Indoor riding, although monotonous and close to the most boring activity imaginable to a mud loving mountain biker, has advantages above and beyond avoiding darkness and bad weather. Used correctly, it can be a key component of a broad based cycling training program, particularly during the winter months.

 Reasons to consider stationary training:

  1. SAVING TIME - avoid the time necessary to get to a road suitable for your workout, and with a planned program get your maximum training benefit in 60 minutes.
  2. MORE INTENSE - minimizes the distractions of road biking, allowing you the concentration and focus to maximize and maintain your heart rate for the session without worrying about cars, potholes, or other road hazards. In fact, using a stationary bike is an optimum tool to determine your maximum heart rate. After you have warmed up, increase your effort and cadence every minute for 5 to 10 minutes. When you feel you can't pedal any faster, SPRINT. This is your maximum heart rate.
  3. MORE PRECISE - just an extension of the above. The elimination of distractions allow you to focus on your planned workout.
  4. IMPROVE YOUR PEDAL STROKE - spinning with one leg will accentuate flaws in your personal technique and allow you to focus on a smooth and complete pedal cycle.
  5. PROMOTES RECOVERY - at the end of a difficult day of riding, consider jumping on the trainer and doing 20 minutes of gentle spinning at 55% max heart rate. Personal testimonials suggest this is superior to massage to speed lactic acid clearance from the muscle and cut down on post training stiffness and soreness.

The biggest drawback of stationary cycling is the monotony and boredom of sitting and sweating in one place for an hour. What are some techniques to make it a bit more palatable? Consider these:

  1. GROUP RIDES - Have a buddy bring his trainer to your place or, if there's one available, have your group meet at a local gym equipped with multiple machines.
  2. STRUCTURED WORKOUTS - Have a planned program, and concentrate on sticking to it. A heart rate monitor gives you immediate feedback on your efforts and is a great tool to give you something other than the boredom to concentrate on.
  3. KEEP YOUR MIND OCCUPIED - heart rate monitor, vice opponent on a Computrainer (if you have the $$ to afford one), using your favorite CD as a key for intervals, reading (if you're just lazing along), and watching television.
  4. USE A FAN - The movement of the air is distracting and keeps you cool and more comfortable at the same time.
  5. DRINK - It's easy to forget, and with the increased sweating on a stationary bike in a warm room, it's easy to get dehydrated. And the general sense of unease that comes along with dehydration increases the fatigue and tedium of the session.
  6. GET GOOD EQUIPMENT - Stability of the trainer is key if you plan on sprinting out of the saddle for a little variety during the session.

Remember that having a plan helps fight the boredom, and is a key to making this a positive part of your training program. There are many plans available, but most have common themes.

 But before you turn up that stereo, a study of untrained men and women demonstrated that they rode an average of 27% longer when they cycled in silence rather than listening to music. And another study of trained cyclists found that a poorer workout when they cranked up the decibels.


 Since you will monitor these sessions using your heart rate (a heart rate monitor is very helpful if you have one) review the section of this page on the use of a heart rate monitor.

 For the week, you will probably want a day or two at 65-72% VO2 max. as recovery days, a day or two at 84-90% VO2 max. to build your aerobic base, and one or two interval sessions:


  1. INTERVAL SESSION LENGTH - 45 - 60 minutes
  2. INTERVAL SESSION FREQUENCY - once or twice a week
  3. EASY WARM UP PERIOD - 12 to 15 minutes
  4. INTERVALS - 4 or 5 sets of 1 or 2 minutes of sustained effort (comfortable resistance, 100+ RPM) with a 2 or 3 minute recovery period OR using a heart rate monitor to set you aerobic target.
  5. COOL DOWN - 10 to 15 minutes

 So when it's raining or you get home late and the sun is setting, there are no more excuses. It's time to head for the basement or garage, catch the evening news, and get that edge on the rest of your cycling buds.




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