As the weather and riding conditions take a turn for the worst, I won't be tempted to dust down the turbo trainer...
For some cyclists, turbo-training is part and parcel of their winter fitness regime. And for others, it’s part and parcel of their fitness regime throughout the whole year. For me, and many other normal, rational people, it’s something to be avoided at all costs.
While a session on the turbo can give you a really meaningful, focussed workout (it says here) there is no escaping the fact that it is the devil’s own work. Turbo training sucks!
Disclaimer: This is my personal opinion and not that of Cycling Weekly, Time Inc or any cyclist not wishing to get fat or unfit over the winter
There’s no escaping the fact that sitting on a static bike indoors is excruciatingly, mind-bendingly dull. Just half an hour of this self-induced torture feels like an entire week. I’ve never made it to a whole hour, so can’t comment on what that feels like. You run out of things to think about after around five minutes, and the noise of the turbo will drown out any TV or music you are trying to listen to.
And if you use headphones and can just about hear what’s going on, the upshot will be that your favourite music will be forever linked to the pain and boredom of turbo training, and you’ll end up not liking it anymore by association. It is entirely possible that when a time machine is invented, it will in some way incorporate a turbo trainer to travel back in time.
Why ride indoors when you can ride outside
When you started cycling the chances are that you didn’t say “cool, I’m going to get really fit by riding through this beautiful countryside so that I can be in top shape for those turbo sessions in the garage”.
At least 80 or 90 per cent of cycling enjoyment comes from being outdoors, taking in the scenery and fresh air. A grey concrete wall, spiders’ webs, a collection of not-yet-fixed inner tubes and the whiff of petrol coming from the mower is a very poor substitute. If it’s freezing cold outside and/or pouring with rain I’d still suit up and go out riding over using a turbo.
Video – Buyer’s guide to turbo trainers
You can’t freewheel
Your prize for fighting hard up a monster hill on a bike is the glorious freewheeling descent down the other side after admiring the view at the top. This simply does not exist on a turbo trainer.
Therefore, all of your effort really goes without any sort of compensation, aside from large amounts of sweat and the feeling of elation when you stop pedalling and that it is finally all over. That elation is short-lived as your legs lock up and you stumble sideways into the recycling bins.
It’s too hot
It doesn’t matter how cold the room, garage or shed is when you start turbo training, or how little clothing you wear, you will be on the verge of heat stroke by the end of it. There’s no natural breeze to gently cool you down by evaporating your sweat, just inescapable heat.
I’ve seen people with banks of fans, ice cold drinks, even using a turbo outside in the snow, just to stay cool. If you’re going to go outside and use a turbo trainer, you may as well get on a proper bike. One that moves forward.
Not convinced it’s really beneficial
I’m not completely convinced that turbo training is a great substitute for real riding. Unless you have one of those fancy bendy turbo trainers, or have mastered rollers, you can’t get out of the saddle or swing your bike about like you do when on an unshackled machine on the open road.
And, of course, it’s not going to do anything to help with your cornering, descending or pothole avoidance skills. In fact, turbo training is probably great for emulating completely flat, straight time trials but very little else. You’ll end up looking like a Tyranosaurus rex with huge thighs and itty bitty arms.
It’s really boring
You’ve spotted that I’ve included ‘it’s boring’ twice in this list, mainly because it’s twice as boring as anything else you will encounter in your life. 3D ride videos, computer generated routes, variable resistance, blah blah blah… dress it up how you like, it’s still tedious, sweaty, noisy, dull and boring.