Comfort/discomfort on a trainer vs on the road/trail

Last weekend I did a 3 hr hilly ride in the Peak District in the UK. The weather was ***** wet and a bit cold i.e. less than idyllic. Got off the bike and had no aches, pains or discomfort. It was a saw-tooth profile (The Matlock Top 10 if anyone knows it) with three national hill climb courses so it wasn’t a walk in the park.

After an hour on the trainer completing a challenging programme my back aches, and I’m significantly less comfortable than I would be if I rode it on the road.

I’m guessing this is because outdoor real-world riding is more erratic, has micro-breaks, you stand, change position you’re jiggled around by the moonscape road surfaces etc…


…am I ignoring a bike fit issue and I am sub-optimal in my position and losing power to subtle fatigue over the course of a long outdoor ride?

How do you guys & gals feel after an hour (or more) on the trainer (a tough ride not a Pettit etc).

Thank you in advance of your response.

I think you’ve covered it all in your post above really. Your mind is occupied when you’re outside, looking at the scenary, making sure you’re still going straight and so on. Inside, you’re fixated on the interval, very aware of the building pain in your legs and lungs, how long is left and every little ache and pain your body is going through.

I feel tired after a TR ride, but that’s due to the intensity of it. I’ve set my bikes up as close to as eachother so there’s not a change in position for me.

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Per my thread:

One particular suggestion from that page (that is easy to try and test):

  • When you have a bike that is perfectly comfortable outside, and then leads to problems when ridden inside, I feel it is important to look at what is different. When you do, there are two key differences.
    1. Lack of wind resistance on the body riding inside. That is a difference that I find because you end up with slightly more weight on the hands and arms, because you don’t have the wind pushing your upper body back.
    • To compensate for that, I recommend that people raise the front axle about 1"-2" [25mm-50mm] higher than the rear axle. This shifts the weight slightly back onto the saddle and off the hands and arms.

A rocker plate (the other main focus) is also worth consideration.


Chad, JCorfield,

Thanks for the response.

I think its probably more Chad’s suggestion as on some external rides I give it just as much on TrainerRoad trainer sessions so exhaustion will be comparable. I think the rocker is a good idea. I’ve seen some ideas and I’ll look at your post Chad.

My areas of specific trouble are lower back (so wind resistance/weight is probably important) and knee. And that baffles me as I ride the same bike both inside and out ??

Cheers chaps.


Things definitely get magnified indoors for many of the reasons already mentioned in the thread.

I personally find it much easier to ride in my drops on my road bike outdoors. Indoors I tend to stay up top a lot more.

The back pain can be tricky but some basic things to do are incorporating some core work into your weekly routine. A bike fitting could help a lot as well. A quick thing to try is slightly moving your saddle forward a little and seeing if that takes some of the pressure of the back.

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Let us know if you try the rocker. The deload week rides where you basically sustain the same power/cadence for the entire workout are the absolute worst comfort wise for me.


Yup, those lower effort rides lead to more pressure on the saddle, since we aren’t pushing on the pedals with as much force.

The subtle movement of a rocker helps by shifting that load a bit with each and every pedals stroke.

And the improved feel of a movable bike (vs rigid) in the trainer makes standing a bit more practical and worth employing. Standing on a fixed trainer is just so odd.

I don’t have a problem at 60 or 90 minutes if its a sweet spot or higher intensity interval session.

With low-intensity (50-70%) rides with intervals at similar power levels, my butt gets sore after 60 minutes. I can make it 90 minutes but no more, it was pure torture to my butt doing the 2+ hour low-intensity rides on traditional base 1.


I know you’ve done a ton of thinking, discussing, and testing when it comes to rockers. I ride a Neo, and it definitely rocks under me slightly under power. Have you learned anything about that slight rocking versus the larger movement of a rocker plate that you can share? Like most others, for SS and lower, I really suffer down under.

Unfortunately, I’ve not ridden the Neo. But from what I can see, it has a functional (but smallish) amount of movement. I suspect it varies with rider weight and pedaling style.

That amount is a great start and may well be enough when we are looking at seated comfort, but that’s a guess.

For my setup, I have the centering springs on the lighter setting compared to what I see from others. This leads to a bit more movement when seated. But I don’t mind and do think it is likely beneficial on the longer rides.

I’m doing another 4 hour ride today. It’s the 5th one in 5 weeks, 4 being long and low intensity. I attribute much of the reason that I can do so comfortably to the rocker. So, I can’t claim it is perfect and a cure-all, but I think many people will enjoy the improved motion.

I have a loose idea to come up with the cheapest and easiest rocker I design that I can. I want to have something a person can get from any hardware store for less than $50 and build with minimal tools and time. Point being to make the easiest way someone can try a rocker to see if they like it. I will share it here when I get it done.


Love it! I don’t think I have the space, but if I do, I’d happily be your $50 tester.

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I get pretty uncomfortable doing any easy workout on the trainer. If it’s a tough workout, it’s not as bad. By 90 minutes, though, my butt is hurting no matter the intensity. The thought of doing any workout over 90 minutes on the trainer makes me shudder.

For the sake of completeness - I found the cause of the problem. Over the last few months of 2018 my knee pain worsened to the point I couldn’t ride for longer than 15 mins either on the trainer or on the rollers. I took a few weeks off riding/training. Came back after Christmas and hopped on to the rollers feeling optimistic - only to suffer almost immediately.
I tried different shoes, the cleats were identically placed so I wasn’t expecting much but wow. The cause I had an special insole to reduce “hot-foot” metatarsalgia. This was twisting my foot out and my lower leg out away from the bike.
After having them intalled for 6-12 months it’ll take time for my knee to recover :frowning: but I can now ride for 30-60 minutes (on the trainer) with no pain and outside again with no pain.
I can’t explain how happy this makes me.
The point for raising this is that don’t push on, don’t suffer, if its specific pain not general ache of work then stop and get it fixed before it gets out of hand.