Smart-trainer op­tions

Thanks to in­ter­ac­tive apps, the days of star­ing at a garage wall are gone; but how much do you need to spend to get the most out of turbo train­ing?

Cycling Weekly - - Contents -

The idea of a turbo be­ing ‘smart’ will be an anath­ema to the tra­di­tion­al­ist who views it as an in­stru­ment of tor­ture that re­quires you to switch your brain off be­fore get­ting on it, but with the rise of apps such as Zwift, Skuga and Strava, sud­denly in­door train­ing is be­com­ing not only more so­phis­ti­cated, but also more fun.

A smart turbo trainer pairs with other tech such as com­put­ers and smart­phones to en­able you to get more from your work­out. Via ANT+ and Blue­tooth as well as your home Wifi, two-way in­ter­ac­tion with smart­phones and com­put­ers al­lows a whole host of new pos­si­bil­i­ties.

Zwift, which has a down­load­able app with a monthly sub­scrip­tion, is the leader in this field, let­ting you ride with other cy­clists in a vir­tual en­vi­ron­ment. Com­bin­ing train­ing with gam­ing has al­ready ban­ished the old ha­tred of the turbo for the new gen­er­a­tion of cy­clists. But does this change in at­ti­tude to­wards turbo train­ing mean you have to buy a turbo that costs more than some peo­ple spend on a bike?

“To get started on Zwift you don’t need a smart trainer — the min­i­mum re­quire­ment is a speed and ca­dence sen­sor,” says Chris Snook of Zwift. “If you‘ve got a ba­sic set of rollers or a ba­sic turbo trainer you can get started on that. The thing you do lack is the au­to­matic re­sis­tance ad­just­ment to­wards the ter­rain you’re rid­ing.”

Zwift has sim­u­lated gra­di­ents built into its cour­ses so that if you hit a hill, a smart trainer will auto-ad­just the re­sis­tance so that you need to pedal harder or change down. A ‘dumb’ trainer or rollers won’t auto-ad­just — the user has to change the re­sis­tance man­u­ally, los­ing the vir­tual re­al­ity el­e­ment by do­ing so.

Snook con­tin­ues: “What can be dif­fi­cult is if you’re on rollers [rather than a smart trainer] and you’re on a group ride, the game will sud­denly re­quire that you need to pull out 300 watts to get up a climb. That’s quite dif­fi­cult to do on a set of rollers with­out any re­sis­tance. You’ve got to change up to in­crease the re­sis­tance in­stead of chang­ing down as you would on a real hill.”

How­ever, among the 30 per cent of non-smart trainer-us­ing Zwifters there are some rid­ers of note: “Lionel San­ders,

a triath­lete who did a mon­ster bike leg at Kona, uses rollers,” says Snook. “Ob­vi­ously if you’re rid­ing on your own it doesn’t matter that much be­cause you’re push­ing and hit­ting the zones you need to.

Former pro Dean Down­ing, now a coach with Train­sharp, says: “I hate turbo train­ers but I did train a lot on a Wat­tbike dur­ing my rac­ing ca­reer. Work­ing as a coach, many of my clients work full-time and have fam­i­lies so they don’t want to go out at 8pm in the dark and cold.

“It ul­ti­mately comes down to per­sonal pref­er­ence,” says Down­ing. “One of my clients uses a Wa­hoo KICKR and Zwift, while an­other trains with a Stages power me­ter on a stan­dard turbo. It’s about break­ing the bore­dom down.”

Apps like Zwift have rev­o­lu­tionised in­door train­ing ses­sions

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