Ignoring the hype: Our search for continuous improvement

There’s always a hot new trend in cycling training. From polarized training and sweet spot intervals, to the Norwegian Method and Team Sky’s marginal gains, there’s constantly something shiny and new to capture your attention and euros. The same is certainly true of the indoor cycling industry at large.

Over the past year, we’ve rolled out a new TrueTrainer, as well as new features for the TrueBike and TrueTrainer, such as soft ERG start, virtual oval chainrings, improved data visualization and more accurate ERG power at lower wattages, as just a few examples. But we always do so with one principle in mind: it must make for a more realistic riding experience.

We’re often asked why we haven’t introduced some of the other gadgets and features you see on the other leading smart trainers, such as sliders or rocker plates to enable sideways or fore-aft movement. While these things look cool and seem, on the surface at least, to be logical concepts, the reality is that they’re designed more to part riders with their hard-earned money than providing any real benefit. 

The problem with rocking and sliding

If you’ve watched videos of trainers with integrated slides or rocker plates, you’ll have noticed that the bike and trainer move forwards, backwards and side to side by tens of centimeters at a time. However, our measurements have shown that these trainers all create a motion pattern that differs hugely from how you ride outdoors for two reasons.  

When sprinting or climbing, the rider leans the bike away from the leg that has the pedal down – you pull on the handlebar and lean the bike to that side to add additional power to the downstroke. However, as trainers with sliders and rockers use bodyweight to create movement, they actually reinforce the total opposite movement – the bike rocks to the side with the leg and weight down.

Secondly, if you ride outdoors in a bunch you never see the guy in front of you sway dramatically side to side outside of a sprint or climb. If you did, you’d either ask him what’s wrong or move to a different part of the group to avoid the inevitable crash that he’s set to cause. Equally, while chatting to the rider next to you, you don’t see his head shooting forwards and backwards centimeters at a time. This is because your legs move at a constant pace and your body is not subjected to the weird accelerations and decelerations that are amplified by sliders and rockers indoors. 

Some flexibility and a small amount of movement under the rider can help with ride comfort and experience, which is why we equip our trainers and bikes with rubber feet that allow for small amounts of lateral movement, but the big rocking and rolling motions provided by other brands just don’t marry up to real-world experience.

peloton of cyclists racing on road

The science of cycling

Why does this matter? Because all of these big movements cause unpredictable accelerations and decelerations of your legs during the pedal stroke. All successful fitness gains are rooted on the principles of building strength, stamina and optimizing motion patterns and muscle firing patterns to be as efficient as possible. So, to get the best workout from indoor training, you need to have a motion pattern that is identical to the one outdoors, from the perspective of muscle loads, as well as from the perspective of motion patterns. 

At TrueKinetix, we’re completely committed to doing everything in our power to make indoor riding as close as possible to outdoor riding. In the coming  weeks, months and years, we’ll release even more updates, features and hardware that help us realize that ambition. But we’re also not going to try to fix what isn’t broken; as the old saying goes, from a physiological perspective, sliders and rocker plates are a solution in search of a problem.

So, when you’re next in the market for a smart bike or smart trainer, or even contemplating a new training methodology, it’s OK to be wowed by the latest innovations, features and gadgets available – this is a really exciting industry that’s taking leaps forward every day. But make sure you look critically at the products and solutions on offer. 

Are those features scientifically proven to improve your training or are they just there to convince you to upgrade or spend more?