Outdoor vs Indoor RPE & How it impacts Adaptive Training

I find outdoor workouts easier than indoor. To the point where today’s workout; Smith -1; I would have rated between Moderate and Hard. Had if I’d done it on the trainer it would have been Very Hard to All Out. The issue with this comes to surveys and AT. I do most workouts on the trainer but if I rate the outdoor workouts truthfully then AT bumps up my workouts to an all out effort. Even if I can complete it, it’ll often bump up my workouts to where I may fail an indoor session.

Anyone else have this experience? And if so what do you do about it?

Perhaps @IvyAudrain has some input?

Do you use powermatch and does that make a difference or do you think this is more related to cooling or something else?

I use powermatch, and it’s the same bike. I have pretty good cooling, open window plus two large Lasko fans. I think it has something to do with being on a climb outdoors and recruiting different muscles vs erg mode. It’s particularly noticeable on threshold efforts.

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Yes, threshold workouts at FTP inside really aren’t as motivating as being outside. Inside I try to distract myself; put an old race on the iPad, music in my ear and positive self talk.
Outside I use music annd self talk also, but it’s easier to motivate myself when I’m actually trucking along and not just staring at the wall or some race on the iPad.
I always go with the higher rating for outside workouts; for example if I’m between hard and moderate I’ll choose hard. That way I don’t overdo myself during the week, knowing I’m usually inside for 3/5 workouts.

Edit: I’ve never done an erg threshold workout. Don’t know if it really makes a difference. I did buy a smart trainer recently and I want to try it out for threshold efforts.

Yes, I’m thinking of just bumping up all my outdoor efforts by one category.

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Hopefully it helps! And doesn’t mess our progression. Haven’t had a bad week since using that method.

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Yo! Good question and discussion going on. :slight_smile:

@jiffylush brought up a great point on PowerMatch, so it’s good to hear you already got that covered.

I’m not sure if AussieRider is indicative of where you live at the moment, but if it’s summer in Australia and you’ve got the window open, even with fans, there may only be so much those fans can do! If you have the option, finding a climate-controlled space paired up with your fans may be better for maximal cooling. This article has plenty of good tips that may be helpful.

@Foodpedaling nailed it with the points on motivation as well! Everyone’s motivation formula is individual, so it’s worth trying different things out to see what works for you. When I do a hard trainer session, my go-to is race footage and plenty of loud tunes to drown out the discomfort of the effort.

Another idea (if possible) would be to do your harder sessions outdoors whenever you can. You could even consider doing this temporarily to adjust your body and mind to how those harder efforts feel. As you get used to how those workouts feel, it may begin to feel more manageable on the trainer since you’ll know what to expect. If that’s not feasible, I think it would be worth doubling down on creating the ideal indoor training setup for your needs (which is probably worth doing in any case :wink: ).

Hopefully this discussion will help lessen the gap in RPE between your Inside & Outside Workouts. Feel free to let me know if you have any other questions!

I’m in SoCal. Right now the mornings are 48f-52f. I’m doing my workouts right by a large window with two Lasko fans. In fact, I’m so cold I don’t turn on the fans until I’ve completed the warmup.

It’s not a lack of motivation indoors. They physically are harder, to the point where I’d say it’s not even RPE, as that suggests it’s perceived. My HR is higher, the effort is harder and I’m physically on the limit.

That’s the thing, those similar efforts outdoors are easier. It’s also, in some instances,
impractical. I have a 3 x 16 min effort with 5 min recoveries next week. I can’t make it back down the hill in 5 min to start the next effort.

My assumption is that I can simply produce more power on a climb than on a flat. And the trainer emulates a flat road while a climb is well a climb. Either way the issue remains as how to address AT.

MY FTP went up 8w this month which seems high. I’m sure this is only because I did some workouts this block outdoors. Typically 99% of my TR workouts have been on the trainer.

