Trainer feels different from road riding. Different muscles are being used

Even though I’m using a fluid trainer, it still feels way different than outdoor riding.

Outdoors you have elevation and headwinds. Your cadence is rarely steady and this is questioning how a trainer prepares you for this.

I always have knee pain when going from indoor to outdoor riding.

I just did an outdoor ride and my muscles were sore even though I did a lot of sweetspot work indoors.

Which muscles in particular are sore?

What trainer are you using?

Quads. Mostly inner quads above the knee.

I have kinetic fluid trainer.

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Any chance you stand up more with low cadence outside? That would do it.

Are you using the same bike for both indoor and outdoor riding? How long have you been doing structured indoor riding? To me it either sounds like a fit issue or structured indoor riding is relatively new for you and you’re getting some muscle fatigue. Indoor TR workouts will give you a much more constant workload/intensity, there’s just no rest at all. It’s also one of the reasons why it’s so beneficial.

To answer your general question of whether TR workouts have enough specificity to translate into outdoor performance gains, then yes they do. This has been my experience and that of many other forum users.

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This, combined with potential differences in flywheel inertia may lead to slightly different loading on your body.

The continuous nature with no coasting compared to outside can lead to issues that are no readily apparent outside.

After training indoors, I’ve experienced performance gains outside on both flat rides and climbing rides. All it took was six weeks of sweet spot base to convince me of the benefits.

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My cadence is lower when riding outside. 95 indoor vs 85 outdoors.

I am a beginner though. Just started cycling this summer.


Ok, when possible, make your indoor training like your outside riding. This includes cadence, frequency of standing and such.

Try to train as similar as practical and you will be better prepared for outside riding.


If you’ve done a few TR workouts, you’ll have noticed that there is an emphasis on lifting cadence over time to improve muscle endurance. It’s a good idea to translate this to your outdoor riding too for the same benefit.


Agree with Julian, I’m still relatively new to indoor training and starting my 4th season of cycling. Working at 90+rpm on the trainer has helped my outdoor riding even though rpm on climbs is in 70s and on flats in 80s.

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Riding inside in a static position will make bike fit issues super apparent. Any issues that are masked while riding outside will become more apparent, but this also gives you a great opportunity to dial your bike fit, knee and foot alignment and pedal stroke.

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My coach always encouraged me to do some rides outside as it utilised slightly different muscles.

Common. Those same muscles don’t get worked as much during outside rides.

Yes Fluid trainers are a lot different then riding outdoors. Riding outdoors is more dynamic in nature. Some of the muscles you use to balance the bike and yourself on the bike outdoors get neglected indoors because the bike is being held in place by the trainer. So it is pretty natural to have muscle soreness when going from one to the other. That is why its important to mix up your indoor workouts with other weight bearing exercises to keep those muscle from weakening and or shift positions more often on the bike while riding indoors. The main purpose of the trainer is to add resistance. Once you start to use the mindset that elevation gain via hills and headwinds are just adding resistance naturally to your ride. If you look at things like that, the next time you are fighting a headwind or hitting a short climb just think of it as added resistance like pedaling a little harder on a trainer. It is a mental game of sorts. You say your cadence outdoors is never constant. Your cadence should be constant within reason hence why bikes have gears. Gears are used to keep your legs via the pedals spinning at an efficient cadence. People new to cycling overlook this aspect and just think of gears as a means of going faster. They are in a narrow sense but they are there to keep you spinning the pedals at a constant efficient rate when going uphill, downhill, and along the flats. This is why Coach Chad has you doing so many pedaling drills in the base phase. Your muscle soreness so go away in a short time. however if it doesn’t go away its a sign that something is out of alignment with your position or cleats or bike fit.

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You may also find that adding a “rocker” plate makes indoor riding feel just a little bit more natural. I think it also takes some stress off of our frames. I think I saw that Coach C also recommends raising the front an extra inch or so. This seems to help me with my wrists, hands.

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My rocker info.

As to front end height, that is more about comfort, but can be tried as a test for this issue as well.

When you have a bike that is perfectly comfortable outside, and then leads to problems when ridden inside, I feel it is important to look at what is different. When you do, there are two key differences.

  1. Lack of wind resistance on the body riding inside. That is a difference that I find because you end up with slightly more weight on the hands and arms, because you don’t have the wind pushing your upper body back.
  • To compensate for that, I recommend that people raise the front axle about 1"-2" [25mm-50mm] higher than the rear axle. This shifts the weight slightly back onto the saddle and off the hands and arms.
  1. A bike mounted into a typical trainer ends up being very fixed and rigid in position. This can lead to excessive loading on the sit bones on the saddle because there is no shift in the demand on the muscles and tissue around them.
  • The non-equipment solution is to introduce standing breaks into your riding. Anything from every 5 to 10 minutes is common. These breaks can be for anything from 10 seconds or pedal strokes, up to minutes at a time if desired (for saddle relief directly or other training reasons).
  • The equipment solution I recommend is adding motion to the trainer setup. The Kinetic Rock and Roll trainer was my inspiration. But I made a simple double plate stand with a hinge that allowed me to mount a rigid trainer and turn it into a rocking trainer. These are called “Rocker Plates”.

Anyone have a quantified measurement of just how much front-leaning weight the wind resistance relieves?

I did an online calc and it came out to ~1 pound @30km/hr…but no idea if I used the correct formula/calculation.

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I haven’t, but an aerodynamic person tossed some numbers around on FB once when I shared my idea.

Need to have a decent guess on frontal area. I used to think of it as “lift” due to the attack angle of the torso. But I feel is is more of a horizontal “push” now, acting to force us to the rear direction.

Without numbers specifically, I know that I can feel the difference in my hands and wrists around 30 mins into a workout. It’s more pronounced at lower power output levels for me as well.

@chrismilk I’ve been riding a long time. 100% outside until I started with TR this November on my 15 year old Mag trainer. I noticed/wondered the same thing and think it feel different because:

  • The inertia of the trainer is less than a wheel system so you have to effectively apply power slightly differently. Not sure if totally correct but, I think to keep power on the pedals I have to apply pressure a little earlier coming over the top and a little later towards the bottom. Over the top you will def feel your quads/hip flexors even the adductor and gracilis muscle get worked dif. At the bottom it just feels different high power. Like I’m sitting hard in the saddle or maybe focusing on my glutes to help. Hard to describe.

  • And then of coarse muscular endurance or at least pedaling consistently for many is something new. We all underestimate how much we micro rest/coast outside. Inside if you do that immediately stop. Outside you keep going and don’t see much change. In a nutshell a trainer makes you tune into the nuances of applying power effectively to the pedals.

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