Overwhelmed by training tech?

For the past while I’ve been going for bike rides after a break from cycling but I don’t commute anymore and have found it difficult to rebuild my fitness. Trouble is I find it a bit time-consuming to get a good ride in because of the urban environment I live in.
Long story short, I want to try out structured training with TrainerRoad.

Wow there is a lot of tech these days!

I’m a little overwhelmed trying to figure out the most effective way to spend some money.
Things I currently use:

  • a vintage road bike with a few modern upgrades (have a new Specialized on back-order)
  • Strava on iphone (and I use a macbook if it matters)
  • Samsung Galaxy Active 2 which does HRM which I also sometimes use for Strava

Now there’s bluetooth HRM/speed/cadence sensors, apps, power meters, head units, smart trainers… argh, wat!?

With the vintage bike I would be limited to pedal power meters if I went that way.

I’m leaning towards getting a smart trainer for indoor weekdays and forget about all that stuff for weekend rides outside? Just keep using Strava for those and maybe a basic old-school bike speedo?

Or just get started today using RPE for now?

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Welcome on board - hope you enjoy TR and get some real benefit out of it. It can seem a little daunting but the forum is a mostly happy and supportive place to get advice…

Since TR is essentially power based you’ll need some form of trainer, power meter or you can do outside workouts if you have a head unit by RPE. There’s a ton of good info in the TR blogs and at the end of this article are some suggestions to get you started regarding trainers etc.

Have a read, see what you think and post any more questions you can think of - I’m sure they’ll get answered… :grin: :+1:t2:

Edited - many do a low volume plan and add in extra rides. Low volume by the way does not mean easy.

Why do you need an old style speedo - if you run Strava on your phone it’ll record time, distance and speed for each ride. Speed is very weather and terrain dependent.

For more advice on trainers Google DCRainmaker and have a look at his trainer round up. You may have to dig deep to see if your bike will fit though…


I did exactly what you’re thinking when I first started on TR. Got a smart trainer for TR rides, did my outdoor rides with just speed, RPE and HR. Worked well for me, over time the TR sessions helped calibrate my RPE and HR so that I was able to pace outdoor efforts pretty well.


Don’t under estimate how strong you can get on RPE alone.

That said, my Garmin Vector pedals are probably 3 years old now with around 30,000 miles and on a few bikes (though they haven’t left my current bike in a LONG time). They have been in freezing weather, 120+ degree weather, and fully submerged in water while riding. So if you want a PM, pedal based is an option. That combined with a phone mount or head unit alone is all you need for high quality training indoor or even on rollers or dumb trainer (smart trainer is easier though).

Just a smart trainer and fun outdoor weekend rides would go far.

A dumb trainer and wheel speed sensor can give you all the benefits of a PM with a fraction of the cost.


I think the cheapest way to get started is to get a dumb trainer (Kurt Kinetic or similar, goes for $75-$115 in my area), a speed/cadence sensor for your bike, and a HR strap. Then you can just use virtual power in TR and use your HR/RPE when you are riding outside. I did this for years before diving into a smart trainer and power meter.

However, if you’re willing to spend money on a smart trainer, you can do most of your hard workouts on that inside and just use HR/RPE for lower intensity Z2 rides outside.


If you’re willing to spend the money on a smart trainer, then I would recommend actually getting an old school fluid style trainer and buying a pair of power meter pedals instead. That way you’ll have accurate power indoors and outdoors so you can leverage your new found knowledge of power while riding outside as well as do training road outdoor workouts. Also if you’re new to indoor structure training in general, there’s the possibility that you might not like it. If you buy a smart trainer well that’s pretty much it. If you buy power meter pedals and a regular old school cheap trainer for inside then even if you don’t like indoor training you’ve already spent the same amount of money but also have outdoor power. On the flip side if you buy a smart trainer and get super into training with power pretty much everyone is eventually going to want outdoor power as well. As said above, the Kurt Kinetic trainers are fantastic


Seconded. I have a power meter on my bike with an Elite Volano direct drive fluid trainer, which I got for $200. That has served me very well. Elite has a few other dumb direct drive trainers (Muon, Torno). The newer ones (including my Volano) are compatible with thru axles and all modern standards.

If you go for power meter pedals, then I’d go for a dual-sided setup.

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Lots of options!

When I first started with TrainerRoad, my main reason for choosing them was Virtual Power (so you don’t need a powermeter, and they can be expensive and complicated).

For Virtual Power I needed a speed sensor and cadence sensor and a plain old dumb trainer. Wahoo did a speed/cadence that combined both and fitted onto my bike with a few well placed elastic bands and some magnets to fit onto the spoke and onto the pedal. CycleOps did a trainer that did and still does the job very easily.


That was pretty straightforward, but I did also need something that would read those signals (and not all phones/laptops receive those signals, so you might need a dongle…)

Then I started with a Low Volume plan riding 3 times a week, and with the intensity that gave that was plenty! I could continue using the speed/cadence outdoors as well when the weather was good.

And lastly, if you’ve made it this far :slight_smile: I would recommend checking out DCRainmaker’s site who does very in depth explanations of everything, and some videos too.

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With power pedals, you could also ride rollers instead of a turbo trainer. As said above, they give you the option to train outside too.

However, I think the cheapest way though is actually buying a cheap smart trainer (if available…). It will have power, so you don’t need a separate power meter on the bike. I got mine for £220, which is probably comperable to buying a non-smart trainer, and all the sensors that you need (speed, cadence) to estimate “virtual power” (if you don’t also buy power pedals). Virtual power can be quite wrong, but as long as it’s consistantly wrong, you can still train with it (personally, I wouldn’t, but wanted to explain the option!)

