Outdoor vs Indoor Winter Bike Training

Most of my cycling friends don’t own a turbo trainer (also called home trainer). They say it’s boring. They say riding outside in the winter toughens you up. I don’t see anything fun about cycling in winter when it’s wet, cold and miserable. The risk of injury, accidents, and sickness is huge. Poor visibility, poor road conditions, rain, wind, traffic, are amongst the risks that can potentially hinder your progress by making you ill, or worse, ruin your entire season, just because you wanted to rack some mileage, and show all your friends on Strava how many kilometers you have ridden. So, unless you live in Florida or Australia, I don’t see the point of going out for long rides in the winter.

Winter is a great time to take a break from training and racing, but is also a great time to try other sports and freshen things up. Cross training has huge benefits. I am lucky to live near the mountains, and I usually go cross country skiing or snow shoeing.

When I started triathlon, I was advised by my coach to get a turbo trainer, and I have never looked back. Turbo trainers are much better than the usual gym stationary bikes, as they enable you to ride your own bike throughout the year. Gym bikes are poorly fitting, but if that’s all you have, it’s better than nothing. Some people prefer rollers, which are much better for your cycling skills, but I much prefer the turbo as you can really focus on one thing: power.

Check out the the Flow Smart, an interactive Smart trainer, offering a range of training sessions, even during the winter.

winter cycling training track
zwift turbo training

Indoor cycling is a lot of fun, you just have to be creative with your sessions, and time will fly by. You can now use applications such as Zwift who are providing virtual rides competing against other real players, through London and other famous locations, whilst you’re peddling in your basement!

Training indoors has huge advantages: you don’t have to take into account the outdoor factors that can skew your training, such as wind, poor road conditions, weather, traffic, etc. All you have to do is just focus on your watts, cadence or technique and not worry about anything else.

The Canadian triathlete Lionel Sanders does almost 100% of his bike training indoors after he crashed several times during training, and got scared of riding outside. He almost only rides outside during races! He finished 2nd at the Ironman World Championships in Kona, with a bike split of 4 hours and 14 minutes for the 180km. Although his indoor bike training might be extreme, nobody can argue with his results.

Home trainers allow you to test yourself much better by determining your FTP (Functional Threshold Power, which is basically your maximum effort output for 1 hour) via 8, 20 or 30-minute time-trial efforts. Once you know this number, you now have training zones with which you can play with. Furthermore, you will know when to go hard and when to recover, the watts don’t lie. On the road, how many people actually know when to ride easy or hard, and instead always go at the same perceived effort? If you don’t have a power meter, you can base your workouts on your heart rate zones, or simply do cadence, speed and technique drills. The options are endless.

Here is 60-minute lactate threshold session, with percentages from your FTP:

  • Warm up 10 minutes @ 60-70%
  • Cadence drills 5 x (30sec 110-120 rpm + 30sec recovery)
  • Main set 5 x (3min @ 85% + 2min @ 100% + 1min @ 105% + 2min recovery)
  • Cool down 10 minutes easy spin

This is a really challenging session, as you can see from my workout data. But believe me, the hour will fly by. Make sure you have plenty of water to drink, and a fan in order to keep your body temperature down, remember, you’re in your basement. So, whilst my friends are cycling outside in miserable conditions racking up their base miles and getting ill in the process, I am in my basement developing my threshold power and taking it to the next level. Yes, my Strava account will look strange, I won’t have kilometers to show off or pictures to share on social media, but only hard work to be proud of, and that’s what matters.

Thierry Bessède

For other exciting workouts, cycling coaching and tips on winter training, please contact me at thierry@jurasports.com

garmin indoor training data
2018-03-16T16:48:04+00:00 February 5th, 2018|Blog|