditions might not be tempting, but actually does server a purpose. If you can make yourself do it! You may just face these conditions or a derivative of them at a race… What will you do, stay in the car because it is too cold? Exactly…
So learning how you respond to the cold, how your bike handles in the rain, what a cross wind is like (with each of your countless different wheel sets!) is actually really important stuff.
Also, and this is obvious, on the road you balance the bike and on a turbo it does it for you. Therefore you are actually engaging a slightly different set of muscles. Small point, but it is a difference. You are also less alert on a turbo and more focused on a repetitive motion. Different mindset and different physiology.
Therefore I have concluded that for me, my turbo is going to be used year round because it plays a bigger role than trying to substitute time on the bike in shabby weather.
What No WattBike?
I thought about this long and hard, but believe that I came to the right decision! Now obviously my natural consumer instinct with a love of buying the best and accessorising my hobby was to buy a WattBike. But actually, for my needs, was that the best?
Of course owning your own WattBike is going to be a massive improvement on the badly maintained and totally abused ones at the gym (or at least at the gym I use!). And yes having your own bike will mean you can set it up correctly for you.
But ultimately it is not a road or TT bike and most importantly it can’t exactly mirror the geometry of your bike(s). So infect it introduces another source of variation and not a helpful one.
Is it more convenient than putting your bike on a turbo? Obviously yes! But lets be honest if you are serious enough about your training to be bothered with reading this, then my guess is that there nothing ‘convenient’ about your training plan anyway!
I also think that being able to change bikes on a turbo is helpful as that means you get to do a specific session on the exact frame you will us on the road. To me there are some subtle but important wins in that… All around familiarity.