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Indoor Bike Trainer - Going Nowhere In A Big Hurry!

Saturday, January 04, 2014

Part 1: Cold and Dark

I had been toying with the idea of getting some sort of indoor bike trainer for some time. I live in the Colorado Rocky Mountains and winters tend to be cold and snowy. When the roads are slick and icy, riding a bike can be a bit challenging.

Now, I don't really shrink from challenging bike rides. However, sometimes it is just hard to drag myself out the door into an icy nightmare hell just to get some exercise! Here is a photo of my weather station display that shows a typical winter day.

The station shows the temperature is 26.5 degrees Fahrenheit. With a mild breeze, the wind chill is 19.2 degrees F. Riding a bike in these temperatures at 10 to 15 mph feels darn cold!

This is a shot of my shed with a few sleds leaning against one of my deck posts. Maybe you can see the snow falling in the background.

Here is a photo of the white moonscape out my back door.

I ride bikes for fun and adventure. The fitness benefits are just a bonus.

Part 2: Indoor Exercise Equipment - Cheap is Expensive

We have a very good elliptical trainer that I have used a lot when the weather is bad.

My wife had me move the elliptical from the garage to my home office. She wanted to be able to watch television while she was on the elliptical. This machine is a 15 year-old Kettler brand elliptical that we bought for $1,400. This Kettler elliptical trainer is smooth and, after zillion hours of operation, works flawlessly.

We also have a great home gym with smith rack, leg press and Olympic weight set.

We bought this equipment 15 years ago at the same time we bought the Kettler elliptical.

We paid quite a bit for this set-up. Now, you don't have to spend a lot of money to get a good home workout if you stick with some basic weights and bands. But I have found if you want to buy some complex exercise equipment such as a treadmill, elliptical, or resistance machinery, you have to spend some money and buy good quality items. Good quality exercise equipment lasts longer and works better. In the long run, you will spend less and get more if you invest in good stuff.

End of sermon.

Part 3: Research - Bike Trainers, Bike Trainers and More Bike Trainers

I decided I wanted to keep my cycling fitness over the winter. Besides, after using the Kettler elliptical for 15 years, I wanted a break in the monotony. But I really had no idea how much a good bike trainer would cost. I did not know anything about bike trainers. I started researching the various indoor training alternatives.

I had a bunch of things to think about. Would a stationary bike be a better buy? I had participated in spinning classes. I knew a good spin bike was comfortable, completely adjustable and durable.

I found that you can pay whatever you want for an indoor cycle. Prices ranged from $100 to many thousands of dollars. I determined that a good indoor cycle that would meet my needs costs between $800 to $1,200. But I really did not want another piece of dedicated exercise equipment.

Another option I considered for about 30 seconds was a roller trainer.

This indoor trainer requires the rider to balance the bike on the rollers. The roller trainer in the photo costs about $400. I have a friend that bought a roller trainer. He admitted he doesn't use the roller trainer much.

After endless research, I decided to get a turbo trainer. A turbo trainer has a clamp to hold the rear wheel of the bike against a resistance roller. There are two types of turbo trainers. One type of turbo trainer provides resistance using a small flywheel rotating in a variable magnetic field. This type of trainer is called a magnetic trainer. The other type turbo trainer uses a small impeller rotating in a viscous fluid, which is called a fluid trainer.

Side Note: The fluid trainer's resistance increases with rotational speed. The increase of resistance is approximately linear. As everyone knows, according to continuum mechanics, if the viscous stresses that result from fluid flow are proportional to the strain rate, the fluid is defined as a Newtonian fluid. It is common knowledge that air and water are Newtonian fluids; and so is thin, non-polymer motor oil. Since the constant of proportionality approximates unity (meaning one) the drag of the fluid is directly proportional to the velocity of the fluid. Pretty cool, huh?

Non-geekiod translation: The faster you pedal, the harder it is to pedal. This resistance profile is exactly the way a real bike behaves.

Sorry for the detour. Back to reality, now!

Just FYI, here is a link to a tutorial on Turbo Trainers from Performance Bike.


I buy a lot of stuff from Performance Bike. However, I did not buy my trainer from Performance bike. The YouTube video provided by Performance Bike is an excellent resource.

Part 4: Very Good Purchase - Cascade FluidPro Power Trainer

Many user reviews I read on bike trainers complained about noise. Of course, most of the complaints were on lower-priced units. I take these reviews with a grain of salt. A person's expectations colors their opinion. Very few people that write these reviews are experts. I may blog about the our cult of opinion later. Of course, I would just be giving you my opinion about opinions.

