Am I the only one who finds it easier to put power down indoors?

I read a lot of post where people ask the opposite, i.e. why their outdoor power is higher than indoor. I have the opposite issue. Well, sort of, it is slightly more complicated.

I’ve tested FTP indoors and outdoors (~275w) and they are in the same ballpark. Outdoors I can definitely stomp uphill harder than on the turbo. And in TTs I can hit within 10% of my indoor road position without having trained on the TT bike… So, what I’m saying is the power is there and the PMs are close enough.

Anyway, the problem I have is putting down anything from tempo to near threshold outside. On Zwift, or TR, I will happily sit at tempo-sweetspot (200-250w) without really suffering. On the road it is a different story altogether. If I try and keep my power over 200w it feels like a real struggle. If I go for a local 30 mile lap, pretty much as hard as I feel I can, I won’t hit NP of 240w.

Also my HR will be higher outside on a ride, but with significantly lower avg power.

I do use a different bike for turbo work, but it is set up pretty close to my outdoor bike. Any ideas?

  1. What trainer do you have?

  2. What training mode do you use?

    • (if you have the option between ERG and Resistance)
  3. What gearing do you use on the trainer?

    • (may be a single setup for ERG, or varied, and Resistance usually means a range of gears… but knowing the relative gear in use may be helpful)

I’ve definitely put myself in this camp. I ride so much indoors that I don’t really practice putting down consistent power on the road, so there’s that. With the rolling terrain where I am, I’ve just found it hard to do longer intervals at steady power (we’ve got some good 3min climbs though!). There’s also the mental focus, which for me isn’t so great on the road and then I’m messing around with getting the right gear/cadence combo. So while I love ERG, I can see why it can be a bit of a crutch, it definitely makes it “easier” in some ways to do workouts. I think physiologically, though, it’s the same and I’m definitely not lower inside than outside

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are your roads flat, rolling, or hilly?

It is flat and windy here, pretty easy to match up inside and outside. When doing sweet spot and threshold efforts outside, I find it helps to gear up to reduce cadence and have something to push against (70-80rpm). Inside in Erg mode the trainer (Kickr direct-drive) provides resistance and I spin a little faster (85-90rpm) to avoid the cadence spiral of death,

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I’m the exact same. Indoor intervals mostly in the 90s cadence, but outside usually lower 80s. I think having a lower cadence also makes it easier to keep power on target outside where there are often different factors that influence your power/cadence from moment to moment. Like the wind resistance, road surface, cars passing by, corners etc.

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Trainer is a CyclOps H2 and I run it on both ERG and resistance. I.e. ERG for workouts and resistance for Zwifting.

My outdoors is fairly rolling. Bad road surfaces and often windy. What I notice is I find it even harder to put out the watts into a headwind on the flat. I guess this could be trying to get aero, but I’m often struggling to stay above 200w.

What I am going to do later is put my road bike on the trainer and see how I get on.

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OK, depending on the gearing you use (in ERG especially), you may be helping or missing a chance to help your feeling outside. If you aren’t already doing so, some training in the higher gearing (big ring) could be beneficial to getting the right feel. But that is a guess based on your comments and common practice of using higher ERG gearing for “flat and fast” road similarities.

Would be interesting to see if you notice any difference on the road bike too.

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Just another observation, but it often feels easier to hit higher watts on the road when I have a bit of speed / momentum.
Also, higher cadence seems to help a bit, i.e. ~97rpm on the road. On the turbo it seems a lot less sensitive to cadence.

Flat and windy and bad road surfaces here. My favorite route has 1 hour of riding into a headwind. I do nearly all my intervals into a headwind. Similar FTP (260) as you, and at 70-80rpm have no problems putting down and holding big watts. I’ve also done higher rpms into the wind, but that just raises HR and lowers economy (everyone is different).

When I got started in 2016, it was mentally challenging riding into the headwind. We are near the mountains. A lot of climbers come out to the flat & windy, and mentally find it challenging. Maybe that is your issue? Hard to say.

Sounds like you prefer shifting load to aerobic system. I’m quad dominant, can generate a lot of torque, and find it easier to muscle thru intervals. So not surprising I prefer spinning at 70-80rpm.

If the power meters aren’t the same then you can’t make a Good comparison. I recently got a real power meter and found out that my smart trainer wasn’t so smart. It reads 50 watts high at threshold!

