A quick n’ dirty one this week, but an important one. We have had several folks inquiring about the balance between outdoor riding and trainer-based indoor rides. I thought I would add my thoughts on these two as you navigate the summer months and racing builds.
The value of the bike trainer. Riding inside has some tremendous benefits to the time-starved athlete. It is a highly effective training tool, that can allow the following:
- A time-effective session. You can get a lot done in a short time period, without many of the logistical challenges that come with riding outside (getting to open roads, bike preparation, traffic lights and more).
- Focused training. There are no distractions when on a trainer, whether we consider traffic, environment, variable terrain that can compromise the goal work of specific intervals. Settle in and get the work done: it can be highly effective and efficient training.
- Safety. Roads offer a dynamic experience, and we have all heard stories or experienced some of the perils of sharing the roads with cars. The trainer offer a safer way to train, with no traffic interactions at all.
- The gateway for positive habit creation. You hear me rattle on about the importance of proper pedaling, posture and more to help your speed return and terrain management outside. With reduced distractions, present and focused athletes can truly emphasize and burn great habits around posture and pedaling, from which they can translate to their outside riding.
- Applied riding. Believe it or not, and you should if you follow the live or video-on-demand coached bike sessions, but we can improve our interactions with the bike, as well as learning proper skills that can then be translated into outside riding. Get Dial in the basics in the indoor environment, then apply these lessons to the real world.
Gone are the days of the trainer having to be boring, with interactivity and coaching now available. There are really valid reasons to integrate the trainer into your weekly training. I would recommend that at least one of your weekly sessions be focused and trainer based, if not two. With this in mind, I would equally recommend that you aim to get outside at least once to twice weekly, most importantly in your longer riding and race specific rides. Here is why:
- You cannot feel the road, terrain and environment inside on a trainer. Aspects like standing climbing, cornering, descending and more can only be achieved outside in the real world. Familiarity breeds skill and confidence, so get out and play: it is high value.
- You need to ride the bike. Your bike has gears, and proper use of them will provide optimal speed return from your output (power). The power meter is highly accessible as a tool nowadays, and athletes have become really familiar with watts as a measurement of output, but performances are not built on the back of power output. Best use of gears relative to output and terrain navigated yields best speed, and optimal performance. It is a skill. An art. And you need to master it in order to find your best performance.
- You train and acquire skill indoors, but must apply it outside. If you go back up and read the benefits of indoor riding, I will discuss the habits and skills of great posture, pedaling, lessons to apply such as standing climbing and more. These only become valuable if you translate them to your outside riding. Races are completed outdoors, so this is the place that you do your specific training for these events.
- Fueling and hydration is a key part of racing. How you carry this fuel and fluids, and take on board while moving, is a massive part of racing. You want to become great at drinking and fueling while at race speed. This can only become a reality through practice.
I hope this paints a picture of indoor versus outdoor riding. It is clear that only riding inside before heading out to race is a limiting training experience. At the same time, ignoring the value and benefits of indoor riding is a limiting experience. This is amplified, spoken with ego intact, with the backbone of the video coaching now provided. It truly works and should be a massive part of every single performance driven Purple Patch athlete. I honestly believe video coaching will make you better. And there is no alternative to it, unless you pay me to ride with you one-to-one every single day (but that might prove cost prohibitive, and besides, you would get dangerously bored of my English sense of humor...)