6 common mistakes that indoor cyclists make

While riding indoors offers a remedy to bad weather, shorter daylight hours and car-filled roads, as well as more focused and efficient workouts, indoor training does come with its own unique challenges and considerations. In this blog post, we’ll explore some of the biggest mistakes that cyclists who train indoors make, and provide suggestions to make sure your indoor riding goes without a hitch.

1. Overlooking bike set-up

Many cyclists spend hours meticulously adjusting their bike for a long outdoor ride, but expect to throw their bike on the trainer and be instantly set-up for indoor success. If you have a smart bike, you’ll initially want to mimic your outdoor bike’s seat height, handlebar position and crank length as closely as possible to maintain proper biomechanics and muscle engagement. However, indoor riding isn’t outdoor riding and it may be beneficial to make your indoor position a little more upright and comfortable, especially over winter and early in the season when you’ve had less time in the saddle.

The same applies if mounting your own bike on an indoor trainer; don’t assume that your outdoor position is your indoor position. Some trainers raise the rear wheel a touch, so you might also want to add a block under your front wheel to ensure your bike remains level.

One of the benefits of riding a smart bike like the TrueBike is that, being endlessly adaptable, you can quickly and easily evolve your position throughout the season.

2. Rushing the warm-up

You wouldn’t dream of jumping on your bike at the foot of Alpe d’Huez and expect to motor full gas to the summit. But a huge number of riders step on the indoor trainer and plunge almost immediately into a set of intervals, asking themselves why it’s so hard to hit their target watts.

For harder sessions, try doing five minutes of mobility work focused on glute activations before hopping on the bike. Think exercises like monster walks and fire hydrants. On the bike, your warm-up should be at least 10 minutes long and include a couple of short harder efforts. Follow this advice and you’ll be able to get the most out of all future interval sessions.

3. Stay relaxed and focus on core stability

Watch a professional road race and you’ll notice how relaxed all the riders appear to be in their upper bodies. Tightly gripping the handlebars adds tension, using up energy and building stress unnecessarily. This tension through the upper body can impact riders’ ability to hold good form too.

Riding indoors is the perfect opportunity to practice riding with a relaxed grip, while focusing on engaging core muscles to stabilize the body and support the lower back. Not only will this result in pushing more watts indoors but, by creating good habits in a safe indoor environment without cars and road furniture to deal with, you’ll ride with grace outside too.

Smart bikes and smart trainers like the TrueBike and TrueTrainer use flexible lightweight frames and padded feet to provide a realistic rocking motion which will also engage the core, so you get two workouts for the price of one.

4. Locking into ERG mode

ERG mode is a fantastic feature for smashing hard intervals. You can work on stomping on the pedals without having to think about changing gears or manually altering resistance. However, spending time with ERG turned off could improve your cycling enormously.

For example, indoor cycling provides an excellent opportunity to fine-tune your pedal stroke and build strength in specific muscle groups. Instead of fixating solely on power, vary your cadence and resistance levels to simulate different riding conditions and terrain profiles. Experiment with high-cadence intervals to improve leg turnover and cardiovascular fitness, as well as low-cadence, high-resistance efforts to build muscular endurance and power.

The TrueBike’s built-in screen shows real-time data on metrics such as cadence, left/right balance and current gearing ratios, allowing you to work on your pedal stroke and see how riding at different cadences or in different gears impacts your output.

TrueBike Base in huiskamer

5. Taking cooling and comfort for granted

We all know that indoor training environments get hot and stuffy pretty quickly, especially during intense workouts without any air speeding past your face and body. But many cyclists underestimate just how much heat they produce and think that a table top fan should do the trick. A set of VO2 max intervals quickly proves that theory very wrong.

You can buy indoor cycling specific fans which do the job well but are pricey, but a robust, high-powered floor fan with a remote control can be picked up for less than 50 euros. Be warned: if you ride indoors regularly, you might want a couple of fans to cover you from all sides.

Comfort isn’t solely about airflow. One mistake almost all cyclists make is using cheap or old worn cycling shorts for indoor training, so they can save their fancy designer brand bibs for group rides when there are other riders to impress. In reality, this is the wrong way round. You move far less on an indoor bike or trainer and spend a higher percentage of the time rooted to the saddle, so wearing a quality pair of shorts and adding a good dollop of chamois cream before you ride will be a game-changer in terms of overall comfort.

6. Not fueling like outdoor riding

One of the biggest mistakes that even experienced riders make, and one that can really derail a training session, is not fueling or hydrating correctly. After all, “it’s just an indoor ride” and a lot of riders will try to keep their indoor rides to a couple of hours or less.

As we covered above, riders generate huge amounts of heat and sweat when riding inside, so you should try to take on more fluid than you would for an equivalent outdoor ride. Instead of water, opt for an electrolyte drink to help replace some of the sodium lost through that excessive sweating.

A lot of riders do their hard interval workouts inside and these sessions have huge energy demands, so fueling is vital. Even for an hour of intervals, aim for 60g of carbs followed by some carbs and protein immediately after your ride. The same applies to endurance rides of more than an hour. The quality of your workouts and your recovery will increase.

Of course, there are hundreds of other mistakes we could have covered – from tech mishaps to painful but hilarious roller experiences – but these are some of the main errors that riders make that lead to indoor cycling being less comfortable, enjoyable and efficient than it might be. 

Avoid these and you’ll be able to look forward to those indoor sufferfests and you’ll emerge from your pain cave fitter, stronger and better prepared to tackle the road ahead.