My selection criteria for an indoor trainer included:

- Reliability,
- Smoothness,
- Construction, and
- Cool Electronic Sensors.

I decided to take a chance and send away for a very highly rated fluid trainer sold by Cascade Health and Fitness. I purchased the Cascade FluidPro Power Trainer. Here is a factory photo that shows the Fluid Pro trainer:

Here is a link to the Cascade website:


I ordered the trainer on Sunday, December 15th, and received the trainer on Wednesday, December 18th. I did not expect to get the shipment so quickly. As I opened the box, I was pretty concerned that I had made a big mistake buying a bike trainer sight-unseen.

The trainer looked really good. The instructions were clear and easy to follow. I was very happy when I got the trainer setup and clamped my Specialized Allez into place. The bike was held very solidly. Here is the photo of my bike in the Cascade trainer.

I climbed on the bike and started to pedal. Oh my, this trainer was smooth! The only noise was the sound of the bike tire driving the roller. Bike tires make noise on every surface. However, when you are riding a bike outside, you tend not to notice the tire noise.

Here is drive unit on the trainer.

The heavy flywheel is perfectly balanced. There is a sensor on the fluid unit that provides speed and power readings to the wireless power meter display. A sensor on the bike's chainstay provides pedaling cadence. The trainer came with a very comfortable heart rate monitor. The display is large and easy to read:

The display shows current, average and maximum for heart rate, power, speed and pedaling cadence. You can also set heart rate training zone. There is a count-up or a count-down timer.

Trip distance is also displayed. But after pedaling like crazy, the bike and I were still in the same place where we started. This tickles me! We have really gone nowhere. But the odometer tells me I have gone 10 miles or so.

Part 5: I am NOT a Pedal Masher

So what did I find out with all this cool instrumentation? I have always been able to make a bike go faster than what is prudent. On trails, I consistently overtake other bikers. I rarely get passed. I always assumed that I had a very low cadence and used strength to keep up a fast pace.

A low cadence, such as 40 to 60 crank revolutions per minute, and the use of higher gears, is the hallmark of a "pedal masher". A higher cadence, such as 80 to 90 crank revolutions per minute, and the use of lower gears, is the definition of a "pedal spinner".

Are you still with me?

I got on my bike when first clamped in the trainer. I started pedaling at an easy and natural pedal cadence. I was surprised to see I was pedaling at 95 revolutions per minute! I was shocked! I was a spinner, not a pedal masher!

That was a real eye opener! I upshifted and slowed my cadence and it felt awkward. I dropped into lower gears and increased my cadence to over 100 RPM and it felt way too fast. I set up a pace between 90 to 95 rpm and it felt very natural.

I am now using my bike trainer as a way to improve my cycling power output. I really like this Cascade trainer.

Thanks for reading my blog.

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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    Did you buy a set of Wheels called "Trainer wheels" touse on your indoor trainer? If not , I would recommend it as you will wear down your own tires very quickly. Trainer tires are what I use for indoor training with my Triathlon group when we spin at the local Bike Shop! This way my gator skins will have a nice long life out on the road.
    1919 days ago
    I have always felt that you should buy the best piece of equipment that your budget will afford. With that said, I'm really good at finding exception buys on craigslist.
    I'm not familiar with the Cascade, but love the power integration. I have a Cyclops Fluid2. And yes, you have to learn corresponding gears to cadence to work with the hydraulics or you will find yourself mashing (and sweating profusely). I am naturally an 85-90 rpm. My very speedy cyclist friend calls me a masher and constantly yells at me to "PEDAL!" when we're out riding. He is a 110 spinner. Crazy fast. I can spin faster, but it wears me out faster. 85-90 is my happy place, lol.
    1919 days ago
    I love your blogs! One of the things I love about them is the contrast in our life styles. You certainly have some wonderful toys, and don't mind paying for them. Wonderful.

    I bought my Weider 3 station Home Gym at a garage sale - many years ago. Someone just decided exercise was too hard for them, and I gained.

    I paid $70 for it, took it apart and reassembled it in my Florida room. That set and several hundred pounds of free weight equipment, scavenged throughout the year from other garage sales and give-aways from friends - and I can get a pretty good work out. You already know I bought that cheap road/tri bike at Bikes Direct, after I upgraded from my Walmart road bike. LOL.

