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EBRAINK, thanks for the kudos!
Actually, you did add something very worthwhile. "Unremittingly dull" is quite a nice way to put it! I like your Pandora sprints idea.
In cycling classes, sometimes the instructor will have us do something harder to the chorus (or take a break -- whichever is needed). If it's a fast song that lends itself to, say, 85-90RPM, then the chorus might be 105-110. Or if it's a climb, the chorus might get add quite a bit more resistance. I've always thought I needed to do something to change up *within* the song, but a long, long, long climb to Stairway to Heaven might be more what I need.
"Unremittingly dull." Yep. "Pandora Sprints" is brilliant.
DMARTIN, this is an ***EXCELLENT*** list of tips and tricks for bike trainers. Very good advice, all of it, and I can't think of anything to add.
I will say that I was really surprised at how I found riding on the trainer to be much more difficult than riding on the road. I was expecting what I experienced when I switched from running on the treadmill (easy) to running on the road (hard). Nope. Riding the bike on the road is interesting and dynamic and challenging (and usually joyful) and I adjust to the challenge without thinking much about it. Riding the bike on the trainer is unremittingly dull, so I have to remind myself that *I* have to make it more challenging. So I do, by doing timed speed or resistance intervals. The mental game is different, and harder, for me.
Last winter, I started doing what I call Pandora Sprints. I plug in my earphones, tune into Pandora (iTunes shuffle would work, too), grab an interesting channel, then let the pace of the music determine whether or not I'm going fast or slow or up a hill or not.
I can speak from experience that the long track of Stairway to Heaven makes for a very long, long, long, uphill climb.
We succeed when we create conditions for success - and when we can't do that, we create conditions for succeeding within constraints.
This was really helpful advice. I got a cheaper model of the Fluid trainer when it was a special on woot.com back in the spring. I did get the giant yoga mat for mine but since it hasn't been cold enough yet I have yet to use it. Now that I have two bikes I planned on setting the slimmer sleeker road bike with the smoother tires on the trainer and using the more rugged hybrid outside if we had any of those freak nice days in the middle of winter. Now I know I need to look out for the tire debris I can set something up for that. I may look for a cheap slick tire for it to wear while on the trainer. I have been finding good prices on a lot of the little accessories and bike tools on amazon, and I laughed myself out of my chair when I saw a sweat guard on there called a "bike thong". I can see where you would need something (good point about the still air), but I think a large hand towel or small gym towel will do fine.
Thank you so much! This is exactly the kind of information I was looking for.
I do have a bike trainer that I used a fair amount in Wisconsin, but found it a bit of a pain to hookup. By myself, I could do it, but it was hard. Preferred having help when I set it up, as getting the bike straight and keeping it straight and balanced while I tightened the bolt thingie that took for every wasn't easy. So yes, if the more expensive ones make this easier, if you are going to regularly unhook it and rehook it, then it might make sense. Otherwise, my cheaper about $150, I think, one seemed reasonably. Resistance was nice. Really made my legs work and did help with not having to start so far back come the next spring.
3/31/12 Trailbreaker half marathon 13.1 miles in 3 hours 13 minutes
4/20/13 Neighborhood Watch 5K 39:17.6
10/5/13 5K Grace Pet Fest 38:47.6
12/1/13 Secret City Half Marathon around 3 hours and 4 minutes
4/19/14 Butterflies for Hope 5K for Lupus 39:23.8 (I hurt my back a few days before, and though it was my first official 5K with some jogging, my back hurt, so was very slow.)
2/7/15 Hearts & Soles 5K, San Jose 34:50 (Recovering from a cold and wet day.)
Thank you for the amazingly complete advice!
I've got some experience with bike trainers. They are an acceptable substitute for keeping your muscles going. You can park it in front of your computer or TV and spin through a movie or YouTube of a bike course. They can be used any time of the day or night (except in apartments or rooms where someone is on the other side of the wall or floor). You can get a much more difficult workout than outdoors, because you can add resistance that simulates much larger/longer hills than you would normally ride.
Drawbacks include extreme boredom, forgetting to keep your intensity of workout because you got into the movie/YouTube video, no work on bike handling skills, particularly balance, and not putting enough resistance on your trainer to keep your workouts intense enough. Some people in the house may not like the droning noise, but it's not awful. Dishwashers can be noisier.
I've got a Travel Trac magnetic trainer which retails for around $150, and a CycleOps Fluid trainer which retails for around $350. The more expensive one gives a much smoother ride and has a much easier method of mounting the bike. The cheaper one seems to give an slightly uneven ride, which I may never have noticed had I not ridden the more expensive one. To mount your bike on the cheaper one, you have to manually tighten a knob that takes "forever" (a whole minute or two) to screw down tightly. The more expensive one has a quick release lever which takes a few seconds to mount/release your bike. Had I never used the expensive one, I wouldn't have minded the cheaper one.
Are you planning to set up your bike and leave it up in the trainer most of the winter? If so, you probably won't care too much about being able to quickly release it. If you're sharing this with others in your home or going to go set up/breakdown a lot, you might want to examine the ease of putting in your bike.
I'd recommend taking your bike to a bike shop and trying out as many as you can with your own bike. Fair warning: don't try one that's out of your budget. You will like it better than the rest. Now is a good time, too, as many stores are having end of year sales.
You can also search the Internet for "bike trainer buying guide" to get reviews on the latest products and even more buying tips.
Some tips I've learned that work for any bike trainer:
You need something underneath the trainer to protect the floor from sweat, dropped water bottles, and tire dander, not to mention from the trainer itself. You can buy a very expensive mat designed for this purpose with a fancy logo on it, or you can go to the discount store and get a 3x5' or 4x6' area rug to put underneath for much cheaper. The area rugs can also be tossed in the washer if they get dirty or tossed without feeling guilty about how much you spent for it. And they come in colors to match your decor (unless you really like black!).
What is tire dander, you ask? As you ride, the tire contacts the metal drum. Teeny tiny flecks of the tire will come off. Lots of them. You may want to protect the wall behind the trainer (tape up a piece of newspaper or plastic, put up clear Contact paper, or lean a piece of poster board against the wall) and definitely the floor underneath.
That tire dander wears your tires quickly. If you have nice (expensive) tires, you may want to get a really cheap tire to put on your rear wheel (your front wheel isn't going anywhere, so don't replace it). You can spin the tread off of the cheap tire during the winter, then put your expensive tires back on when the weather gets better. If you're going to split time inside and outside, you may want to talk to your local bike shop for their opinion. If you're only on the bike for an hour or so a week, this may be a moot point.
And sweat...be SURE to wipe off your bike after riding. Bike shops have seen lots of screws corroded and difficult to remove when people don't clean sweat off of their bike. You can also get a sweat guard -- a narrow towel that attaches from your handlebars to your saddle post -- for about $15. Well worth it if you sweat profusely. Or you could drape a towel over your top bar.
More on sweat: get a fan and place it in front of you. If you're in a room with a ceiling fan, use that too! You're used to a breeze when you ride outside, and there isn't one when you're inside. You get MUCH hotter.
Hope this helps!
I'm new to cycling this year and am so sad to see the weather turning and my cycling days growing shorter and shorter. I live in an extremely northern climate, where we'll see only a few hours of sunlight per day in the depths of winter. As a result, I'm considering investing in an indoor bicycle trainer so I can at least work my cycling muscles over the winter. Does anyone have experience with these? Do you find it to be an acceptable substitute for outdoor riding? Any suggestions for how to select one to buy? Any pitfalls to look for? Thank you all so much!