Spend $ on Coach or New Smart Trainer?

Part 1 --So here is my plot. I currently work with a local cycling coach for the past 8 months. My endurance has improved a lot (not a scientific measurement I know!) but my power has decreased dramatically. His approach has been polarized training instead of more of the Sweet Spot training we see with TR. My FTP is low 197 down from 230 and I currently weight 158. so well under 3 wt/Kilo. Should I just drop the coach and recommit to a TR plan? I’m probably not fit/skilled enough for a coach any way.
Part-2 I could take the money from coach ( only 75 per month) and buy a smart trainer ( looking at H3). My current set is cyclops fluid 2 with assiomo pedal power meter. Will a smart trainer make a BIG difference? The only complaint I have with the fluid 2 is having to fiddle with the gear to hit power target after the resistance changes.
I really appreciate the responses and support from the TR community!!!


First thing I’d do is talk to your coach about your concerns. As it’s winter, it’s not unusual to work on endurance first. Ask what the plan is going forward.


If it were me I would spend the money on a new smart trainer and follow the TrainerRoad programs. Since I spend 75% of my rides indoors on the trainer, I would give up so many other things before I would give up a smart trainer with erg. If you are newer to training the biggest thing to improvement will be consistency and following a periodized program.


Let’s start from the beginning.

What are your goals?

What’s your background/experience?

What do you prefer between coached sessions and trainer sessions?

Are you disciplined enough for trainer all the time?


might help us help youuuuu (these are just questions my coach had asked me in the beginning)


Two of the main reasons I think people can benefit from a coach:

  1. Accountability: They lay out your plan and can be a driving factor to help keep you on the plan. Some people struggle to follow a plan without that check/balance.

  2. Knowledge, review, adjust: The can look at your workouts and progress, along with the inevitable interruptions and problems along the way. We can use them to review and adjust the plan to get back on target towards the goal.

Both of those can be done independently. One via using ‘free’ resources like friends or sharing on a forum like this. The latter via research and learning or also using the forum for help.

Coaching is most valuable via the interaction on offer, more than a plan.


Along the lines of @PhilippePhlop, there are significant tradeoffs of each. I know several athletes that have gone in both directions (coach to trainer OR vice versa).

A lengthy topic, but with an experienced coach he/she should be able to customize a program to meet your goals exactly while continuously accommodating your time available, health situation, etc. All the thought process, including workout planning and post ride analysis is done for you. But you learn very little (unless you take the steps to do so).

With training plans, you can choose to take the easy route of picking a plan, doing what you are told to do and likely you will become faster. HOWEVER, if you want to maximize your results, you need to become more knowledge about the training plan and your #s and take an active role in adjusting the plan, workout, etc.



If the goal is just to get in better shape to enjoy your rides more, then perhaps a smart trainer and TR is all you need. However if you have bigger goals beyond this there is likely a lot of value having a good coach who will work with you to help you reach those goals.

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Great question…I feel like this is a gimmie. If it were me, (and it was, I dropped the coach), I would definitely consider dropping the coach and jumping all the way in with TR and smart trainer. As long s you can stay self motivated and don’t need the accountability of personal interaction, TR has totally got you covered.

In my experience, TR gave me much more than I was able to get from a coach. Between the app itself, the forum, the podcast and blog, I have easily out paced the fitness and learning I got from coaching or self education apart from TR.

I’m trying to be objective here, but I think TR is by far the best option for 99% of all cyclist, both recreational, and racers. I would recommend committing to TR for 16 weeks… Work through a SSB low volume plan, both 1 and 2, then reassess. I believe you will be amazed. My 2cents…


I hope these response provide insight. I really appreciate all the help!!

My sister is getting back into cycling, considered a coach and ended up deciding to go with TrainerRoad and the H2 trainer. She is just finishing week 5 of sweet spot part 1 and is already feeling stronger / seeing gains. Spoke with her yesterday and she is very impressed with TrainerRoad and her decision to buy H2!


I think TR (or maybe another online program) together with some “self awareness” will get you to 90% of your potential.

It’s the “self awareness” bit that I think people need a coach for. Monitor how you feel, during workouts and after, what other stress is in your life, etc and if you see trends then adjust workouts accordingly and monitor. You’ll save on a coach and also learn how you adapt to workouts.

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Then i’d say

Do a mix if possible!

It’s about also enjoying the process overall and not having a miserable time. In my case, the trainer makes more sense as i’m stuck inside from november until early april due to climate. So you could do half the year structured with trainer road and the other half with a coach.

And who knows, maybe some of those rides your coach give you that are time constrained could be completed on the trainer when you’re in a pinch.
The trainer itself is a tool you can use year round so there’s that.

