The Inside Story: 4 tips to create the ultimate pain cave

If your list of New Year’s resolutions included a pledge to up your FTP by 25 watts, to complete the local fondo in less than four hours, or simply to beat your friends to the cafe, then it’s time to get serious about your training. And the first step to success is making sure your environment is optimized for training greatness.

There are as many types of “pain caves” as there are types of cyclists. For some, it’s a case of somehow squeezing the home trainer in between the spare bed and the home office desk; while the lucky few at the other end of the spectrum may have a dedicated gym space in which they and their bikes can luxuriate.

There’s an art to setting up the perfect training environment and while you will, of course, have to work with what’s available to you, there are a few guidelines you should follow to transform your indoor cycling space into a haven of fitness and fun.

1. Accessibility is key

Training can be hard at the best of times and it can take almost superhuman motivation to smash out those threshold intervals after a long day of work. With that in mind, try to minimize any of the barriers to training success.

If at all possible, find a space where you can leave your bike, cycling shoes and a clean towel ready to be ridden at all times. This eliminates the hassle of setting up each time, making it more likely you’ll jump on your bike regularly.

If space is at a minimum, identify a cupboard or a corner of the room where you leave your home trainer, shoes, fan and other gear so it’ll only take a few minutes to get started.

For those with more space, the gold standard is to upgrade your home trainer for a smart bike like the TrueBike, which eliminates the need to mount your bike onto the trainer after the weekend coffee ride. It’s especially convenient if there’s more than one cyclist in your household, as the saddle height and reach of smart bikes can be quickly altered between riders, saving the need to continuously swap out bikes from the trainer. 

2. Maintain the cool and quiet factor

Indoor training is proven to generate fitter cyclists; however, it can also generate a lot of heat and noise too. 

Our bodies are fairly inefficient. When we hop on our bike and start spinning away, only around a quarter of the energy burnt goes directly into pushing the pedals with the rest being lost in heat. We don’t tend to notice this when riding outside, as the wind and air rushing past remove that heat and sweat from your body and cool you down. Training indoors, those natural coolants are removed and you essentially create a cyclist-sized humidity bubble around you as you push the watts. Even in cold conditions, it gets uncomfortable quickly.


There’s a whole world of expensive clothing and gadgets intended to help but, keeping things basic, you’ll need four things:

  • Most important of all is to invest in a good, heavy-duty blower fan. It doesn’t need to be a cycling specific fan, but make sure it puts out around 100 watts and spending a little extra on a fan with a remote control is worthwhile as you can turn it on or increase the breeze during your session.
  • A cheap yoga or foam mat under your bike and trainer will catch the sweat and stop puddles of sweat from forming on the floor.
  • Use a small hand towel or bike-specific sweat catcher to spread from your handlebars and along your top tube, to stop your corrosive sweat from gathering on your bike and rusting the bolts. This is where a dedicated smart bike can once again prove handy, keeping your expensive carbon steed away from the sweaty indoor cycling experience.
  • Finally, and most affordably of all, have an old towel nearby for regular brow-wipes.

While modern smart trainers and smart bikes, like the TrueTrainer and TrueBike, are far quieter than previous incarnations, training indoors can still be quite a noisy affair. That’s probably of little concern to you unless you live in an apartment, as the sound of the trainer can echo through the floor and make it sound like you’re running an industrial factory to the neighbours below.

Again, the way that smart bikes are constructed eliminates much of this excess noise. The next best option is a rocker plate – a sort of spring-loaded floating plate that is designed to allow your bike and trainer to move more naturally but has the added benefit of dampening the majority of vibrations. If you’re on a tight budget, you can pick up vibration pads used under washing machines and tumble dryers for a little over €10 and these can be very effective in reducing the buzzing below.

Creating a cooler and quieter environment will allow you to focus on your training without being disrupted by the outside world, boosting your concentration and overall enjoyment.

3. Dial in your devices

As cyclists, we all love a little technology and indoor cycling is an opportunity to embrace the inner gadget geek. Roughly speaking, indoor cycling devices fall into two categories: training tech and entertainment.

Without an indication of how hard you’re cycling or the ability to record your session, you’re not indoor cycling so much as doing a spin class. So, we’d suggest that the minimum you’re going to need is a power meter and a bike computer. 

The power meter could be on your bike itself, or smart trainers and smart bikes like the TrueTrainer and TrueBike integrate extremely precise power meters so you don’t need an additional meter in order to know how hard you’re riding. The TrueBike also provides an integrated screen for seeing and recording your training numbers but, if you’re not lucky enough to own a TrueBike yet, you can also use your regular Garmin or Wahoo bike computer for this purpose.

If you want to use training apps like Zwift, TrainerRoad, Rolla or Rouvy to make your training a little more dynamic and fun, then you’ll need some sort of a screen that can pair with your power meter and heart rate monitor. This can range from simply using your phone, to a laptop or tablet or, gold standard, using Apple TV or Google TV to run the apps through a dedicated monitor. 

Training apps can provide a good deal of distraction and make indoor training a far more enjoyable experience, but you may need some additional entertainment essentials too. First, grab yourself some inexpensive Bluetooth headphones; don’t use those brand new AirPods you got for Christmas unless you plan to wash them carefully after each session. Then, the decision is yours; music or podcasts might be just what you need to get through intense intervals, although we’d suggest another screen nearby for some YouTube or Netflix accompaniment during a longer indoor endurance ride.

4. The cherry on the cake

If you’ve addressed all of the points we’ve been through already, then chances are you have a great training environment and ideally are set up for a storming 2024 cycling season. However, if you really want to take your indoor riding to the next level, there are a few other nice-to-haves you’ll want to bear in mind.

  • A training table: While you can balance screens and your phone on any table nearby, a dedicated training table is a great way of keeping everything you need close at hand. They’re designed to fit within the footprint of your smart bike or bike and trainer and have a few little cycling-specific features that’ll make your experience even more enjoyable.
  • A nutrition drawer: You need to fuel your training, so having a dedicated drawer filled with gels, candy and stroopwafels nearby is a good way to ensure you never bonk on a hard indoor ride.
  • Bands and weights: We’re all only too aware that regular mobility and strength training are the secret sauce that can turn a good cyclist into a great cyclist, but it can be hard to find time for flexibility or lifting weights in addition to riding your bike. Leaving a stretch band near your bike is a convenient reminder to do 5 minutes of mobility work and glute activation before your ride, which will allow you to squeeze out an extra 5% during those extra hard VO2 max intervals. Likewise, having a few dumbbells or kettlebells nearby means you can step off the bike and make a couple of squats, lunges and swings a part of your cooldown.

It might sound like a lot but transforming your indoor cycling space into a haven doesn’t have to be a daunting task. Focusing on easy accessibility, smart technology, comfort, and entertainment, and you’ll soon have an environment that motivates you to ride consistently and reach new fitness heights. So, gear up, set up, and pedal your way to a healthier, happier and faster  year!