There are two universal truths in cycling. Truth #1: Bicycles are meant to be ridden in the majestic outdoors. Truth #2: Cyclists hate trainers. Well hate is a strong word but you and I both know that the trainer is far from our favorite way to get in saddle time. That being said, a bicycle trainer is still an incredibly useful piece of equipment and one that should be treated with a little less disdain. There are at least 10 reasons why a bicycle trainer is a worthy addition to any cyclist’s arsenal.
1. Bad weather? No daylight? no problem! Riding in the rain can be fun, but it can also be miserable and, at times, quite dangerous. A trainer helps you log some time on the bike without getting soaked to your very core or worrying about getting stuck out after dark. You can ride from the comfort of your well-lit and oh-so-comfortable abode. In the dead of winter, no matter how strong your fortitude, this is a luxury that can’t be denied.
2. No interruptions! On the trainer you never have to stop at red lights or coast behind slower riders or down hills. There is no traffic holding you up so you can focus on your workout and execute it flawlessly. The trainer also eliminates the chance of ever getting a flat. That may be worth the investment right there.
3. High intensity made easy. An all out sprint on the open road is never really a great idea while on a training ride. If you are focusing all of your energy on smashing your pedals into the ground, you are likely putting less effort into watching the road. On the trainer you should still try to practice proper sprinting form with your head up but in case you slip up, there are no potholes to miss or cars to dodge.
4. No road hazards. Not only are there no potholes, there are quite simply no hazards of any kind. You can ride in a completely safe environment and practice drills that might otherwise be a bit risky on the road. Finally, you can do your one leg drills in peace without fear of animal attacks. This, alone, is worth its weight in gold and will afford you a good night’s sleep.
5. You can and should use a trainer to warm up before a race. Warming up before a race is essential if you want to perform at your best. A ten to twenty minute warm up on the trainer gets your muscles contracting, your heart pumping, and oxygen flowing throughout your body so you can have the best race possible when the gun sounds. If you foresee any form of racing in your future, then a trainer is a must.
6. The road is always flat. This can be taken as a good or bad thing. People who live in terrain that is not necessarily conducive to cycling can get in a workout much easier. Whether excessive hills make your workouts difficult or rough roads make them a pain on the average day, a trainer can bring some calm to your storm. Don’t let those hills scare you away from riding outside however because hill repeats with a trainer block leave something to be desired.
7. It allows you to multi-task. With the responsibilities of everyday life crushing down on us, it is often the workout that gets cut from our busy schedules. If you use a trainer you can ride in your own home, watch TV, read a book, take a phone call or two and maybe even still keep an eye on the kids. You can never replace a nice long ride outside to clear your head so be sure to invest in a babysitter every once in awhile.
8. Train while overcoming injury. Being broken really stinks. Being broken AND not being able to ride is even worse. A broken collarbone is one of the most common injuries sustained by cyclists, after cuts, scrapes and road rash of course. Most injuries, unless they’re major and critical, will allow you to ride your trainer and get the blood flowing without negatively affecting your healing process. In fact, the trainer promotes good health and healing.
9. It’s time effective. When you ride the trainer, more of your time is actually spent riding and less time preparing to ride or fixing flats on the ride. With none of the coasting, stopping, or general problems that might be encountered on the road, all the time you spend on the trainer is quality. If you are trying to get in a quick and extremely focused workout on the bike, the trainer is the most time effective method to accomplish your goal.
10. You can quit when you want or need to. One of the best parts about the trainer is that your workouts are exactly as long as you want them to be. On a road ride you may be anywhere from 5 to 20 miles from home when you reach the breaking point. If you bonk on the trainer, the couch is within 10 feet to welcome you.
Training indoors may never be as fun as the local group road ride, but a bicycle trainer is a smart and necessary tool for any serious cyclist, no matter where you live. Keeping up your fitness in adverse weather conditions or getting in short workouts when you otherwise couldn’t pays huge dividends towards making you a better cyclist.