  1. Are you doing the coach’s RX to the letter? If not, why? Is it your fault or the coaches or life? Whatever it is, that’s where you start. You need to be honest with yourself.

  2. I think you need to bring this concern to your coach. Is the FTP loss part of a larger plan (e.g. raising up fatmax?) — something that might take a year or two to cultivate?

  3. Whatever your coach’s response is, you need to evaluate that response and communicate back to him/her if that’s in line with your goals.

  4. If it is in-line then you’re good. If it’s not, then you need to ask if that can be addressed with a change in plan. If the coach is unwilling, then you know that you need to find another coach or find a different method of “coaching.” If the coach is willing to change things, try to identify with him/her how you will measure success going forward and identify a cut-off point.

  5. Regarding the smart trainer: For me it wouldn’t make much of a difference. My goals have been outlined since Nov 2018. A smart trainer won’t get me there any faster or any better, only consistent time in the saddle will get me there. The money I’d spend on a smart trainer could pay for some excellent bibs, multiple race entries, or . . . . . a nutritionist.

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I think your analysis and recommendations are accurate for cyclists new or relatively new to structured training. However, it is not coincidental that you see many posts here on the Forum from folks that are in the 3rd, 4th or 5th year of TR and have stalled on their gains.

Gains come very quickly in early training years due to significant physiological adaptations. But these adaptations slow dramatically after a few years of such experience. So to improve after this “honeymoon period”, you need to dial in your training much more to the very specific demands of your event(s) either via a knowledgeable coach or self modification of the workouts (the latter requires much more knowledge of training doses and training metrics). The TR generic “one-size-fits-all” plans will not do it for these athletes (self included).


Totally agree. Well put.


Thanks for the feedback. I mostly agree with you. Especially the gains that come to new cyclist in the “honeymoon” phase. They do surely come quickly, and can disillusion the new athlete about how their progression will look. I also think that a (good) coach should be able to teach us tons, especially one on one coaching that is looking at our training files individually and critiquing our time on the bike. However, I think these specific lessons can be learned several different ways.

Here’s where I think many athletes disconnect from the benefits of one on one coaching vs. a platform such as TR. I think many folk haven’t done much of their own research and study on many of the subjects that make us faster and stronger cyclist year after year. Here’s is where some of the self motivation comes in.

TR offers us the resource of data, education, and growing experience for study that, I believe, will make us very aware of everything we need to adapt and grow as athletes at every level.

Having used a good (and expensive) coach, I have both experiences. So, maybe that helps me for reference. But, I know how to learn and study, and apply the lessons being taught. I can hardly imagine “needing” more than what TR offers. If a person has disposable income and doesn’t want to do the study or research…well, that may be a case for coaching. For me, I enjoy the process so much I wouldn’t give that over to someone else.

TR may be some what of a “one size fits all” training program, but TR is not a “one show pony”. There is so much flexibility to that plan, and system, that it can be the key ingredient to anyone’s progression… In my opinion

I believe TR is the best option out there. Massive kudos


Echoing and amplifying your comments - TR is NOT one size fits all. In my experience TR provides more resources to understand and adapt plans than any other company I’ve done business with (CTS, Fascat, TrainingPeaks, VelociousCycling, and Xert). Very very happy with TR.


Great… Just to clarify. When I say “one size fits all” I’m saying that the one program of TR can fit (almost) all cyclist and help them get faster due to it’s flexible design. Not to mention. All the other resources that make up thee TR community. Cheers, and thanks for the input!

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This pretty much sums it up perfectly.
Whichever way you go, you will not get faster without getting a plan and sticking to it for an extended period of time. By extended, I am talking at least 12 months.

Unfortunately, a lot of people are after fast gains and if they don’t see something that they envisioned at the start within first 2-3 months, they give up and start looking for a new way of achieving the same thing.

You’ve mentioned that your FTP had dropped from 230 to 197w. Do you know if it was due to your coach using polarized training approach or by other contributors, such as health, family or work ?

Without going too deep into this, my personal advise would be to talk to your coach and express your concerns. A good coach will listen (this is our main job) and make necessary adjustments to your ongoing plan. In a lot of cases however, be prepared to follow his/her advise even if it may seem a bit odd at first and sticking to it.

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I disagree. You can still have gains using TR after a few years. The problem is that people get obsessed with pushing their FTPs too high, then they can’t finish their workouts. Then they are not training with the required consistency.

Also how can they have so many plans and thousands or workouts and still only have one sized fits all approach? TR has nearly every workout any cyclists heart could desire. I’d like to know which other app or piece of software has a larger amount of approaches.