Before you begin training inside, you’ll need some specific equipment. With plenty of options to choose from, you’ll be ready to ride in no time. Here are our recommendations for your indoor cycling setup, including the best indoor bike trainers, equipment, and accessories for your budget.
For more information on indoor cycling setups, check out Ask a Cycling Coach Ep 253.
The Best Indoor Bike Trainer
Before you start training indoors, there’s some equipment that you will need and some items that will help maximize your hard work. At the very least, you need a bike, trainer, sensor, and a device to run the TrainerRoad app. The choices for a trainer and sensor will depend on how much you want to spend, but the good news is that there are plenty of options. The best indoor bike trainer is one that meets your needs and your budget.
Benefits of a Smart Trainer
By far our favorite type of indoor training setup includes a smart trainer. No doubt about it, these trainers are the most expensive option. However, smart bike trainers offer plenty of benefits—power, cadence, and automatic resistance control. Using both Bluetooth and ANT+, smart trainers measure your power output and automatically control the resistance based on your cadence. That way, don’t have to worry about shifting to hit your power target. All you have to do is pedal.
The smart trainers are direct drive, meaning you remove the rear wheel from your bike. Direct drives are nearly silent. We say nearly because you’ll still hear noise from your drivetrain. Additionally, you won’t have to worry about the rear tire slipping or wearing out. It’s helpful to get an extra cassette so you won’t have to swap it back and forth between your wheel and trainer. As always, it’s a good idea to first check with the manufacturer to make sure your bike is compatible.
Make the most of your hard work with an optimized indoor training experience.Check Out TrainerRoad
Here are some of our picks for the best indoor bike trainers. Each one is a direct drive smart trainer that can connect via Bluetooth. One of the favorites among TrainerRoad employees is the Saris H3. Its massive flywheel offers a great feeling ride and adjustable feet allow it to sit level on an uneven floor. Another great option is the Tacx Neo 2T. One of the cooler features is that it doesn’t require calibration. Finally, the Elite Direto XR is a good choice if you’re not mechanically inclined. It comes with a pre-installed 11-speed cassette and is ready to go right out of the box.
Best Budget Bike Trainer
Even though a smart trainer is nice to have, you can still get an effective training experience with a budget bike trainer. The lowest cost indoor cycling setup is to use VirtualPower with a trainer and a speed sensor. VirtualPower automatically turns your speed sensor data into power data. That way, you can get the benefits of power-based training without the cost of a power meter or a smart trainer.
It supports nearly every trainer on the market. Check out our equipment checker for more details.
Two of the best indoor cycling trainers are the Kurt Kinetic Road Machine and the Cycleops Jet Fluid Pro. Both are solidly built, last a long time, and are easy to set up. However, these budget bike trainers aren’t being produced anymore, so you’ll need to find them on a secondary market. Kinetic Road Machine Smart 2 is another great choice. For $300 (US), you get a wheel-on trainer with power data that connects via Bluetooth.
If space is an issue or you want something that can travel with you, we recommend the Feedback Sports Omnium Over-Drive. Essentially, it’s a small set of rollers for the rear wheel, where you’ll remove the front wheel and insert it into an adaptable fork mount. While you need need a Bluetooth speed sensor for the rear wheel to use VirtualPower, the Omnium Over-Drive makes up for it in weight and space savings. If you need a speed sensor, our pick is the Garmin Speed Sensor 2.
Using a Power Meter with your Indoor Bike Trainer
One piece of equipment advice we frequently offer is to invest in a power meter. Training with a power meter allows you to accurately measure your performance both indoors and out. This is a lower-priced indoor cycling setup option if you already have a trainer. Buying both a trainer and power meter will cost more, but the versatility allows you to take your training outdoors with Outside Workouts.
Power meters have dropped in price over the past few years, especially in regards to single-sided ones. Both the Stages Gen 3 Power Meter and 4iiii Precision Power Meter offer fantastic value. These power meters are single-sided and installed on the non-drive side crank arm. They can also be added to your existing crank. Just make sure it will clear the chainstays on your bike. You can check with the manufacturer for frame compatibility information. If you want to swap your power meter between bikes, pedal-based power meters are an easy solution. We like the Assioma Uno and the Garmin Rally Series.