I’m the same as you. The one thing people don’t consider is that it takes a lot of stabilizer muscles when riding outside, especially on bad roads and wind, that you never use inside, and that takes energy. On a trainer you literally just pedal.

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I can definitely put down more power inside. Erg mode makes it easier.

That’s using the same power meter on the same bike. I reckon if I was train more outdoors they would come closer together.

Two things I can think of. One is the challenge of putting down watts when you are moving fast. Part of it is a challenge to your agility and technique, part is probably mental. But it’ll come with practice. Bottom line, you just have more to think about when riding outside and at least at first, these other commitments of mental energy can have an impact.

Second is the fact that it’s not a consistent effort. Rolling hills change grade subtly and continuously; headwinds flare up and die down. You face variable resistance that’s not predictable and cadence and effort have to constantly adjust. When it happens in the middle of an effort it’s a challenge to your PCr / neuromuscular system. Again, will come around with practice.

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I wonder if it’s all the extra stimuli?

Outdoors you’re balancing, ready for a sudden gust of wind, looking ahead for a pothole and deciding your line, listening out for traffic either overtaking or turning in front, watching the road surfaces at corner, etc

And that’s before I think about that rise up ahead where I’m wondering if I’ll make it up in my current gear if I speed up, or perhaps I should just relax for a second and change down in anticipation. I wonder if all those micropauses, zeros in other words, are affecting your average?

That would be my suggestion.

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So tried running both pedal power meter (outdoors) and trainer at same time. Seemed to be some consistency, but also deviations - not really very conclusive from just watching the numbers.

Have a Zwift race tomorrow so will swap out the pedals and record both - see if they look the same…

I think a majority of the difference is due to the increased cognitive load outside vice on a trainer. Sounds like an excuse to practice more outside. Find roads to reduce your cognitive load and keep the workouts simple, then see how you do.

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I point to this as the reason (in addition to other points made above which are all likely contributing as well). On the trainer your variability around your target wattage is going to be pretty low, especially in ERG. When you go up a rolling climb, you are engaging different muscles, sometimes standing and taking your power above your NP average for your ride. Going down the other side you may coast or soft pedal but you probably generate less watts going down than going up.

So your ride ends up being a rolling over and under interval with higher peaks and lower lows than you would ride on the trainer. That spread between the highs and lows is what’s killing your NP.

I have been doing 3 hour group rides on Saturdays and the same loop on Sunday solo pretty frequently. What I have found is that I am a guy that likes to keep my average power high. I ride pretty steady and consistently hard but I don’t mash up hills when I do my solo version.

So I can feel more thrashed while having a lower average power on Saturday because it’s a “fly up the hills” and coast down/recover kind of ride. When I go solo I see higher average power but feel a lot more fresh at the end because I aim to keep it steady and end up with a much faster average speed as well.

TLDR: I think the hills, wind and roads are pushing you above your tempo/sweet spot pace and that’s causing you to need more rest. That variability is hurting your NP whereas I bet on the trainer your NP and AP are pretty close if not spot on for your intervals.

You can go into the career page on TR and search through some of your rides. I did a search in my “recovery” ride where I did what I thought was just a few sections of hardish pedaling. For fun I searched to see where I held over my threshold of 332 for at least 30 seconds. It turns out in a 63 minute recovery ride I rode over threshold for 30 seconds straight (30 seconds or more) 10 times! If I were doing a recovery ride on TR or even a sweet spot session, I can tell you the number of times I would go over threshold for 30 seconds would be 000*0=0.

That variability adds up and it will definitely impact your ability to produce consistently high wattage. Next time you go out, try to stay under your FTP on the hills, in the wind and on the bad road sections and when the road is easy try to bring your wattage up to 250 for those sections. I bet if you shoot for a narrow 25 watt band your NP will be a lot higher on the next ride.

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This is probably my biggest gripe riding with others, terrible power consistency on their part.

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I happen to train with a bunch of current and former triathletes. Those who know, understand how this can make a “hardened road rider” want to cry at times. Their ability to hold really hard, but steady power over varying terrain is impressive and has lead to some nice improvements in my fitness and riding skill.

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It’s a super valuable skill. Efficiency goes so, so far.

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