Hero on the trainer, zero on the road

This is an issue that I’ve had for as long as I can remember, but it’s gotten more and more obvious over the past few years since I started using TR. My indoor numbers rise, I feel great, but I can’t come close out on the open road.

My ride today was a perfect example. I’ve been trying to get outside more because the weather is good and I don’t have any races to prep for. I’ve got a little TT course that I’ve been riding. It’s hard, ~17.4 miles and 2100 feet of climbing, and takes me ~55 minutes. I’ve had a really good ‘indoor season’ so far in 2020. Several ramp test PRs, currently sitting at 316 W FTP (4.2 W/kg). I’ve successfully done a ton of long hard workouts, holding high percentages of that FTP for long durations.

So today I went out and pinned it. I was working it (or at least I thought I was) the entire time, and I ended up at 258 NP (0.82 IF). I honestly don’t know how I could have possibly gone any harder, and when I got home my legs were completely shelled. And hour at 0.82 on the trainer? No problem, would have felt great. I feel like I should be able to put out higher numbers on the road.

Anyone else suffer from this terribly syndrome? And more importantly, what do you do to get out of it? How did you break out of low tempo feels all-out on the road?


Do you use the same power meter indoors and outdoors?
Have you tried the TR outside workouts? Can you complete those without many issues? If the answer is “Yes”, then you maybe had a bad day and that’s all.

When I train outside I can hold similar power to what I hold on the trainer, but I hope that someone who’s had the same problem can chime in and give his advice.

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Yeah, thanks. Same bike, same PM, should have said that at the beginning. Definitely not a bad day, just the latest ride following a long pattern.

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What does your course profile actually look like? 17.4mi and 2100ft is a lot of climbing. Did your 0.82 IF look like this, or like this, or more like this?


Do you use a HR monitor alongside your PM? This would give an indication of how hard the relative effort is indoors vs outside. I have a very similar ftp but even on a bad day can hold 280 ish for an hour and higher NP so hopefully you can unlock some more power :+1:

Yes, this exactly. It’s similar to “not all TSS is created equal”. NP is just an approximation for steady-state pace, it’s not perfect. And on top of that, not everyone responds the same to efforts over FTP. Would be good to know what your training looks like, and also see the power data for the outside ride.


Could be due to the climbing. There’s a couple of threads on here where people had issues with hills, despite good indoor numbers. Cadence and body position can be different.

Or, as @ellotheth mentions, maybe you did a lot of above-threshold work on those hills, and you don’t usually do that indoors.

I also think core and arm muscles are hit a lot harder when riding outdoors, especially if the road surface isn’t great. Can’t really train that on the trainer.


TR gives you a rest in between efforts, it does this so you can complete workouts.
It Generally does not give you longer than 20min - 30 min at Sweetspot. But then gives you 5 min recovery. Start again.
Out on the road you do not get that 5 min rest every 20 minutes. Hence IF has to be reduced the further you go. With that amount of climbing i am guessing not to much down hill bits, even if there is you do not treat them like dropping down to 50% effort recovery. The outside down hill will require you to focus and your HR will stay higher than in the valley of TR effort. On the Podcast you will hear Coach Chad saying now and again that they do not make 40 minute threshold efforts. Its the same for your ride trying to ride threshold for 55 minutes. I bet if you had a relatively flat course you can hold nearer your threshold for a lot longer. Worth finding somewhere flat and seeing the difference.


My guess is that your TTE at FTP is low, say 30 mins.

I believe the general tendency is for a higher FTP outdoors with air cooling a major factor. Im the opposite though, my indoor’s are better than out. I think can push myself harder without fear of traffic, falling off or need to negotiate the road, etc (that was a massive fear last year during my chemo), I hydrate/eat better indoors also and there’s no wind resistance. My current eFTP indoors is 4.70 and 4.22 out. Looking at intervals.icu they’ve been closer but my eFTP outdoors is always down on indoors.
I think @C10oky is on to something. Indoors are nice consistent gradients or intervals where as outdoors is more randomly undulating too. Looking back at out doors, the flatter and less technical it is the closer the values (at least the 20min max) are together for me :+1:


The striking thing to me is 2100’ climbing in 17 miles. That will not be replicated on the trainer.
I would also surmise that your cadence is much lower than it would be for an 0.82 IF ride indoors.

What trainer do you use?
ERG or Resistance mode?
Gearing used if in ERG?

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With that large of a discrepancy, I’d be seriously questioning my power meter. What do you use? Do you always let it equilibrate and reset the offset when heading outdoors?

Edit to add: I would also question my actual FTP. How are you testing it?

I’m very curious about temperature as well as the above comments. High intensities in outdoor heat this time of year (depending on location) can destroy even the most seasoned racers. It has been happening in Europe over the last few weeks - chilly early spring races are now scorching late summer races, abnormally hot and the riders are wilting.


So I’ve been thinking I’m having the same issue. I’ve still made gains outside but not as much as I feel like I did on the trainer. I’m not sure what your trainer setup is. But I’m on a Tacx neo 2t in erg mode. Despite knowing I should probably be doing my work on the trainer in the small ring, I did all my training in the big ring front, and middle of the cassette. I’ve just recently switched to the small ring up front and I notice a big difference in the feel of resistance against the pedals and way less assistance from the flywheel. I’m getting ready to reset my plan after spending far too long in specialty. I’m going to be doing the future plan in the small ring to see what kind of difference it makes in translating my power to outside workouts.

New bikes comes today, with a power meter. So I’ll also be doing as many outdoor workouts as possible, which I think will help a ton as well.


This really shows the IF issue well. A real “Ah ha” moment. :+1:

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Don’t forget the additional cognitive load when riding outside. You have to watch for obstructions and even where the road is going when outside. Unless you are doing the indoor workouts on rollers, you have the additional stress of actually RIDING vs just sitting and putting out power. May not seem like much, but this can add up when you are on the limit.


How much descending (if any) in the 17 miles and 2,100’ vert?

If there is a bit of descents and/or a lumpy course it’s probably due to how your muscles contract (fast v slow twitch) to make power in any particular pedal stroke. To make power on flats/descents/over the tops you have to be able to generate hg torque for shorter arcs compared to climbing which is less torque but, spread out over a longer arc.

Not sure if this is the case with you just throwing it out there.


I had the exact same experience about 10 months ago. There is a lot of disagreement on these forums about this topic, but my n=1 is that riding on trainer in small chainring leads to a much more difficult and beneficial training experience. It forces you to rely on your pedal-stroke and legs rather than a flywheel to support your power output.

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Training is always different from execution, and yes execution can be hard to get right.

For me as a long course triathlete, consistent power output for hours over real terrain and in real weather is difficult. The answer is practice outside execution.

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