    We do things differently, but are both avid exercisers and love it for the joy in doing it.
    Two minds so alike yet so different in the approach.
    1919 days ago
    Loved this blog. Sounds like the trainer is working out for you. Great!


    I will share with my husband who will enjoy your wonderful description regarding the physics involved in the simple pastime of bike riding and various related apparatus. He himself once waxed poetic regarding the meaning of viscosity, leaving the questioner bleary eyed. And no it wasn't me who asked the question! HA...

    Also fun to read about your self-discovery on riding style! I'm a spinner as well, mostly due to a knee injury. (I'm sure some from age and conditioning.) I ride with a stalwart masher and easily spin by her up the hills, even though she is younger than me by several years and in better condition.

    1933 days ago

    Comment edited on: 1/8/2014 9:35:54 AM
    Thanks for the review.
    Sounds like you're now well on your way from a spinner to a masher...

    Wanting to integrate biking into my exercise routine (hiking is great fun but you can definitely cover a whole lot more ground quickly on a bicycle), I started looking into hybrid bikes. Liked the Giant Rove, which at $650. is around what I'm willing to spend. Thoughts? Suggestions?
    1935 days ago
    I just got out our (very) old trainer called CycleOps. That thing hasn't been used for ages (it kind of looks like the Cascade one in blog). Anyway, the hybrid is sitting in there now, as my Trek roadie is off getting the shifters fixed. So far, I love the workout, but you're right it's very noisy, lol. Take care and good luck on getting in bike miles! Informative blog.
    1935 days ago
    Ha! We ended up getting a Tacx Bushido, then getting a small computer we connected to the 47 inch flatscreen to drive it. My wife's bike is on it pretty much all winter.
    1936 days ago
  • HILLSLUG98239
    Given your consistency, I am not surprised you're a spinner.

    Every year, I tell myself that *this* is the winter I will ride my trainer. I have yet to do it. I have an out this year, though: I joined a gym, and I'm going to the spin classes. My favorite instructor is Eric, the triathlete. His workouts are brutal (but he reminds people they're the ones in control of their own workout). Last Eric workout, I noticed he wasn't even sweating. Man, I hate that guy.

    Nice home gym setup - and you're clearly getting your money's worth out it!
    1936 days ago
    I got one of these and they have this really narrow spindle they want you to replace on your bikes back wheel. Not amused... had it too long to return too. Did your trainer have that? My BF is going to modify mine so we don't have to do this. grr

    1936 days ago
    Although I am not in the same snowy place, our roads get icy and it gets dark so quickly that riding during the week is hard. So I have been toying with the indoor trainer as well. This blog got me thinking yet again about this decision.

    Diane in Oregon
    1936 days ago
    I definitely agree about getting good exercise equipment. I must confess that although my treadmill and elliptical are very good, my stationary bike is a $100 cheapie. It actually still seems ok.
    Yay for a trainer! It makes perfect sense for you :-)
    1936 days ago
  • NWFL59
    Sounds like you found a winner trainer. Hope it continues to provide a challenge for you as you tweak your training. Thanks for the review and explanations. emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon
    1936 days ago
    Thanks for the review - I am always interested in reading reviews after the item has been used for a few months as well...... sometimes the reviews are different. and there are discoveries made.

    thanks again - hope it works out well for you!
    1936 days ago
    Thanks for the great info! I thought about getting a trainer a while back but ended up with a stationary bike because I didn't like the thought of having to put my bike on and off the trainer every time I wanted to change from indoor to outdoor (which would happen a lot here - maybe not so much of a problem in snow country like where you are). I'll be interested to hear how this works out for you.
    1936 days ago
    Great plan!
    A good machine is the way to go when you are able.
    1936 days ago
    I am amazed at how small it is and that it holds you and your bike up straight!
    It definitely looks like more fun than a stationary bike - pretty cool that you can use your own.

    I used to like to watch bike races when I rode the stationary bike at the gym. It made me feel like I was in the race. Time went by a lot faster.

    Congratulations on your new toy.
    1937 days ago
    I'm so impressed with your research! Thank you for providing a great definitions and examples of "pedal mashers" and "pedal spinners". I think I'm a masher…but I'm not sure!

    I'm so excited for you! I might need something like that when it hits 115 degrees in the summer. :-)

    Have fun!
    emoticon emoticon
    1937 days ago
    I agree with you about cheap is expensive. Let us know how you like the trainer again after you have a few hundred hours on it!

    Best to you in 2014.
    1937 days ago
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