Don’t ditch your turbo
Think twice before you pack away your trainer. Training on your bike in a controlled environment enables you to concentrate on the cycling fundamentals, says Alain Torri
In the last few years, static cycling has changed a lot, mostly because of the advanced technology of bike computers, the affordability of heart rate monitors, cadence and power meters and the successful integration with social media and development of new, smart platforms such as Zwift.
At the same time, this development of technology runs the risk of moving the focus away from the main object of indoor static cycling, which is training in a controlled environment – the near equivalent of running on a track or swimming in a pool.
Since it presents a controlled environment, we can focus on technique and forget about the potential dangers and distractions that we find on the roads like traffic, junctions, potholes, hills and slippery road surfaces.
Training on a turbo is the best opportunity to improve several aspects of cycling which we can apply when we move onto the road.
By concentrating on the leg action, it is much easier to concentrate on all the different muscle groups involved in spinning the pedals smoothly, and to ensure consistent strength throughout the revolution. By breaking a complete revolution of the pedals into quarters and concentrating on one section at a time, you can identify which muscles are engaged in the different pedal positions. Then, it’s a matter of putting all the sections back together once all the quarters have been explored separately. Try thinking about your pedal stroke as a clock face, with 12, 3, 6 and 9 o’clock points of reference.
During hard efforts or recovery intervals, it’s always good to run a system check of your body to make sure your position on the bike is the most efficient and that fatigue does not affect posture. Starting from your feet and working your way up the body to your contact points, check you are maintaining good form on the bike and a steady upper body. Get a friend to watch you side on and directly behind as you ride and point out any rocking motion. Better yet, get them to film you and watch it back.
Pedalling one-legged drills in your session and focusing on maintaining a smooth pedal stroke without any lateral movement of the knee can help to train the legs to contract and expand in one plane during the rotation. In turn, it helps you prevent injuries and ensure that all the power generated by the muscles is transferred to the pedals without waste. Try pedalling at your usual cadence for a minute on each side, focusing on keeping the pedal stroke smooth through your entire body and through 5 o’clock to 7 o’clock.
Practising riding at different cadences helps to develop overall cycling ability, but a general focus on holding 90-95rpm with 100-105rpm accelerations makes up a key part of Oxford Tri’s static bike training. Working in this range has a great positive impact on the overall pedalling efficiency when you eventually transfer it onto the road.
A controlled environment is the perfect place to check training progress and improvement of fitness since the same test can be carried out at regular intervals and the result cannot be spoiled by external factors such as wind or forced deviations from your target effort. Although a test can be run based on perceived effort, it is advisable in this case to use some of the technology available to monitor and record the effort to set up benchmarks for following tests. If you have access to one, try out a Functional Threshold Power test on a Wattbike and use a heart rate monitor for added data. If you only have access to a power meter or heart rate monitor, that will work too.