As winter nears bringing colder weather and snow to many places, rides outside tend to become fewer and farther between or non-existent all together. Just because you can’t get outside as much doesn’t mean your riding has to stop completely. Riding inside on your bike is a great way to not only keep some fitness throughout the long, dark winter, but can also be used to make improvements where you’re weak. There are a number of different options to ride your bike inside and knowing what they all are will allow you to pick the one that’s best for you.
Types of Bike Trainers
A trainer is a stand that holds your bike in one place via the rear axle and has a spindle that is pressed against the tire transferring resistance. With your bike locked in place you can easily look away from the bike to an entertainment device as opposed to rollers discussed below. Trainers come in three main kinds that are differentiated by how they apply resistance to the wheel.
A fluid trainer uses, you guessed it, fluid inside a drum that is attached to a spindle that the tire rests on to create resistance. Fluid trainers apply the most even resistance to the wheel while also being relatively quiet. The resistance level in a fluid trainer goes up in an exponential fashion the harder you pedal.
Wind trainers use a fan that is designed to catch wind as it turns to create resistance. This is then attached to a spindle which rests on your rear wheel like that of a fluid trainer. Because the fan is cutting through the air to create resistance, they are loud. With stationary riding however, it can be quite hot due to the lack of wind across your body but wind trainers often direct the breeze toward you creating a bit of a cooling effect. The resistance level with wind trainers does go up the harder you pedal but not to the extent of fluid trainers.
Magnetic trainers use magnets to place resistance on the spindle. Most magnetic trainers have an adjustment that allows you to vary the resistance level while riding. Magnetic trainers can vary widely in the amount of resistance they can give but a descent one will give you plenty of leg searing resistance.
One drawback to all of the trainers above is that the resistance is placed on the tire which causes the tire to wear down rather quickly. Many riders use old tires that are only ridden on a trainer but if you’re frequently switching between riding inside and out, changing a tire all the time can get old. Fortunately there is a new style of trainer out there that doesn’t use a rear wheel. The trainer has a cassette that is attached to the stand that your bike is locked into which provides the resistance. Many cyclocross riders opt for this one as it eliminates the need for a trainer only wheel to warm up on.
Another device for indoor riding is rollers. These use three drums, one under your front wheel and two under your rear which your wheels rest on and rotate while riding. The centrifugal force of the wheels rotating keeps you balanced much like riding down the road. Riding the rollers does take a bit of practice as it requires balance and focus to stay upright but once you’ve adapted it’s quite easy and much more enjoyable than riding the trainer which requires pretty much no focus to ride.
Rollers come in a variety of sizes of drums which dictates how much resistance there is on the rear wheel. The smaller the drum, the higher the resistance. Some rollers however come with resistance that can be added, most often in the form of magnets on the side of one of the drums.
Free Motion Rollers
By far the best indoor riding device are free motion rollers which are rollers that are attached to a stand which allows them to glide forward and back with your riding via bearings. Free motion rollers allow the bike to move not only side to side as you ride but also forward and back allowing you to get out of the saddle as well as making it feel like you are riding down the road. They also have variable resistance with a magnet attached to one of the drums.
A final option for indoor riding is a stationary bike. These bikes are made to only be ridden in place. If you ride inside a lot and don’t move your setup, this can be a good option provided you place a similar saddle and the same pedals on it as well as have the position the same as your normal bike. These can save your bike from the stresses placed on your frame by a trainer as well as running through tires on both a trainer and road bike. The down side is it’s a bike only to be ridden indoors.
Just because winter is on its way, doesn’t mean your riding has to stop. It just has to evolve. Riding inside can allow you to do very specific workouts getting more bang for your time spent on the bike. It’s no lie that riding inside can be incredibly boring. Choosing the right trainer, rollers, or stationary bike for you will make that riding much more enjoyable. Know what you’re looking for, try some out if you can, and find one that’s within your budget. There are some great benefits to indoor trainer workouts. Hit all these and come next spring you’ll be stronger than what you were when you went into winter.