6 Top Trainer Tips for Indoor Cycling as Winter Rolls Around

Fall can be the most beautiful time of year for riding: The crisp, cool weather, the crunch of leaves, the occasional hot apple cider and donut stop at the farm stand along the road… And then, suddenly, one day you wake up to snow and below-freezing temperatures, and your bubble bursts. For most of us, snow is the reminder that it’s time to start bringing our cycling indoors, at least some of the time, in order to get the most out of our workouts, avoid freezing our fingers and toes, and—let’s be honest—possibly finally binge-watch those Netflix shows we’ve added to our lists over the last several months. Here’s how to seamlessly transition from riding outside to having fun (or something like it) indoors on the trainer:

Set up your ‘studio’

You don’t need to have a dedicated home gym to make the shift from riding outside to riding inside, but if you can snag a semi-permanent space somewhere in your house to stay set up for the season, life will be much easier. Setting up and tearing down the trainer every time you ride isn’t just a hassle, it’s a time suck. So, if you can find a spot (you need about a yoga mat’s worth of space) to set up your trainer where you can leave it set up, do that instead. Think guest room, corner of the office, basement or garage. What you’ll want on hand:

  • Trainer: If you don’t already have a trainer, this is a great list of indoor trainer options from ultra-budget-friendly to trainers with all the bells and whistles. 
  • Bike (obviously)
  • Cycling shoes
  • Towel for sweat
  • Water bottle
  • Mat for under the bike to prevent grease stains, sweat pooling and slipping in your shoes
  • Fan
  • This is also a great spot for mobility equipment like bands, as well as free weights: Having a full station makes you more likely to do those exercises the physical therapist gave you
  • Screen/headphones (more on that in a second)

Choose your entertainment

Some people love Zwift riding and racing, while others may prefer to pick a fun series on Netflix to indulge in as they pedal. Some people enjoy watching live or pre-recorded bike racing from a place like FloBikes,  while others will listen to podcasts or music, or just stare at the wall and strictly focus on the pedaling. Decide what you want to do for entertainment and set up with headphones and a screen accordingly. Do this BEFORE your first trainer workout, don’t try to cram the setup into your training time—somehow, it always takes longer than you expect to organize your entertainment. 

(For more apps to improve your cycling, check out our list here!)

Plan shorter, harder efforts

Don’t try to stick to your long ride schedule on the trainer. Not only is it boring, it’s not nearly as efficient. Instead, look for trainer workouts that focus on shorter, harder efforts that will get you sweaty in a hurry. (Selene Yeager has some great ideas over at Most trainer rides should run between 45 and 90 minutes. Much more than that will offer diminishing returns, unless you’re a hardcore cyclist doing a coach-recommended workout. 

Do a quick warmup and cooldown

Again, here’s your chance to do those darn physical therapist-recommended stretches. Take anywhere from 60 seconds to 5 minutes pre and post-workout to stretch, do a quick yoga flow, or even sneak in a set of pushups for some strength work. You don’t need to overthink this or spend hours finding the perfect routine, just do something!

Use your extra time wisely

We’ll talk in coming weeks about winter-proofing one of your bikes for outdoor riding in bad weather, but in addition to that, you can use this more efficient training time to do things like organizing your gear closet and getting rid of old cycling kit that no longer fits or is in rough shape. You can also take this opportunity to do the ‘admin’ work of being a cyclist: Talking to a coach about a training plan for the next few months, picking a goal race and signing up, and of course, making sure all of your bikes are properly covered by bike insurance!

Feature Photo by David Hellmann on Unsplash

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