Nine things I wish I knew when I started indoor cycling...

And yes, the surprising extent to which human sweat can corrode a headset is there at number six

Image shows Sam Gupta riding indoors on a turbo trainer
(Image credit: Future)

With the emergence of a raft of turbo trainers, indoor bikes and accessories by the bucket load, indoor cycling has all but established itself as a whole new discipline, and as this niche of cycling grows so does the list of faux pas one can make. 

So without further ado, let’s get into all the things I wish I knew when I first started training indoors.

1. Not drinking enough

Image shows Sam Gupta riding indoors on a turbo trainer

(Image credit: Future)

Not drinking enough can be a mistake we make on the road too, but the level to which you can go wrong indoors is amplified to the same level of not drinking enough while outdoors in summer. 

This is because with the strong fans us cyclists need to use to stay cool while riding indoors it can mean we don’t notice how much liquid we’re losing. 

Also, while riding at home, I for one can get complacent about filling up enough bottles when I know that I’ll be able to have a big drink straight after. Really, that’s not good enough and we should follow the example we set when we head out riding on the roads. We should aim for around 500ml with consumption happening little and often. 

2. Not having enough ventilation

Image shows Sam Gupta riding indoors on a turbo trainer

(Image credit: Future)

The importance of regulating body temperature was made incredibly apparent in recent times when Fillipo Ganna and his team went to the long lengths of keeping his core as cool as possible in the run up to his hour record attempt so that he wouldn’t overheat in the final 20 minutes of the ride. This is because, if you’re too hot, your body won’t be operating at its best. This is why ventilation is so important. I

f you don’t have a fan then get one, and if you do have a fan, then get two and ensure your head, chest and legs are getting a breeze. There are lots of high volume fans which can do the key job of keeping you cool. 

One thing I have learnt is that, if you purposefully want to make your training session harder and put extra strain on your body then train without a fan, however, be prepared to not hit the same kind of numbers you may otherwise be used to, and of course, make sure you stay on top of your hydration as you’ll be losing liquid incredibly quickly.

3. Not following an interval session or training plan

Image shows Sam Gupta riding indoors on a turbo trainer

(Image credit: Future)

We’re all familiar with junk miles, these being the miles you put in on the bike which don’t really assist you in getting closer to your goal. It can be quite easy to just roll around the Watopian landscape in Zwift somewhere in Zone 3 which doesn’t provide you the benefit of foundation building Zone 2 endurance training and it also doesn’t offer the benefit of operating around or above your FTP to really push the envelope. 

So, if you’re training indoors, try and stick to a structured workout or cycling training plan to fully maximise your time on the bike. Afterall, riding indoors with no end benefit would surely just be a waste of time!  

4. Training on an empty stomach

I for one love my food, in fact, my love for food is equal to my hatred of bonking. One mistake which I know people out there are making is simply not eating enough either before, during or after their sessions. 

Ensuring you have something small in the stomach beforehand will mean you’ll be able to execute your sessions with more conviction and they’ll be more beneficial. 

Now you may be saying, ‘Sam, what about fasted rides? Aren’t they also good?’ To that I would answer, yes, they do have their place in the world of training, however, they’re better suited to professional cyclists. For us more normal cyclists, it’s worth working on consistency, getting the basics perfected and if you’re taking your training really seriously then ensuring that everything around your training such as recovery and cycling nutrition is right before starting fasted training. 

5. Sitting up while training - not utilising your core

Image shows Sam Gupta riding indoors on a turbo trainer

(Image credit: Future)

Sitting up while you’re training isn’t a bad thing by any means, we all need to catch our breath and stretch out once in a while. But if you’re doing the entirety of your training sat up then you could be missing out on the opportunity to engage and activate your core. 

As we all know a strong core plays a critical role in allowing you to put out your power. Another reason for training in your riding position is so that you don’t lose flexibility and that when you come to riding back outdoors, you’ll still feel comfortable on the bike. 

6. Not using a towel - salting up your bike

Image shows Sam Gupta riding indoors on a turbo trainer

(Image credit: Future)

As someone who used to work in a bike shop and more specifically, in the workshop, I have seen my fair share of salty crusted up stems and headsets. I cannot stress how important it is to use a towel or some form of bike covering to protect your bike. 

Sweat is incredibly corrosive to bikes, especially to aluminium components, and these are all things which can be found around your handlebars and headtube. I can also speak from experience when I say that there are few things less disgusting than unwrapping crusty bar tape which has seen a soaking equivalent to the pacific ocean in sweat. 

7. Not adjusting FTP bias and ending up rocking in the saddle to maintain power

Image shows Sam Gupta riding indoors on a turbo trainer

(Image credit: Future)

Occasionally, our fitness levels do slip away from us and one mistake we could be making is not adjusting our FTP bias in our training software to reflect the potential drop in power. Your FTP bias is the number your indoor training software uses to calculate all your training zones and thus the numbers it wants you to hit when undertaking a structured workout. 

On flip side, you may have been training so much that your FTP has increased and your training sessions won’t be pushing you as hard as they should be to ensure a continuation of gains. The key point is that if you don’t adjust your FTP bias inline with your current level of fitness then you won’t be training in the correct cycling training zones meaning that you may not be pushing yourself hard enough or you’re pushing yourself too hard and sending yourself in a downward spiral of sessions which are all just too difficult.

8. Not warming up and cooling down properly

While indoor training can be a very time efficient way of training, there’s two things which shouldn’t be forgotten. Warming up and cooling down. This is obviously a bit of a no-brainer, most of us will naturally have to warm up so that we can get our legs to a comfortable operating zone however, it can be easy to neglect the cool down. 

Gently spinning the legs for 5-10 minutes ensures you flush out the lactic acid and gives you a chance to relax your muscles after finishing some full gas efforts. Not to mention it kicks starts recovering and will help alleviate some of those aches and pains that can accrue after a particularly hard session.  

9. Not setting specific, ambitious but attainable goals that you care about

Similarly to my earlier point of not following a cycling training plan, it’s also important to set yourself a goal that you actually really want to achieve. Riding without purpose can feel quite liberating and freeing; however, when spending time on the turbo trainer, it can be a huge source of motivation if you can hold something in mind which you’d love to do or achieve. Having something to work towards will give your training a new sense of purpose. 

The key here is that the goal is something you really want to achieve and not just something that would be nice to do.  

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Sam Gupta
Video Manager

After discovering his love of cycling in college, Sam has always kept two wheels very close. Having spent over five years working in a couple of local bike shops, it's fair to say he enjoys getting hands on. He also loves to push himself to ride ever longer distances and to explore as many new places as possible. 

Sam has been Cycling Weekly's video manager since January 2022. You'll find him on our YouTube channel where he brings you the latest cycling tech news, rides, reviews and all of the most important new launches while taking in some incredible cycling adventures too.