The clocks have gone back, it’s time to head indoors
For most Europeans and Americans, daylight savings time recently kicked in. As well as creating confusion in households across the world (“Does that mean one hour extra or one hour less sleep? Has my phone updated automatically?”), the clocks going back is the traditional sign for two-wheel fans to take their training indoors. The main reasons are obvious.
Unfortunately, for most of us, winter brings a lot more than just shorter days. The bad weather, and unpredictable, cold conditions are perhaps the main reasons that so many cyclists prefer to head indoors at this time of year.
In the United Kingdom, slipping on ice is the second biggest cause of cyclists heading to hospitals, with slipping on mud or wet rocks also featuring high on that list. And there doesn’t have to be ice or snow on the road for cycling to become an extreme sport. All cyclists know the dangers of hitting painted road markings too fast in the wet. Wind and rain can also suck all the joy from your favorite activity in no time at all.
The need for more gear
There’s an old saying that there’s no such thing as bad weather, just inappropriate clothing. Technology has come a long way in providing us with cycling clothes that can keep out wind and rain. Layering up and covering the extremities undoubtedly helps, but Merino base layers, neoprene overshoes, and Gore-Tex jerseys all come at a significant cost.
It’s not only the rider that needs to be winter-proofed. You’re going to need winter wheels and tires, as well as good-quality lights for your bike. The mix of salt, grit, mud, and dirty water creates a corrosive cocktail that gets splashed up onto your bike, so you’ll need to clean your bike and lubricate the chain after every ride at this time of year. Some riders choose to have a dedicated winter bike, with hardier wheels, four-season tires, and mudguards mounted. But where’s the fun in having that carbon beauty in your garage if you only get to ride it for half a year?
The benefits of riding indoors
Of course, an indoor cycling setup removes all of these obstacles. With a smart bike or indoor trainer, you can ride at any time of day and in any weather conditions. Your beautiful bike will remain immaculate, and you don’t need an extra wardrobe of fleece-lined winter riding clothing. Plus, you save on all the time it takes to get bundled up and ready to ride in the chilly winter months.
However, riding indoors isn’t only about limiting the impact of winter. If you embrace the move indoors, the gains can be significant too.
Whether you’re a Roubaix contender, a wannabe pro triathlete, or a weekend warrior, it’s essential that you vary your riding throughout the year if you want to keep improving. Taking a “periodized” approach to training means mixing higher-intensity intervals with longer aerobic rides.
The move indoors provides the perfect moment to focus on those more intense workouts aimed at increasing your threshold, VO2 max, and muscular strength. These intervals are much easier to achieve indoors, without stop lights, cars on the road, or routes to navigate. Simply put your head down and focus on the power. There’s the added bonus that you can see significant fitness gains with short, hard sessions without needing to spend hours and hours sweating away. That’s especially useful as the holiday season arrives and family commitments ramp up.
If intervals require a level of motivation that you don’t possess, then apps like Zwift hold regular online races for riders of all levels. These races against other indoor riders around the world will have the legs and lungs screaming and provide many of the same benefits as intervals. As soon as you catch your breath, you’ll be ready to sign up for the next race.
Eventually, the clocks will go forward and both daylight hours and temperatures will increase. You’ll emerge from your pain cave ready to hit the road again. When you do, you’ll have those indoor kilometers to thank for that new-found speed as you leave your friends behind on the sprint to the cafe.
A word of warning though: given the efficiency and convenience of indoor cycling, you may find yourself mashing the pedals indoors even when the sun is shining outside.
Of course, for the greatest indoor gains you’ll need the most efficient and realistic indoor cycling experience available. Check out the TrueBike and the TrueTrainer for the indoor riding experience that most closely matches the road feel and muscle activations of riding outside.