Five Indoor Training Tips
- 3-4 hours before your workout, eat high-quality carbohydrates to fuel up.
- Use a good fan, and position it to cover the maximum surface area of your body.
- Set up some entertainment in the form of music or videos.
- Drink up! Aim for at least one bottle an hour.
- Fuel during the workout. This can be as simple as eating a gel or drinking a sports mix.
Indoor Cycling Setup
Your indoor cycling space doesn’t have to be glamorous. It just needs to be functional and convenient. This will help make your training more comfortable and practical. Here are some tips for setting up your indoor training space.
Make It Convenient
One of the most significant advantages of indoor cycling training is that it’s efficient. If possible, keep your bike on the trainer, with everything you need to get started for your next workout—bottles, nutrition, and towels. Keeping your training setup convenient will not only save you time, but also helps remove barriers keeping you from the workout.
Make It Comfortable
One of the most overlooked aspects of indoor cycling training is cooling. Even during easy endurance rides, your body produces a massive amount of heat. Overheating not only makes for a miserable time, but it seriously hampers your performance. While any fan will be better than none, we recommend getting a pivoting blower fan like this one. These types of fans provide a focused beam of fast-moving air. You can go a step further and use these remote outlets for convenience.
Make It Accessible
It can be frustrating to get off your bike in the middle of an interval because something is out of reach. Setting up a table or desk to hold your stuff is a great idea. Make it close enough so that you can easily reach it from the bike. It’s helpful to put an extra bottle, towel, and nutrition on it.
There are plenty of trainers and setups you can use with TrainerRoad. The best indoor trainer for you will depend on your needs and budget. If you are just getting started with indoor training, check out our beginner’s guide for quick tips that will help you nail your workouts.
Tips for Entertainment
The right entertainment can help make your indoor workout seem a little easier. Whether it’s some music, a podcast, or your favorite TV show, entertainment provides both motivation and distraction. Try incorporating more involved entertainment options like your favorite movie or TV show during the easier aerobic workouts. Heck, even some athletes play video games during easier ones.
For those especially tough workouts having some good music can motivate you to dig deep. We’ve made some playlists on Spotify, but you can use your own! If you are going to use headphones, we recommend ones that have an IPX7 rating or higher to keep out the sweat. You can pair music with some of the great race analysis videos from our YouTube channel.
Indoor Training Accessories and Equipment
There are plenty of indoor training accessories. You’ll want to make sure to budget for some accessories that can improve your indoor training experience. Since you don’t get a breeze during an indoor workout, a good fan and few gym towels go a long way in keeping sweat off your bike. Here are some of our favorites for every budget option that will make your training more enjoyable.
You’ll for sure wants some towels—the more the better. You can drape a couple over the handlebars and keep a few with arm’s reach to wipe off. Not only will you be able to protect your bike, but make you a bit more comfortable. Speaking of comfort, to keep you from having to stop and turn the fans on, remote power outlets can be a simple, yet effective upgrade. Finally, a cheap way to mount your phone to the bike is to use a phone adapter. This one sticks on the back of your phone case for a secure fit.
Even with towels and a fan, sweat can still make its way to the floor. It helps to have a mat, like this one, underneath the trainer. Additionally, they can help cut down on noise. We already mentioned fans in this article, but aside from the bike and trainer, fans are the most important part of your indoor cycling setup. The Lasko Pro-Performance Fan is a fantastic one. Many of our athletes get more than one to have maximum airflow.
These aren’t absolute necessities but can make your training more enjoyable. The RAD Trainer Desk is large enough to hold a tablet or laptop and fan at the same time. It’s adjustable and even includes slots for bottles. Wearing earbuds on the trainer can help keep the noise down, so you can hear your entertainment. Our favorites are the Jaybird X4 and the Apple Airpods Pro.
For more cycling training knowledge, listen to Ask a Cycling Coach — the only podcast dedicated to making you a faster cyclist. New episodes are released weekly.
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