The training program for indoor conditions.

by Joshua “Too Tall” Simonds

Joshua Simonds races tandems and is a veteran of PBP. He set a tandem course record at Calvin’s Challenge this year. When not on the bike, he’s a computer wank, cycling coach, massage therapist, natural cosmetic manufacturer & retailer and essential oil & sports supplement supplier living in Washington, D.C.

Indoor Cycle Training:     PART 1     Part 2     Indoor Challenge


One sure thing lets me know that fall weather is fast approaching the Washington, D.C. area. My wife has just dropped a gentle hint for me to “take a look” at Lois Lane, her trusty second road bike that she uses mostly for indoor training.

Every year with the onset of cooler weather, we look forward to a change in our outdoor cycling routines ÷ a break from long hours spent traveling to recreational rides, preparing for races and planning our busy lives. With the arrival of fall we spend less time training outdoors and switch to our winter training plans. Change is good for us and we have more time for family, friends and other off season training activities.

Indoor cycle training is a discipline we rely on for focused exercise. We might choose this activity when: weather is bad, time is at a premium, we are fitting bikes with new equipment, we’re testing against a benchmark, monitoring performance, need an uninterrupted specific type of workout, learning new skills or, as the late great Greta Garbo might have said, “I vaaan to be alooooone”.

Indoor cycle training is not something reserved for winter months and bad weather. Rather, it is the most effective and rewarding exercise to do when conditions and circumstances will not allow me to get outside and ride or I need to have a very specific workout. In fact, I judiciously use an indoor cycle trainer throughout the year, more on that later.

This first of two articles will help you plan your indoor cycle workouts and give you a few samples of favorite routines. We will not attempt to develop a complete cycling program. Instead, let’s concentrate on how to make the most of your time and to discover the joys of indoor cycle training. The second article will add to your repertoire of indoor cycling techniques and routines. Also, in the second article, we examine results of your workouts and gain insight to prepare for the outdoor cycling season.

Why indoor cycle training?

Why we would even consider a program of indoor cycle training? Recently I asked a group of long distance cyclists who use an indoor cycle trainer about their purposes and motivation, how they monitor their training, how indoor training helps, and about the environment they set up to do their training. Here are their answers:

Consistently, riders mentioned: safety, convenience, specificity, efficiency, measurable performance gains and easy ability to monitor and record workout data.

An indoor cycle trainer is the perfect venue for trying new techniques or equipment and to measure performance. Also, it is very useful for specific workouts that might otherwise be risky if performed on an open road for the first time. Examples of some very specific drills are: one leg spinning drills, maximum effort sprint repeats, low RPM high watt hill climbs, and anaerobic threshold (AT) intervals lasting 15 minuntes or more. To perform each of these examples safely outdoors requires good bike handling skills and an awareness of one’s surroundings.

By using an indoor cycle trainer to become familiar with these drills and techniques you can gain confidence and translate them to the road at a later date.

Monitoring training results

Most indoor cyclists record performance data. These anciens of the stationary cycle trainer know how rewarding it is to compare results from previous workouts. Keeping notes is an easy way to chart progress and learn how to modify routines to get the most out of each session.

Word to the wise: if you repeating the same workout each time or just slog through 30 minutes of directionless exercise than you are wasting your time. To log the basic data from indoor cycling, make a notebook and record: date, duration, average HR, average speed, average watts (if available) and workout description. In addition to these basics you can also record: max watts, max HR, time spent in HR zone(s), recovery time, best time on a particular course, and which workout was done according to personal training plan.

Benefits of indoor training

Depending on what your goal is during your training session, you could: build endurance, increase cruising speed, increase your AT, raise your time-trial speed, get together with friends, lose or maintain weight, or all of the above.

It is important for you to plan ahead and decide what you will accomplish for each workout. Set long term goals such as maintaining an aerobic base by riding at or near your AT for 20% of a one hour long workout. Or focus on strength maintenance by using high resistance and/or gearing with low RPMs for 15 minutes during a 45 minute workout. (For more detailed examples, see “Favorite Workouts” below).