Nevertheless, thanks for taking the time to respond. Muchly appreciated. :slight_smile:

This is potentially something you can tweak by using your various trainer mode settings and gearing applied while on the trainer. It’s possible to use very low gearing that gives much slower flywheel speed and still have access to good power for resistance.

Those lower flywheel speeds approximate the inertia feel we have at the pedals. It’s one of they things I recommend that people experiment with in relation to what they need for their outside rides.

  • If you give some info on your trainer, preferred trainer mode and the gearing you are currently using, we might be able to suggest some tweaks to give you more of a “climb” feel to the trainer use.

  • Perhaps you’ve played with these options, if so can you share the range you’ve tested and the results you got? I think there are ways to close the gap between your inside & outside uses to get a bit closer between them.

Things that closed the gap for me:

  • Kickr direct-drive on InsideRide E-Flex
  • Kickr controlled by sim mode (Zwift or RGT) and power recording is from Quarq
  • optionally turning Zwift to 100% (forgot the name) so climbs feel like actual climbs and are not downgraded

Standard/level/slope mode on the Kickr is ok 2nd best. Sim mode is better. RGT free is free. If you want full PL AT “indoor credit” then you could have TR connected to bikes power meter, and RGT/Zwift connected to Kickr.

Resistance mode I may as well sell the Kickr and go to the gym for a Stages SC3 bike. It’s far more entertaining for the people watching.

Wahoo KickR core. 52 up front middle of the stack on the back. It’s an 11-34. So the 5th or 6th gear down from the top.

My natural cadence on the trainer is around 90. Whereas on a climb it’s closer to 82-85.

When using the small ring (34) on the trainer it has felt harder to get that flywheel going over the top of that makes any sense. Happy to try it again though.


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  • BINGO!!!

Some math for fun (assuming Shim 11-34 and middle cog at 21 which should be close to what you mention). I am not sure on the drive ratio from the rear wheel pulley to flywheel pulley, so we will ignore that and just look at the axle.

  • Big gear = 52t / 21t = 2.48 ratio X 90 rpm cadence = 223 rpm at the trainer axle

  • Small gear = 34t / 21t = 1.62 ratio X 90 rpm cadence = 146 rpm at the trainer axle

  • 223 rpm / 146 rpm = 1.527 times faster at the axle for the big gear setup

Without diving into the more complex flywheel speed and reality of the inertia they replicate, this shows a LARGE difference in the axle speed (which eventually gets to the flywheel speed too).

  • The harder feeling you describe makes perfect sense and is potentially closer to the lack of inertia we have when climbing up a grade at a slower speed (like 10mph) vs ripping a flat (like 20mph+).

It may well be that the 34t x 21t combo is not a proper feel for you and “climbing”. That reality is subject to your mass, bike mass, road condition, tires and such.

  • The most important point is that there is a real difference between the high and low gear you tested. Playing with that to use something less than that 52t x 21t example should get you closer to a “climb” feel and might be a “better” use case for you on the trainer.

Awesome, thanks mate. I’ll give it a crack.

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Good deal.

Also, what trainer mode and/or app control are you using?

I’m in Erg mode. I have favero pedals powermatched to TR.

Ok, then there may well be a decent gearing between those you tested that can dial in the feel.

And it could be worth testing Standard mode on your Kickr too, if you are connected via Bluetooth. Setting that between 2, 3 or 4 sounds like a popular option that gives a different feel from ERG.

So Standard mode and some gearing experiments (in ERG & STD) sound worthwhile to me.

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What does this mean?

Standard mode on a Kickr has different levels, level1, level2, level3, etc. It simulates riding outside, the harder you pedal (more power), the “faster” you go, and the more (wind) resistance.

When my ftp was around 260, level 2 was pretty much perfect. 2 or 3 gear shifts to do all workouts and I can still throw down 1000W 5-sec sprint.

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Can you make those level adjustments on the TR app?

I was doing that in 2020, on the TR app, however there are some caveats. Which Kickr do you have?

Sim mode is even better at closing the gap between inside and outside, but you don’t appear interested in trying that.