You can run TR from your phone or laptop. I would assume that they have bluetooth, which it can use to talk to the trainer or the rest of the kit. For simplicity, you might want to avoid things that can only talk via ant+, or you need an extra adapter for the phone/laptop.

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difficult decisions…

I went with the fancy direct drive smart trainer 2 years ago, and while I still don’t really regret this, because it makes indoor training really easy, I would now really like to have power on my road bike (and MTB) so I can do more workouts outdoor instead of just riding :slight_smile: (which is also nice…)

so again with limited resources and many cycling options (indoor, road, mtb) it’s difficult to choose before you really know how you want to proceed training and normal riding.

But with that in mind, it might be the most flexible solution (specially with an older bike and a new one on order) to go with the power pedals and a cheap/simple trainer. If you really make a lot of hours indoors, and run into issues, you can always upgrade to a fancier trainer, but you will still have your universal power source :smiley:

TR runs great on your smartphone (either android or apple),

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I would say don’t get caught in the hype. Some guys will have 7 PM on 5 different bikes(hey sometimes you REALLY want to make sure your ftp is spot on). And to some extent the podcast carries to that demographic/mentality. I started with a cheap bike on a Tacx Vortex and a HRM. All in it was under $400 excluding the bike. A setup like that is enough to get you started, and then you can see from there. I now have vector pedals, but no real head unit. I have like an Edge25 or whatever is the cheapest Garmin thing out there.

Good luck and don’t forget to have fun!


I also had a Tacx Vortex (still have it). It is not very accurate. It reads 25-70+ watts high depending on the day, temp, tire pressure, etc. It also has a strange resistance curve where you can only get certain resistance in certain gears. I had trouble in 20 minute tests where one gear was too hard the next gear was too easy.

I feel like this held my training back.

If I were going to advise my old self, I’d recommend paying the money initially and getting a good direct drive trainer and a real power meter.

If one needs to be on a budget, then get a $300 Stages or 4iiii power meter and a used dumb trainer to start with. I’d also get a GPS head unit and HR strap to record rides.


Mostly because my phone is in my pocket. :grinning:
I tried using the smart watch with Strava app as a speedo but I can’t find a setting to make the screen stay on! I’m not keen on buying a mount for the phone for a couple of reasons but mainly I want to preserve the battery for emergencies.

Honestly I think I’d be really happy with this solution. The only concern which I didn’t mention is noise.
I live in an apartment with wooden floors and the owner lives downstairs.
He’s dropped a couple of not very subtle hints about noise from some of my pandemic projects :laughing:
Best landlord I ever had though so I need to keep on good terms!
For that reason alone I’m thinking about investing in a direct drive smart trainer.

BTW I can’t believe ‘simulated cobbles’ is a thing :laughing:
I rode a cobbled street for a block the other day, it was horrible.

Thinking about my original post, I live in a cycle-friendly city so I guess I’m actually quite lucky. I went out for a ride last night and I guess if you just go hard between the traffic lights and suicidal pedestrians and murderous SUV drivers etc. it’s like built-in interval training. :joy:

Yeah the noise thing can make it a bit difficult. I have a Kurt Kinetic Dumb Trainer and it’s actually pretty quiet. If you really wanted to be careful then I would put a heavy moving blanket or something underneath to damp the vibrations.

If I were to try to do it on a budget I would go with a HR monitor, speed/cadence sensor, and a Kurt Kinetic (I found mine used for ~$150). Use virtual power indoors and then RPE or HR outdoors. Then down the road if you find yourself wanting outdoor power or more accurate power then I would go for the power meter.

I know some people say that if they could only buy one thing then it would be a smart trainer but I really don’t understand where they are coming from. A dumb trainer with virtual power will get you 50-70% of the way there and then add a power meter you’re 95% of the way there.


I wasn’t suggesting you have it on your bars. Just start Strava when you start riding, put your phone in your pocket and switch it off when you finish. Unless you want to stare at a speedo. If you do that’s fine but probably dangerous from a safety perspective or disappointing from a personal one if you’re not going as fast as you think you should. Speed is so variable.
Strava would give you data to look at after the ride.
Just suggesting that you wouldn’t gain much from an old style speedo, that’s all. :grin:

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I started with a left crank power meter, then I got a direct drive smart trainer with a power meter of its own.

If I were to start all over, I’d probably get apedal based dual side power meter, a dumb trainer that doesn’t make a lot of noise, and a HRM.

My reasoning is that I use the trainer with intervals most of the time, I hardly ever do zwift free rides or races. ERG mode makes things a little easier but it’s not a must.

As for the power meter, go for single side if cost is an issue, but I have found many inaccuracies and questions that I believe a dual sided power meter would address.




Ah okay, gotcha!

Look, I’m not saying trying to get a magic number on the speedo contributed to that crash with a bad driver a few years back but… I maybe don’t completely disagree with you? :sweat_smile:

The only advantage I’ve seen of my smart trainer (at the cheaper end admittedly, a Suito) is the feedback resistance from programs such as RGT or Zwift. Workout wise my old Muin for half the price paired with a power meter was just as good, maybe better. There is ERG which some say is an advantage too, but I don’t get on with it, so it’s not an advantage for me.

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Because a cheap smart trainer is about the same price as dumb trainer + sensors, and you only have to buy one thing (and cheaper than a power meter). Also if you’re not keen on too much tech, making the two sensors talk to your phone, and making sure your virtual power is about right is more hassle than just using a smart trainer.