Identify goals and ask yourself what areas need improvement. Talk to experienced athletes who you respect and are willing to share their experiences. Find a book on the subject and take notes (see references below). Find a reputable cycling coach and discuss your goals.

Setting up the training environment

Want to have a really great indoor workout, stay cool and reach your goals? Try a few of these tips from the experts:

  • Play your favorite upbeat music loudly! Use a CD player with a “repeat” function.
  • Invite a friend to join the party, bring a towel, water bottle and favorite music.
  • Buy a wall-mounted oscillating fan or use a box fan tilted up.
  • Get a cheap TV/VCR combo to play old movies.
  • For easy cleanup use a 100% cotton area rug under the trainer. Afterwards, throw it in the washer.
  • Use a 5″ or taller block of wood under the front wheel to simulate hills.
  • Keep a spray bottle within reach to spray on your face and chest.
  • Race with the lights dimmed.

Overcoming boredom and staleness

Be creative, have fun, get crazy and find ways to make this into something you look forward to. Here is what I do to keep the home fires burning. During December through February every Tuesday evening I have an open invitation to all my cycling friends to come to my house for an evening of fun and cycling entertainment. I have plenty of rock and roll music, rollers to warm up on, strong fan and a chalk board A.K.A. “The Wall of Fame” to record race times.

Change your routine and follow a plan to help you reach your goals. Once a month or every two weeks, test yourself and chart progress on a pre-set course.

Favorite Workouts

Form Sprints

Use a preset flat CompuTrainer race course or set the resistance on your trainer to a medium setting (about 200 watts). Write a script for racers to follow and place it where everyone can see it. I write these on a large piece of cardboard.
Repeat twice: (16 min. Form Sprints + 10 min. warm-up / cool down)

Minutes Workout
5 Warm up (any gear)
2 Small ring and 19T (fast spin @ 100 + RPM)
1 Big ring all out seated sprint
4 Small ring and 15T recovery (<60 RPM)
3 Big ring and 15T standing sprint, keep light contact with saddle
4 Small ring and 15T recovery (<60 RPM)
1 Small ring and 15T pedal with one leg
1 Small ring and 15T switch legs
5 Small ring cool down

Strength Maintenance

Use a custom CompuTrainer race course with a constant 6% grade or set the resistance on your trainer to a medium setting (about 200 watts).
(48 min. Strength Maintenance + 20 min. warm-up / cool down)

Minutes Workout
10 Small ring and 21T, 20T, or 19T (fast spin about 90 RPM )
10 Big ring and 15T (seated, slow spin about 30 RPM)
4 Small ring and 21T, 20T, or19T
5 Big ring and 13T or 12T (standing with butt brushing saddle, shoulders low to the bars and medium spin about 40-50 RPM)
4 Small ring and 21T, 20T, or 19T
5 (seated) Big ring and 15T (slow spin about 30 RPM)
10 Small ring and 21T, 20T, or 19T (spin about 50 RPM )


Efficiency Race

Ride a pre-set course such as the Mogul Bismark course (CompuTrainer) for 30 minutes using any gearing. If you use a resistance trainer, set the resistance to a medium setting (about 200 watts) and allow racers to use any gearing desired.)
The rules for this race are:

  • Maintain AT heart rate with deviation no more than +/- 5 BPM for 1 minute. (Note: if you do not know your AT, choose a HR that allows you to count to six without gasping.)
  • Sprinting one minute before the end of a race is not allowed!
  • Each violation of the AT heart rate rule is assessed a 1/10 mile penalty.

At the end of the race note how far you traveled. This revealing race demonstrates a rider’s efficiency, skill and conditioning.

Stay tuned!!! Next time we examine the results of your workouts to gain insight to prepare for the upcoming cycling season and add more favorite workouts to your collection.

Books / References:

1. The Cyclists Training Bible – Joe Friel
2. Off Season Training for Cyclists – Edmund Burke
3. Cycle Log: Diary & Guide for the Cyclist – Tim Houts & Jan Bass

Further information: E-mail Josh Simonds at: or visit