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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/cyclingarchives.com





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 (SmartBikeTrainers.com)


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, @ ridebikes.cc, 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.


Rollers require a cyclist to actually balance whilst pedaling and maintaining a straight line and within the limits of the rollers and indoor accidents aren't entirely rare.

Photo: CycleOps

Okay, I get it, how do I get started?


Taking into account that you already have a bicycle, you will need to check what cassette the bicycle uses and get an identical one for your smart trainer.

We ship smart trainers with the compatible cassette installed although they are not always included in the price of the smart trainer itself.


The trainer is supplied with spacers for 8,9 and 10speed cassettes and are compatible with 11s systems, however are mostly shipped with a Shimano specific freehub body. If you use the Sram 12s system as pictured above, you'll need to ensure to order an XDR freehub body with your smart trainer. And, in case If you have a Campagnolo*12/13 s system

you're already in the know.



Once you receive the trainer at your doorstep, You will also receive a step-by-step setup guide that will guide you through the process of beginning to cover virtual kilometers.


In normal times, we’re always glad to ship the trainer along with a well-acquainted member of our team to help you with the setup process and get you cycling indoors.


Is my bicycle going to be compatible? If your bicycle was manufactured after the 2000s and has a freehub, chances are that your bike will definitely be compatible with smart trainers. Wahoo offers its trainers with adapters for all kinds of rim brake or disc brake bicycles and axle standards so you can mount any bicycle on your trainer as long as the cassette is the same as the one on the groupset the bicycle uses.



Road Bikes use 100mm front/135mm rear spacing for Quick Release/Rim Brake Bikes. Disc Brake Road Bikes utilize a 100mm front/142mm rear. The spacing is called 142x12 (12 being the diameter of the axle that threads into the drive side of the frame.



How do I set up my “Pain Cave” ? Once your bicycle is set up on the smart trainer, and you have placed your computer/TV/Tablet in front of you, it’s time to ensure you’re doing this right.



KEEPING IT COOL

Yes, you're a superstar! Suffering gloriously inside the confines of your own home and pretending to be riding a bicycle. You need fans to validate this kind of behavior. You also need fans to keep you from overheating within the first ten minutes of your session.


Ventilation:

Fans are paramount. Simulating wind to provide cooling is essential. Focus the blast of wind to your face/torso and use more than

one fan if necessary.

Yes, Air conditioning is brilliant, but it’s a great “add on” where fans are “essential”.

Although any fan would do, Wahoo does provide a purpose built headwind fan called, guess, what, the Kickr Headwind Smart Fan.

For only 6,900,000 VND, you get what is the first ever smart fan, purpose built for indoor cycling It has Targeted Airflow Patterns which mimic the shape and position of a cyclist's body while riding. The KICKR HEADWIND is also sensor controlled so as your speed or heart rate increases, but also has a manual control. With wind simulation speeds of over 48km/hr, the KICKR HEADWIND will keep you cool during the toughest training sessions.





Yes, the Headwind fan is brilliant, but any fan will do just fine. If you want to splurge and leave no expense spared for your Pain Cave, it's available.

Sweat proofing:

Sweat is corrosive and it trickles down on the bicycle during indoor workouts ratherfore towels and sweat guards are an absolute essential followed by regular wipedown of the bicycle especially the Bottom bracket and headset areas where sweat may collect and cause corrosion to the frame and parts.


It's worth getting your bartape re-wrapped every 6 months or so. Salt can do nasty things to handlebars and hood clamps in relatively short periods of time.

Front-wheel loading:

Your front wheel was not designed to take pressures only in one direction and on some of the spokes, therefore

please rotate the front wheel a quarter turn once a week to ensure an even distribution of load on all the spokes.

Hydration:

Ensure you remember to drink during your workout as you sweat more indoors and electrolyte replenishment is very important for trainer sessions that tick over the 45 minute mark, or shorter based on personal hydration needs.

Drivetrain:

Your bicycle experiences almost no contamination when on the indoor trainer, but that does not mean that it will not require maintenance. A wipe down and lubrication every 300 virtual kilometers is always going to keep the drivetrain smooth and silent.

We shall cover more on drivetrain maintenance in an upcoming blog. Floor Mat: This can be essential based on the material of your floor and how thick the walls are. Asking your downstairs neighbor is always the best idea to decide if you MUST get a training mat.

Rocker Plate: Riding a bicycle is a very engaging experience. The smart trainers don't offer very much side to side flex which is a sometimes a key component of generating sudden power while cycling. These are heavy and expensive on top of the price of the trainer and are not absolutely essential, but great if you're keen on doing 10+ hour rides on the trainer.



Above pictured is the KOM Cycling's Indoor Rocker Plate the RPV 1. Not sure why they had to use a computed generated image for their product.

If you've got access to some bits, have time on your hand and are industrious,

feel free to try to make your own rocker plate! The aforementioned design is from Juarez of rideottawa.com. Wahoo have somewhat addressed this issue with the addition of the new Kickr Action Feet.


The new Wahoo Kickr Feet allow us to choose from three different feet options with up to 5 degrees of movement – stiff-action, medium-action, and easy-action –

to allow you to truly personalize your experience and tune your KICKR to match your unique riding style.


How much is the Wahoo Kickr and Kickr Core?

Prices are always changing but as I write this article in August 21, the The Wahoo Kickr will set you back by 33,500,000 VND/$1,460

and the Kickr Core by 24,500,000 VND/$1,077.

Do kindly note that the Kickr comes with an 11-28 cassette pre-installed

whereas the Kickr Core does not and a cassette must be purchased as an added extra. Kickr or Kickr Core? Which one is right for me?







Both trainers are extremely capable and some of the best offerings for smart trainers in the world right now, however, for most of us enthusiasts, the Kickr Core is more than what we will ever need.

If you prefer to have all the bell frills and whistles, then the flagship Kickr is your best bet.

Software: As indoor cycling becomes more staple, newer developers are jumping into the game dominated until now by Zwift. Some notable Zwift alternatives are

Rouvy TrainerRoad FulGaz RGT Cycling


Except for RGT Cycling all these applications have a Free trial period so you can check for hardware compatibility, ease of use and check out all the features and graphics before you invest for the long run.

Which software would be most ideal for you varies on how you train and what your personal preferences are.

Virtual Climbing

Climbing is a very integral part of the sport of cycling and therefore, there's no lack of options of climbs from real as well as imaginary ones to choose from.

When you're climbing in real life, as the gradient (grade) of the climb increases, you have to apply more power to the pedals to maintain speed as you fight against gravity. This also means that the bicycle itself tilts a little, allowing us to shift our weight forward over the front wheel. This allows us to employ different muscle groups.

When you're climbing in the virtual world, the smart trainer receives input about the grade of the course you're riding and adjusts the trainer's resistance accordingly. Some applications like Zwift allow you to adjust the simulation as 100% sometimes can be too hard for beginners.

On an indoor trainer, the bicycle is held at a 0% gradient i.e. flat road so when the virtual grade picks up, your arms want to pull the bars close to you. The Wahoo Kickr Climb remedies this, by attaching to your front wheel, and rocking the front end of your bike up or down based on the grade that you're rolling on.

Conclusion: Indoor training is a brilliant way to add to your cycling experience and an investment which you shall continue using as long you ride your bicycle.

Do make sure to #ridebikes.

Want to learn how to make the ultimate pain cave? Head over to the Wahoo Fitness blog.

*(pronounced kam·puhn·yow·low ) #paincave #indoorcycling #wahooligan #zwift #strava #cycling #hanoi #lockdown

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