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Indoor Cycling: All You Need to Know

Updated: Oct 9, 2021

A pain cave Setup with the Wahoo ecosystem. (Climb not included)

We find ourselves amidst unprecedented times and riding outdoors has not been as it used to be for quite some time for us in Vietnam.

Love it or hate it, Indoor Cycling will only add to your cycling prowess and not take from it.

No matter how enjoyable cycling already is, getting fitter always makes it more fun as we can ride faster, further, and longer as we gradually increase our fitness. But as with any sport, specifically when it comes to strong legs and a core, If you don’t use them, you lose them,

i.e. consistency in riding is the only way, you can maintain any level of fitness.

Indoor training and what is available to our disposal today is the silver lining amidst the Covid Chaos and is a blessing for those who need to ride to maintain their heads on their shoulders.

Although cyclists have been riding on stationary rollers and trainers for over a century now with the earliest existing photographs being of Charles Minthorn Murphy, aka Mile a Minute Murphy back in 1901.

Charles Minthorn Murphy aka Mile a Minute Murphy (left) with pioneer track cyclist, Tom Butler (right) riding on rollers, whist their power numbers are displayed on the dial display complete with lightbulbs. circa : 1901 Photo: Michael Butler/

Over the last century,

Indoor cycling has had a fearsome reputation of being mind-numbingly boring,

however, Virtual Cycling, is not just indoor riding.

Zwift offers many immersive worlds with a highly engaging experience, and routes to satiate any appetite. From rolling flat deserts to Alpine HC climbs. Pictured above is The "Titan's Grove" section of Watopia which takes back to the Cretaceous period.

Smart trainers have revolutionized the process by the use of electronically controlled resistance and ERG (Ergometer) modes that wirelessly communicate with a computer/device to give one a “real time Virtual” cycling experience by controlling resistance based on simulated hill grades or Target Workout Power.

What is a Smart Trainer? Smart trainers are interactive turbo trainers that connect with apps such as Zwift, TrainerRoad, The Sufferfest, and Rouvy (There's Many More) to control the trainer’s resistance and replicate the hills, headwinds, and drafting effects inside virtual worlds.

These apps can also guide you through power-based interval workouts with the resistance automatically adjusting to keep you at the required power (known as ERG mode or Ergometer).

Today’s smart turbo trainers work by communicating with third-party apps on smartphones, tablets, and computers using wireless ANT+ frequencies or Bluetooth.

Yes, It sounds complicated, but most of these trainers and apps will automatically search for and connect to each other, so in practice, it’s usually very simple. Literally, Plug and Play.

Wheel-on or direct drive?

There are two main types of smart trainers:

Direct Drive & Wheel On.

A Wahoo Kickr Direct Drive trainer on the left and Wahoo Kickr Snap Wheel On trainer to the right. Photo: Tariq Ali (

Wheel-on smart trainers work like classic trainers – you clamp the rear axle into support, while your rear wheel rests on a roller drum. This drum is connected to a resistance unit that communicates with your chosen hardware and app to control the resistance you feel through the wheel

Tire slip, trainer-specific tires, and inaccurate readings make the wheel on trainers a less than ideal choice. Even the "smart" ones.

These are typically the cheapest and lightest types of smart trainers, but they can cause wear on your tires (though specific trainer tires are available to mitigate this issue) their power measurement is generally less accurate, and the ride feel often isn’t as good as direct-drive trainers. Therefore, @, we don’t propagate the use of wheel-on trainers.

The wheel on Trainers require a "trainer specific tire" that can withstand the resistance of the metal roller as it turns the flywheel. Regular tires will overheat and go flat, or worse, be prematurely shredded as the road tires are designed to be soft, supple, and grippy whereas trainer tires, the exact opposite.

Direct drive trainers require you to remove the rear wheel and connect your bike to the trainer via a standard cassette. These are heavier and more expensive than wheel-on trainers, but prices are getting more competitive and they have a number of advantages.

Outside of the obvious one, a lack of wear on your lovely rear tire, Direct Drive trainers also tend to be quieter and offer a more realistic, road-like ride feel. They are also usually much more feature-rich and accurate, in terms of power measurement than wheel-on trainers.

Of course, price is always going to be a major consideration. There's a range of options to suit as many budgets as possible, but there’s no denying these trainers aren’t cheap. However, they can offer good value if you want to be able to consistently and enjoyably train indoors.

It’s an investment you won’t regret if you intend to continue riding your bicycle once Covid has passed over and will also help maintain consistency when the weather is not really conducive to riding outdoors.

What about Bicycle rollers? These are a type of bicycle trainer that make it possible to ride a bicycle indoors without moving forward. However, unlike other types of bicycle trainers, rollers do not attach to the bicycle frame, and the rider must maintain balance on the rollers while training. Bicycle rollers normally consist of three cylinders, drums, or "rollers" (two for the rear wheel and one for the front), on top of which the bicycle rides. A belt connects the middle roller to the front roller, causing the front wheel of the bicycle to spin when the bicycle is pedaled. The spacing of bicycle rollers can usually be adjusted to match the bicycle's wheelbase. Generally, the front roller is adjusted to be slightly ahead of the hub of the front wheel. These are generally cheaper, but require some skills as maintaining balance on rollers can be quite tricky and need some practice to get used to.