Are You New to Indoor Training? My Take After Three Short Weeks Of Build

Brief background: I’m 50. Have been cycling and racing for decades. Live in an area where riding outside all year around is easy. Until three week ago when I started TR I would generally ride between 8-11,000 miles a year; race around 30-40 events a year, mostly sanctioned but many unsanctioned events. I’m a Masters/Cat 2 nobody on the road and quit mountain bike racing before they went to the current ranking system. Prior to cycling I was an NCAA div 1 athlete. I’ve been coached, followed plans outside with out a coach and most seasons just do the Ned Overend training method. Here’s my take on the main difference between training on a trainer and training outside:

  1. Increased muscular or strength endurance. It doesn’t seem to matter what kind of workout I do the fact is keeping constant pressure on the pedals increases muscular endurance. The lack of micro breaks has been nothing short of eye opening for me.

  2. Increased hip recruitment. I don’t know why. I feel it’s closely tied to number 1 above. But the fact is the muscles used to bring the foot over the top, drive it forward into the main power phase of the pedal stoke are way more engaged on the trainer.

  3. Increased dehydration. If not careful of coarse. But, in general, depending on fans, temp and workout, etc…I go through 2-3X the water compared to outside.

  4. 1 hour on the trainer is more like 2 outside. At least for me. I’m comfortable saying it’s at least 1.5-2 for most. No way 1 hour on the trainer=1 hour outdoors!

Anyways, this is nothing new to most of you who have had to use a trainer to stay in shape through out the winter. For those new to indoor training or those who remember transitioning are there any further noticeable training affects I might experience? Thanks.


Too much info I guess. Funny after all these years getting excited about something like training stress/quality. That or maybe innately understanding I’ve been doing it so wrong for so many years…Hoping I can actually improve is exciting! Here’s to hope. If you can sell that you will make $$. :wink:

This is my second season on Trainerroad. Its certainly not magic. You have to put in the work to get the gains, but the gains do come. I agree the effort indoors is more like 2X outdoors. I’m to the point now where I know my group rides are my easy days! Maybe I am in the minority, but I actually enjoy the trainer. I get in the zone with a good playlist and just turn the legs. I can’t wear glasses due to the sweat, and I can’t see far enough to watch TV or anything, so I just get my head right and pedal. I track my TSS almost obsessively, count my macros, volunteer as a race coordinator for our rec club… its fun to play athlete!


This is my second year/winter training with TrainerRoad. Didn’t even consider other options after the clear, across the board improvements I saw last year.

Can’t say I enjoy training indoors but TR does remove the faff and almost all of the guess work. Just wish I could say that my group rides are my easy days :joy:


Appreciate your insight. Just curious are you using a smart trainer?

No. I use a Quarq DZero PM with an older mag trainer. The combo is fine for everything up to and including VO2. However, ERG mode/smart trainers (I am guessing) far exceed the quality I can do while performing shorter intervals with short recovery. For example, I just did a workout that ended with 15second sprints with 15s recoveries. It took 6 shifts to get from the recovery power to the target power. So, unless I started about 5 seconds early I was low every interval. Just made for messy intervals and while better than what I’ve been used to, not as good as a smart trainer. The other area smart/erg is better is TR use of gradient increases and decreases in power say during over/unders. Totally doable with PM’s/dumb trainers just not as effective or at least magnitudes more messy and variable.

All that said I’m splitting hairs. Before TR I did all this on the open roads and it was even less quality. So in the end following any workout on TR is an improvement in quality vs. outdoors.

1 Like

I am on a wheel-on Travel Trac Fluid dumb trainer with the Assioma Uno pedal power meter. I haven’t found that many limitations, with the exception of really short sprints. Shifting the chainring upfront helps in lieu of trying to quickly change 6 gears on the rear cog, but its not perfect. I do appreciate the simplicity of the dumb trainer system, though. I see alot of back-and-forth comments on smart trainers regarding calibrations and spin-downs and lockups and whatnot. There is a lot of flexibility with a wheel-on dumb trainer to alter your effort level real time and less hassle IMO. Anyway, YMMV. Trainerroad is a great system. It is efficient whatever equipment you choose.

1 Like

I think the guys, including in some of the workout texts, reckon it’s between 1.25-1.5 x outdoor, depending on whether you take any breaks.

1 Like

I’ve heard they quoted another coach or physiologist/expert and he came up with 1.3-1.8x so 1.5 is a good wag. Seems reasonable.

1 Like

Definitely not 2x inside vs outside for me… Maybe I’m lucky that it in one direction it only takes 15 minutes to get out of town, and then I can ride without stopping for over an hour. In the other direction I might get stopped by two lights, and then I can ride for two to three hours without stopping.

The big difference for me is not going too hard during recoveries, and on aerobic endurance workouts. And that means I can do back-to-back days of sweet spot work during base.

