Road vs Trainer: My Legs Feel Different

I started riding again about 5 weeks ago. Ive been using TrainerRoad and a Wahoo Kickr exclusively, doing various endurance, tempo and threshold workouts. I typically get sore in the hamstring area of my legs and never feel anything in my quads - even doing 3x20 at 94% FTP.

I rode on the road in a race for the first time Sat. It was a flat road with no wind. Within a mile, my Quads were burning and they burned the entire time. Cadence was the same at 90RPM and I never felt it in my hamstrings.

Question: How do I get the same quad muscles activated on the trainer? I almost feel like the trainer is no benefit since my quads get no similar workout.

I ride in aero. Bike setup on trainer is in the small cog and about three lengths up as recommended. I read some similar articles but didnt find anything. Bike is a Cervelo P2.

Honestly its just time in the saddle I’d imagine that will fix this. You move around the saddle more outdoors vs. in, so typically a wider range of muscles will be used - but it shouldn’t be completely different sets.

One thing to keep in mind is the level of the bike on the trainer. If you have a block under the front wheel (or dont have one) perhaps the wheel is too high or too low. Bike should be level just as it is with wheels on it.

Personally I feel more glute on the trainer than the road but the workout dictates what hurts - not where I did the workout.

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Generally speaking, the glutes and hamstrings are more engaged the further back from the bottom bracket you are sitting, and are less engaged as you move forward. It’s possible that you’re sitting more forward on the saddle outdoors, causing your quads to dominate. I know I do this naturally on really hard outdoor efforts, not sure why. Riding more outdoors and in intense situations (fast group rides, races) will help condition your legs, obviously. Specificity is important.


Another thing to consider is your gearing when using ERG. For me personally on my Kickr Core, running the big ring in the front and a middle-ish cog (for straight chain line) is the best simulation for flat roads. This is because the flywheel is traveling faster and therefore has more “inertia”. When I’m in the small chain ring up front, the flywheel is traveling much slower and you have to keep your legs engaged throughout more of the pedal stroke, which for me tends to engage the glutes and hamstrings much more, and feels more like climbing. Again this is personal based on your specific trainer, but it may be a good idea to experiment with the big chain ring for a while and see if that doesn’t help.


Wheel off Kickr so shouldn’t need a riser block

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Thanks. I have been using a block. Do I just leave the front wheel on the floor? It seems less stable that way.

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Just on the floor and make sure you’ve got the wheel size set correctly

One of the first things my coach asked me to do was switch erg mode off. He said it’s a grey area but there’s some suggestions that erg isn’t great for pedalling performance, and can feel slightly unnatural.

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I could be wrong but in the 8 months or so I used ERG I have become a more sustainable rider but less adaptive. I think your coach has the right idea I’ve switched it off too. I am just hoping that more adaptable rider comes back :thinking: