The complete guide to turbo training

Title The complete guide to turbo training
Lead So you have got yourself a turbo trainer and want to use it to good effect to make you a fitter, stronger cyclist. We've put together a guide which will help you get the most from your new toy!
Image complete-gudie-to-turbotraining.jpg
Author (Boffin) Bob
Author Url @bike_boffin_bob
User 18
Id 3
Timestamp 1,411,119,302
Edited 1
Active Yes

Body

So you have got yourself a turbo trainer and want to use it to good effect to make you a fitter, stronger cyclist. You have probably already set the thing up and given it a whirl. You may have found that things felt a little different to riding on the road. There is no freewheeling and the thing tends to stop if you back off even for a moment. It probably feels a lot harder to turn the pedals than it does on the road for the equivalent gear, pretty much like you are going up a hill. You’ve got no airflow to cool you down like you have when slicing through the air on a road ride so pretty soon you are perspiring immensely. This is normal. Welcome to the wonderful world of turbo training.

Understanding how to set up your “turbo cave” will help you maximise your potential and will make something that initially resembles an instrument of torture into a more enjoyable experience. It will also do wonders for your cycling and general fitness levels. Follow this guide to get the most out of your new friend. Learn to love the turbo and you'll be amazed at the results.

The turbo trainer

If you’re reading this having already bought a turbo trainer then you have the basics. A turbo and a bike is all you really need. If you’re looking for advice on what turbo to buy, then drop us a line. We are not affiliated to any manufacturers so we can only offer personal advice.

The turbo tyre

A turbo tyre is often recommended by the turbo trainer manufacturer. This isn’t a requirement if you are using a direct drive turbo of course. A turbo specific tyre is made from a tougher compound so doesn’t wear down so much against the roller as a traditional tyre. They also dissipate heat more efficiently than ordinary tyres and can reduce noise levels (or so the marketing says). We strongly advise that you don’t use your best road tyres regularly as the roller will wear them down much quicker than they wear on the road. They can also get very hot very quickly as they don’t have so much material to conduct away the heat. This can result in an explosive failure which can be dangerous as well as expensive. An alternative to the dedicated turbo tyre is one of your old training tyres.

Speed Sensor

Possibly the most useful bit of kit you can put on your bike when on the turbo (other than a dedicated power meter). You probably have one on your bike already. This needs to be on the back wheel (of course) for it to be useful on the turbo trainer. Using a speed sensor on the turbo enables our software to estimate the power that you are putting in. If you are lucky enough to have a dedicated power meter then we will use the actual power reading, however, it is still useful to be able to see speed as well.

If you want to learn more about how we derive a power number in watts from speed please read our “How does ProxyPower ™ work” white paper.

Clothing

As little as possible apart from a good pair of cycling shorts, socks and cycling shoes. If training in the time trial position it can be beneficial to use a skin suit instead of road cycling shorts as the padding can be in a different position. Riding in the TT position with regular road shorts can create soreness.

The front wheel chock

Chocks are usually deployed to stop wheels moving. In this case the usual requirement is to elevate the front wheel to level the bike up, as the back wheel has been raised off the ground to allow it to rotate. You can buy a dedicated turbo chock for this, or use a piece of wood, or a brick or an old book.
Aside from the basic turbo trainer and a bike, there are a few extras that can really help enhance your training experience. These collectively form you “turbo cave” training environment.

A Fan

As you have probably already discovered turbo training can be hot work. The current male BBAR TT Champion does all of his turbo training in the garden, and still uses a fan. Ideally you need a fan on a stand so that it’s at body height. One with side to side movement on the head unit is ideal. In our experience it’s worth paying a bit more for a solidly built metal one rather than a plastic one. Chances are you are going to be setting up your “turbo cave” and taking it down again on a regular basis unless you have the luxury of a spare room, cellar or garden shed that can become a semi-permanent set up.

You need to keep your body cooled and hydrated in a turbo session. Sweating profusely, more than you would on an equivalent road session, is a sign that you are overheating. This will affect your heart rate and how much power you can put out. The cooler you can keep the body during intense workouts the more enjoyable those sessions will become, and you may notice a performance increase.

Sweat catcher

A sweat catcher is basically a long skinny towel that stretches from the seat post to the handle bars fixed by velco straps. It does what it says: catches drips of sweat and prevents them from landing on bike components or on the floor.

Towel

One essential accessory is a towel !!

Turbo mat

A bit like a yoga mat only made out of stronger material. It goes under the bike and the turbo to protect the floor.

Heart Rate monitor

You probably already have one of these. Heart rate is useful to help measure your efforts. The British Cycling web site has a page dedicated to explaining and calculating your heart rate training zones. Heart rate is affected by external and variable conditions, such as body temperature, what you have eaten and drunk during the day and how long ago that was. Training zones defined by power are much more accurate however, not everybody is lucky enough to have a power meter. Heart rate is most applicable to lower training zones where it is going to be pretty stable, for example, if you are doing a 20 minute endurance level interval on the turbo you would expect your heart rate to be in HR zone two for the entire interval, maybe elevating slowly towards the end due to your body heating up. If you go from endurance level to a 20 second max effort sprint your HR will lag the effort and you will probably only max out at the end of the 20s, and it will then recover / decline in the recovery period. How quickly it recovers is an indicator of efficiency / fitness.

The key thing with heart rate is to know your limits and to keep an eye on your heart rate when doing turbo sessions. If you feel uncomfortable or if your heart rate is higher or lower than you would expect for the level of effort then take time to evaluate the circumstances and take the appropriate action, which may be to terminate the session.

Power Meter

A power meter is the most accurate measure your efforts. If you already have one then that will integrate with Power+ and can be used with web player in conjunction with a bike computer so that you can see your power. The British Cycling web site has a page dedicated to explaining and calculating your power training zones. For those without a power meter our software to estimate the power that you are putting in using ProxyPower &#0153. If you want to learn more about how we derive a power number in watts from speed please read our “How does ProxyPower &#0153 work” white paper.

Computer (!)

You need a computer to run our software ☺ either “web player” or Power+. To run Power+ the computer will also need an ANT+ stick. Having a workout session play out in front of you is a great motivator. It tells you when to start, when to stop and how much effort to put in at the various intervals in the profile you have selected. One of the challenges of interval sessions on the turbo is remembering what to do and when to do it. Web Player and Power+ do that for you so you can let your mind wander or listen to music.

Which brings us to: Music

If you happen to be lucky enough for your turbo cave to be in the middle of nowhere then winding up the volume on your sound system isn’t going to be an issue however for most people this will come down to ear buds or headphones. Investment in a decent pair of wireless headphones gets rid of the hassle of dangling wires.

Other than that all you need is your legs and a drinks bottle.

Happy Turbo Training