Paincave design - dark v light?

I’ve switched back and forth on this over the years. Sometimes preferring a moodier experience in low light and other times feeling more like a brighter environment is better.

I’m thinking darker helps me focus and get into a zone better, whereas brighter is a more inviting experience.

Thing is, I’m about to do a new paincave starting from the ground up but I’ve not got much space to work with, just 3mx2.6m and it needs to fit two trainers and two TVs (Apple TV & Zwift on one, and for myself I’m using race footage on the other while I’m on TrainerRoad).

Lighting is easily changed with Hue lights - bright, moody, full on rave if you want, but it’s the overall design I’m wondering about.

Go for something moody, brick patterned walls, industrial stands, with aggressive text above the TVs, or go for something airy, light walls and greenery like tall potted plants, and a more feminine motivational type text ala Soul Cycle or so. Maybe even a large mural of the Alps and some mirrors to increase the sense of space. Unhelpfully the missus likes both styles.

Scratched my head over this for a month now and time is nearly up. I’ll need to pack up our current cave and get the next one ready without interrupting our training plans, so need to settle on a design and go for it now.

Anyone been through this themselves, or have strong preferences either way. Happy to field strong opinions!

As bright, green and energetic as possible.


At the risk of being exceedingly boring I went for Magnolia!

By the time you cover the walls with TV’s, storage, mirrors, the two bikes, maybe a poster or two and the like, the actual wall colour isn’t so relevant. It can also be light or dark depending on lighting you choose.

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I like to have it dark, primarily because I’m usually watching something on tv. I backlight the room enough so that I’m not in the dark.

I do like having the option to let in natural light if I want but I’m not a big fan of bright lights indoors in general.


My only experience cycling in a dark room were the handful of spin classes I’ve done. I hated it but to each his own.

I’ve always had a preference for training or racing in brighter conditions going back to my swimming days. Bright pools were actually faster! It is true but I think it had more to do with the fact that the better lit pools were the newer, better build ones and also we tended to have the full taper championship meets in the newer, faster and brighter pools. But bright = fast has been ingrained in my head ever since.

The idea of using Hues in the pain cave is interesting. Any way to hook those up to TR, Zwift or power data? For example, it would be cool to get a color change or count down blinking before an interval started or ended.


My trainer has to fit into a tiny slither of space in the living room of my apartment and the lights in there kick out a noticeable amount of heat, so I prefer to train with the lights off. I have my iPhone attached to an out-front mount on my handlebars running trainerroad and put the phones torch on to throw a bit of light down.
It’s probably just because this is what I have become used to, but I find that once I have my headphones on, the main light off and just the torch from the phone creating a little pool of light around the front of the bike it is much easier for me to get into the right zone mentally for a hard session, and to block out the outside world

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I have a relatively small room I train with 4 ceiling flood lights, one of which is right over me. Switching to LEDs was actually just a little noticeably cooler. It is not like it became arctic but going down from 260 watts to 38 watts in the ceiling makes some difference.

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@STP Yes! Jon Mayfield kicked this off earlier in the year with a video he posted on Youtube (link below). To achieve the same effect the two TV’s we got are Phillips Ambilights with built in smart lights. Haven’t tried them yet but they should further sync with other Hue lights.

You don’t need to do this though if you’re running Zwift off a computer. You can use the new Philips Hue entertainment app on your comp which will sync the screen’s action to your Hue lights. (I can’t do this as we’re using Apple TV to run Zwift which has no app yet to sync the lights, hence going with Ambilight TV’s which has this functionality built in).

Jon Mayfield and Nanoleaf:

Shane Miller and Phillips Hue:

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It’s for suffering in. You need no comforts. Any comforts distract from the task in hand. All you need it 1x100W light bulb, no shade.


My pain cave walls are plastered with pictures of champions and a few large mirrors. I also installed a dimmer light switch because sometimes I want to focus on the training or the TV when on the bike.


The pain comes no matter what the colors are. The progress happens if you are present. I would suggest you try to make it a space that you are excited to go to, a space that you look forward to getting in, pleasant and inviting. Then when you start working out - wham - it’s too late to back out, your training is happening. :slight_smile:

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I do my mid-week workouts at night, in a totally dark room except for the TV showing TrainerRoad + whatever I have running for entertainment / distraction.

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I ride in the basement. In the dark. Alone.

Like a mushroom.


Cute little red mushroom or flaccid big grey thing? :smile:

Decided we could have best of both worlds and go with the light inviting Soul Cycle type thing. When I want it dark to focus I can just put the lights down.

Funny after going through loads of images of spin studios and paincaves on Instagram it was always the light and bright ones that made me feel like I wanted to be there.

The comments were interesting, and I relate to a lot of them. Wonder if there’s a personality thing at play here… Introvert/Extrovert or maybe it’s more about focusing on effort v distracting yourself from effort. Forget what they call that in running but they have studied this and the effectiveness or each method.

I have one of those full spectrum lights (also called a happy light) to help me wake up when I ride in the morning. Works wonders especially in the depths of winter in Ontario

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It needs to be light enough to read the cheesy inspirational quotes pinned to the wall, the quotes that help you find the bit extra when you are flagging.

I want that “Full Lane” sign. Thats fantastic.

For the record, I’m a dark guy. I do dark mode on my MacBook, I keep the lights low in the cave (with really bright overheads for when I need them). I actually use some Hue lights for all the normal lighting so I can make it suit the mood, I use the same space for reading and occasionally watching some videos.

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I want to post those signs everywhere around our country roads. I like your idea of hue lights. I have a dimmer and sometimes will dim the lights for the effect.

No one has mentioned yet rollers & the dark/light chiice yet, so I thought I’d admit to a mistake. I cycled once using light from the TV, but it it hit a dark part of the film. It was fine for about what felt like 10-20 seconds, but was really probably 2-3. Then I cycled off the edge and fell with a massive bang. So don’t anyone do something as stupid as me.

The answer is to attach a backlight string of LEDs to the TV. They are powered by the TV and so only turn on if needed, whilst not annoyingly reflecting off the TV screen. Even if you want to concentrate on the screen you still get a little bit of safety light.