1 Like

First time on the bike outside today in a while and it felt 50W+ easier than my trainer. I have an old mag trainer maybe 15 years old. Perhaps the inertia of the wheel compared to the roller of the trainer makes it feel different. I fully understand the implications of inertia and how they can affect power but that was nuts. This was just one ride. Maybe I was just feeling good. Time will tell…

Been meaning to chime in here as I’m new to indooro riding and have noticed a few things since I’ve started in late August.

  1. There is just no substitute for riding outside.
  • It’s just different. The pedal stroke and power delivery is completely different. I should say I mainly mountain bike, which involves a lot more slow cadence forceful pedaling. Steep short technical climbs. I’m assuming but I don’t think I’m ever really spinning at a cadence of 100 or above out on the trails. But maybe I just have bad technique.
  • I rode strictly indoors for probably 2 months due to weather on top of the demotivation from all the driving to the trails. I could be wrong but I really started to feel like I was losing my ability to sustain the high end VO2 power. Even halfway through the Short Power Build phase mid vol. Maybe I was just fatigued. I heard chad say on one podcast that the trainer is great at mimicking climbing because you’re delivering power through the whole pedal stroke. Maybe for road riding but not for mountain where your momentum is constantly being accosted by obstacles. You have to be able to produce a lot of force on a single pedal stroke to keep the momentum going over obstacles, which can very easily pull you into the red. I’ve started lowering my cadence on a lot of the workouts to hopefully bring that force back.
  • They always say on the podcast that it’s a big misconception in training to think you need to do 5 hour rides in order to train for a 5 hour race. They are right. You will finish the race by only training 1-2 hours a day. BUT if you want to WIN that race I would highly argue for including 5 hour rides into your training program.
  1. I also noticed that during my first outdoor mtb ride after being on the trainer for a few weeks, like mentioned in the original post, was that my pedal stroke was much more fluid or more even throughout the entire stroke. I think I had become accustomed to putting everything into the downstroke (as hinted at above) and the trainer really helps develop the other muscles. Big plus and I think the best take away for using the trainer as a supplement to riding outside.

  2. Riding on the trainer just gets me on the bike more. It’s so easy and including prep, from beginning to end it usually takes less than 2 hours. Whereas, if I’m going to the trails I’m spending an hour each way just driving. On top of that, I can do it at 9 o’clock at night, which allows me to have a normal day. I love it.

  3. Is riding inside 2x riding outside? Yes and no. When I ride outside I always go until I’m dead. A ride where I have something left in the tank at the end is a ride that is not over yet. I think I’ve always gravitated towards ‘crash’ training and it worked. Go until you are dead, rest and do it again. Only riding 3 maybe 4 times a week. Problem is, you don’t get base miles at all. With the trainer, riding 5 times a week on a plan, I’ve noticed that even during a hard workout that I can barely complete, after an hour, sometimes less, I feel pretty good like I could do it again. I should probably put that to the test and try to repeat and see how far I get. But outdoor, I’m done for the day, completely exhausted. It’s probably because an outdoor mtb ride is a full body workout where the trainer is only my legs.

  4. One more thing. And I’m not sure if this was due to the indoor trainer or the outdoor rides because I wasn’t tracking my weight while riding outdoors. But, I’ve been 175 pounds for years. A few months ago it dropped to 170, then 165 and the last few times I checked I was down to 160 even. I thought something was wrong because I don’t really have weight to lose. But within a 2 months period I had dropped 15 pounds.


@thesupermarket great observations! I will also add to anyone new to indoor training that the stress or the way the muscles are engaged has led me to be way more tight than when I used to only ride outside. Maybe it’s just me but, I’ve put stretching back on the priority list equal to riding.

interesting. I gained some muscle so I actually gained a little. It’s good weight. No correlation and just a reflection of my training/physiology.

Yeah. I’ve noticed that too. Riding indoors really focuses on your power delivery in a single body position, which probably stresses certain areas constantly and regularly without much variation.

1 Like

Yeah. I don’t think I was eating enough. I increased my training load but kept my eating habits the same.

1 Like

I think it’s 100% like you mentioned Chad mentioned trainer riding is like climbing…primarily as you/he said but, it’s to keep the damn roller inertia going. The micro second I let up it stops. It’s good but, the stress on my hip flex/quads has been noticeable more than anything I’ve done on a bike.

1 Like

To Point 5 - Could it be being a little dehydrated? I ask this because of the environment (single point cooling with a fan vs total body outdoors) and sweating more to cool. My weight indoors is consistent with outdoor and when I see a big fluctuation, it nearly always comes back to hydration.

1 Like

It’s possible. I don’t really sweat a lot which in turn probably means I don’t drink a lot. And with the frequency of indoor riding I was definitely sweating a lot more. Also, around the time I started indoor riding I more or less stopped rock climbing. I’ve noticed that the muscles used in climbing seemed to be shrinking so maybe I’ve lost some of that muscle mass too. Mainly abs and forearms, probably my back too but I can’t see it.

1 Like

I don’t know about 5-hour races, but when my training was based on 1-hour workouts, 70 to 75-minute bike legs of a tri (at ~90%) would cook my legs soft.