Winter Training Indoors Versus Outdoors

Is it advantageous to winter where the climate allows outdoor bicycle training / competition throughout the winter, or is it advantageous to take a break from competition and build base miles with a focus on basics on indoor bicycle trainers?

Most people strongly prefer outdoor riding to indoor training. When was the last time you decided to ride the indoor trainer rather than ride outside when the weather was nice?

I know it is difficult to motivate oneself to ride the indoor trainer ~5 times a week to maintain weight and fitness. However, I believe it is beneficial to build base at a slightly reduced training level targeted at maximizing efficiency by focusing on basics: bike fit; form / posture on the bike; breathing efficiency; pedaling efficiency. The indoor trainer enables maximum focus on the basics.

It is also a good idea to interject some fun into the winter training program by substituting one workout per week with a fun cross-training activity, e.g., skiing. Balance sports are excellent cross-training alternatives.

Until the first Racer-Mate came out in the late ’70s, rollers or Schwinn health club exercise bike were the only indoor trainer options, but the Schwinn health club exercise bike is not conducive to focusing on the basics, and rollers are primarily suited to expert level riders. There are now all sorts of “fixed bike” indoor trainers options, as well as a variety of health club and “spin bike” options, but rollers still prevail among the purists.

There are now also all sorts of “Smart” device options to augment the indoor bicycle trainer experience. At the simplest level, these consist of bike race video, and at higher levels, these consist of “Smart” device controlling the indoor trainer load while tracking performance to place the rider in the bike race video. Of course, you can race against your previous efforts or live against anybody in the world with the same software set-up.

I admit these “Smart” device augmentations are amusing and help to relieve the boredom and monotony of the “Pain Cave”, but I do not believe they help to achieve the goal of maximizing efficiency.

Bobs-Bicycles Pain Cave
Bobs-Bicycles Pain Cave

There is also the old fashion option of indoor training sessions with team / club mates lead by a coach who insures thorough ~60 minute workout focused at maximizing efficiency. Some inefficiencies will be apparent or caught by the coach / team mates, but consultation with experts (bike-fit, physical therapist) are necessary to assure maximum efficiency. Typically, these experts will quickly spot any inefficiencies, and then it will take weeks / months of practice to correct.

The old fashion option fosters team spirit and camaraderie, and relationships developed in the Pain Cave produce teamwork as soon as the racing season arrives.

Those that winter where they can train / race outdoors throughout the winter may be missing more than they realize.

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