Turbo Time: Coach Russell Kelf Explains How to Get Started

Dark days, cold miserable weather, new year’s resolutions; all reasons we use to buy a turbo trainer. Truth of the matter is, after two weeks these important training devices turn into expensive clothes hangers. The hum drum of sitting astride your steed, pedaling away whilst watching re-runs of Gavin and Stacey… the novelty soon wears off.

Warm and dry

Warm and dry

Turbo trainers are a device designed to mimic road riding. The concept is relatively simple; the rear wheel of your bike hooks into a frame, clamped into place with your tyre resting on a roller. This means your tyre is lifted from the ground and runs solely on the roller.

The rear tyre is supported by a frame and presses against a roller, creating resistance

The rear tyre is supported by a frame and presses against a roller, creating resistance

Where to start? Firstly there is a myriad of trainers to look at. If you have the room – and in some cases the money – a static bike can be purchased. Static bikes like the watt bike offer a multitude of statistics to look at, but you need to know what they mean to get the best from them. In addition to this you can set the bike up to match the dimensions of your current steed.
However, these can be noisy, and as I said, take up a lot of room. In addition to this ‘they aren’t the bike you ride outside or race on’ and rarely offer the gearing of a modern racer.

So, turbo trainers. Magnetic, wind, fluid, electric virtual reality. Which one to choose? That will predominately come down to your budget. Lets start at the basic trainer.

Wind or air resistance trainers are at the budget end of the market. These can offfer a single resistance- the rolling resistance of the trainer. The way you would increase resistance is by utilising the gears on your bike.
Statistics would have to be supplied by your own onboard computer, as there is no display.

Magnetic trainers have moved on. Previously these trainers tended to cause pedaling technique to be jerky, and not smooth as the rollers jerked from magnet to magnet. These have moved on greatly now, and the ‘jerky’ motion has been eliminated. Varying resistance can also be found on these trainers. A lever at on the frame can change the resistance, or as you move up in price, the resistance lever is attached via cable. This in turn can be attached to your bars, so you can make your workout harder or easier as it goes on.

turbo handlebar closeup

Fluid trainers offer greater smoothness and quietness, getting the closest feel to the road for the money. Some will actually let you move your bike from side to side, working on a pivot system at the back of the trainer.

Electric trainers and virtual reality trainers are quieter still, with resistance adjustable at the touch of a button. They enable smooth rolling resistance and smooth changes as long as you have a plug. Most work without being plugged in, but you are back to the realms of the single speed air resistance trainer when they have no power.
Most of these can hook up to your TV or computer. Once plugged into your ‘cyber’ trainer, you can race the famous cols of the tour. Basically you put a CD in your laptop, and your computer will display the route and climb as if you were cycling just in front of Wiggo. As the climb goes up, the computer works out the gradient and the resistance on the trainer adjusts to make it harder.
Thus, the resistance can mimic an 8% climb all from the comfort of your garage.

So what can you do to liven up those long dark dank turbo sessions locked in your garage? Well firstly, as you can’t freewheel on any imaginary descents, your pedaling is constant. So this can mean your turbo sessions can be shorter than going for a ride outside. As a coach I would recommend only spending up to 90 minutes on the turbo, although on occasion there is a necessity to go a little longer.
Don’t just sit there and pedal away to Gavin and Stacey. Use your imagination. Stand up, use your gears, sprint. I have over 200 turbo sessions, specifically for different time of your training periodisation. This helps keep you stimulated, and doesn’t turn the turbo a clothes hanger.
Don’t just use them through the winter. Once or twice a week mid season will help with speed, and can also be used for tapering into events. Take a look at the pros. At the beginning and end of races they are always seen warming up and cooling down on  turbos.

So what is stopping you?

For more advice on turbo training sessions & coaching, contact Russell at peakcoaching@btinternet.com or ask in store at Joyride Cycles.

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