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


Old man winter has been kind to us Easterners thus far. Mild temperatures and very little ice on the roads are reason enough to throw on the woolies and go for a delicious fixed gear ride especally on weekends when us working folks can ride during daylight hours.

Unfortunately, weather, short days and time constraints all play a factor in the amount of time we can spend outdoors cycling and cross training. Because it is so accessible, relatively inexpensive and easy to use, a cycle trainer is a popular choice for indoor training.

This article explores some more advanced indoor training techniques such as how to monitor and analyze workouts and how to prepare for the outdoor ultra cycling season. Last we show you some more favorite routines.

There are many elements to a well rounded indoor cycle training regimen. Positive attitude, planning, proper technique, analysis and interpretation of results are skills you should develop to get the most out of your training.

Getting Psyched

How do you get mentally prepared for a workout? A positive attitude is essential for successful and productive resistance trainer sessions. If you can accept the fact that a great attitude is a choice we make, than you have won the battle. Hey! Nobody pays us to put on skimpy lycra clothes, exert ourselves and suffer like dogs!!! That would be nice, but face it that will never happen. Instead, you choose a healthy lifestyle that includes sports goals.

” A positive attitude is essential for successful and productive resistance trainer sessions.”

Always bring a positive goal oriented attitude to each workout session and you will have the best chance at reaching your goals. It is that simple.

Planning for success

There are as many ways to sabotage a well-intentioned workout plan, as there are ways to make it a success. For example; my wife and I often arrive home from work frustrated and moody. Washington, D.C. is no paradise so give me a break (you get the idea). If I see that the resistance trainer is not setup or maybe I failed to reserve my favorite time to train then I might flop down on the couch, pout and feel sorry for myself. What a loser! you say? Don’t let that happen to you. Here are some ways to get prepared for an indoor resistance training session:

  • Plan ahead: Mark your calendar, know what will be accomplish, arrange your day to allow enough time to workout and honor other commitments. Perform routine maintenance on your bike and resistance trainer after each training session.
  • Creativity: If you miss a workout or must change plans then be flexible. Missing a workout or two will not affect your goals. Trainer broke? The spouse on a rampage? Dog got fleas? Relax! Fix the trainer, buy some flowers and powder the dog. In short, be adaptable and solution oriented.
  • Daydream: Yes, I said daydream! When you are traveling to work, waiting in line or having a private moment take some time to imagine how great you will feel after the workout. Acknowledge the worthiness of this future accomplishment.

Indoor cycling techniques and routines

It is important to spend quality time on a cycle trainer. Sitting on top of a cycle trainer and turning the pedals with no plan of attack is a recipe for burnout. Create preplanned work out routines and have them ready to go. Keep all your workout routines in a binder or easily accessible file. Practice new training techniques in a safe environment. Max effort intervals, adjusting new equipment and one-legged drills are examples of techniques that you might try for the first time on an indoor cycle trainer. Without the distraction and danger of cars, dogs and traffic lights you will be able to concentrate on the job at hand.

Every indoor cycle trainer session should devote some time to achieving good form on the bike and a smooth pedal stroke. Because the bicycle is held upright by the cycle trainer, some riders will begin to use poor pedaling technique.

“Every indoor cycle trainer session should devote some time to achieving good form on the bike and a smooth pedal stroke.”

Rollers: Go Euro!

Let me sing to you the many virtues of these fabled European torture devices. Rollers are hands down the best way to maintain bike-handling skills. I won’t tell you how to achieve nirvana riding rollers or the joy you will know when you realize how simple and efficient they are. I also won’t tell you that roller racing used to be a big time sport in Belgium and the USA, that would be sort of a tease wouldn’t it?

By using gear choices and resistance you can get as good a workout as you can on a regular resistance trainer. Because there is nothing holding you up other than the centrifugal force of your wheels and balance, they are not for everyone. Two poker cards stuck in your spokes will give as much resistance as most people can handle when riding rollers.

I use rollers as a 20 to 30 minute warm up prior to riding the CompuTrainer. The rollers help me to maintain road riding skills and most importantly a fluid pedal stroke.

Analyzing the numbers

Maintaining a log of your workouts that includes performance data is an excellent and rewarding way to identify results, pinpoint weaknesses and plan for future workouts. In the previous article we identified basic and advanced data to track.

Now let’s look at these data points and explain how they are used:

  • Date: Charting progress over time helps to identify where you are in a training plan. Also, you can correlate events with results such as illness, weight loss, etc. Example: you feel great, really great on the bike. Count back on your training calendar and analyze your training volume, intensity and rest. Make a note to yourself and see if this pattern can become a “secret weapon” for your next goal.
  • Duration: Record time spent exercising and stressing your body, e.g., cycling, stretching, running, weight lifting, etc. to plan and accomplish weekly goals. This is especially useful for people who have busy lives. Example: your weekly hour goal is to spend two hours a day Monday through Saturday exercising. Tuesday you miss a planned workout. Accommodate this lapse in your routine by transferring an extra half-hour of exercise to four alternate days.
  • Watts: Watts or power are measurable, precise and revealing methods of determining effort. Example: by observing watts while performing a seated hill climb, you can see and feel the results of sliding forward or back on the saddle.
  • HR: Heart rate is an excellent indicator of overall condition. Example: you notice that you are not able to achieve your expected high HR during a sustained hard effort. This could indicate that you need rest or are getting ill.
  • Speed/ Time: Speed and time are primarily used for goal oriented training and testing. For example, ride a preset course designed for high speed power work (see “Favorite Workouts”, Pop-the-Top). Try to achieve a new top speed by focusing on good form and high cadence during the down hills.
  • Description: Record and describe workouts including modifications and ways to improve quality. Example: 1/11/01 Raced 1/2 Mogul Bismarck course, recovered 10 min. and did 10 mi. TT at AT. Need fan in face during TT.
  • HR Zones: Knowing your HR zones is a measurable way to follow a training plan and interpret your accomplishments for yourself and others. Example: on a group ride your goal is to not ride above a certain zone.
  • Testing: Regular testing on a preset course using similar conditions and equipment is a reasonable predictor of performance gains and potential. Example: do a 10 mile TT every four weeks. Performance gains can be interpreted as successful achievement of training goals.
  • Training Plan: Riders who take the time and effort to follow a training plan will benefit by gaining control and insight of their fitness. Future goals are much easier to plan and predict by knowing past performance indicators.

Monitoring training results

A great way to monitor your training results is by performing a biweekly or monthly test. By testing yourself regularly, you will get immediate insight into how well your training is going and see results over time. See the TT test below in “Favorite Workouts”.

Look at results of tests, best/worst performances and record observations in your logbook. You will find these periodic reviews invaluable later when you analyze several months worth of data.

Review your logs and look for indicators of changes in performance which might include: test results, ability to sustain higher HR, faster HR recovery time, ability to generate more power (watts), or weight gain or loss.

Preparing for the outdoor cycling season

The ultra-cycling season typically begins in April in much of the country. For many of us, April comes too soon and some riders fail to prepare adequately for these early season rides.

Maintain fitness and build strength throughout the season to prepare for the upcoming ultra-cycling season. Build endurance as the outdoor cycling season approaches by increasing time and intensity on the trainer. Longer hill climbs and marathon weekend trainer sessions may be appropriate depending on your goals. Develop and build cycling skills during the off-season.

Standard resistance cycle trainers are not sensitive to pedal stroke and most riders will lose pedaling skills when riding them. One legged drills, rollers and high speed/high cadence resistance trainer workouts are techniques you can use to maintain pedaling skills.

Favorite Workouts

Here are two advanced workouts, the first is a complex workout that can be done either at top speed for maximum aerobic and power benefit or at a more moderate speed for fitness, weight loss and strength maintenance. The second workout “TT Test” is a mock time trial. For the TT Test you should use similar equipment and conditions each time you repeat the test.

Pop the Top

CompuTrainer Setup/Instructions:   Enter custom 5.8 mile CompuTrainer course by following the manufacturer’s instructions:

Distance Grade
0.5 mi 0
0.2 mi +5
0.5 mi -5
0.5 mi 0
0.2 mi +5
0.5 mi -5
0.5 mi 0
0.2 mi +5
0.5 mi -5
0.5 mi 0
0.2 mi +5
0.5 mi -5
1.0 mi 0

Warm-up for 15 minutes at 90+ rpm in any gear. Ride the workout: aim for high speed, remain seated, push hard on hills and increase RPM on downhills. When you are adept at riding the workout, then build to two or three times through (without repeating the warm-up)! Cool-down for 5 min at 90+ rpm when finished. (For convenience, I write the directions on a large piece of cardboard.)

Cycle trainer Setup:

Set the resistance on your cycle trainer to a medium setting (about 200 watts).
15 min.: warm-up (any gear)
Repeat four times:

Minutes Workout
2 Big ring and 17T or 15T (fast spin @ 90 + rpm )
1 Big ring and 15T or 13T (fast spin @ 90 + rpm )
2 Big ring and 17T or 15T (very fast spin @ 100 + rpm )
5 cool-down Small ring and 15T or 13T (recovery @ 30 + rpm)

When you are adept at riding the workout, then build to two or three times through (without repeating the warm-up)!

TT Test

CompuTrainer Instructions:

  • Choose the flat level 10 mile course.
  • Use a strong fan aimed at your face.
  • Warm-up for 15 minutes before the time trial.
  • Wear HR monitor or measure every five minutes and record results with overall time and average watts.

Cycle trainer instructions:

  • Set the resistance on your trainer to a medium setting (about 200 watts).
  • Use a strong fan aimed at your face.
  • Warm-up for 15 minutes before the time trial.
  • Wear HR monitor or measure every five minutes and record results with overall time.

Books / References:

  1. Fixed Gear Guru Sheldon Brown:
  2. The Complete Book of Long-Distance Cycling: Build the Strength, Skills & Confidence to Ride as Far as Possible. Author: Burke, Edmund R. / Pavelka, Ed. October 2000.
  3. Heart Rate Monitor Book for Outdoor or Indoor Cyclists: A Heart Zone Training Program Author: Edwards, Sally. November 2000.
  4. Kreitler Rollers:

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