It’s a common conundrum when deciding on what to choose as your indoor training weapon of choice for the winter months.
We’ve had a number of emails asking for advice on what trainers to use and which will give the best bang for your buck.
Should you buy a turbo trainer? Or an exercise type bike?
It’s important to note here, we are a fully independent studio and have no ties to any company or brand.
When HURTBOX was a mere idea on a sheet of paper and it’s Directors (Ant and James) were busy researching what equipment to use in the studio, they tried most of the products on the market.
In todays article by Coach Ant, he’ll explain exactly what you need to bear in mind when selecting your indoor training option.
Over to Ant:
1 ) First up, comes the FIT.
Bike fits are one of the most important aspects of riding your bike now, with many riders opting to have a bike fit before purchasing their next bike.
Sounds crazy, but the logic is there.
If you have a bike fit first, you can happily purchase a bike that WILL fit you.
When you reverse this process, you purchase a bike, that you have to MAKE fit you – this could mean a frame that’s too big, or even the minor details, such as the frame is the right height, but the reach towards the handlebars is too much causing you to over stretch, resulting in you purchasing a different sized stem, or different bars and so on.
The bike frame isn’t just the only detail you need to consider.
You also need to think about your crank length, with more and more riders opting to ride with shorter cranks, many of the indoor exercise bikes are not following this trend, so make sure you check the crank length on your current bike and compare to what you are looking at purchasing.
I know one particular rider who uses 165mm cracks on her road bike, and she was trying to use 172.5mm cranks on her gym bike… It’s a completely different movement and it was not going to be effective for her in the long run.
If you have any queries surrounding Bike Fits, we highly recommend Vankru.
2) Then we move onto saddles.
This is high in the list of priorities (in my opinion).
In fact when deciding on whether to use static bikes or turbo trainers in HURTBOX, the decision was swung by the fact that most riders have a saddle that they already find comfortable and are used to… Making them use something different in a training studio where they are likely to be spending more time training was crazy to us.
We decided that our riders would ride their own saddles, this way we KNOW they are going to be more comfortable vs a saddle that we provide.
Of course, some aspects of comfort can be solved with better padded shorts to ride in too, so spend enough to buy a well reviewed pair of shorts and they’ll give you many hours of happy riding.
If you are comfortable training, you’ll do it more often I can guarantee it.
Theres a reason I am happy to watch a film on Netflix on the turbo for 2-3 hours, and that is because I am very comfortable riding my own bike at HURTBOX.
3) The Q angle
The Q angle (Quadricep Angle) essentially measures the angle at which the femur (upper thigh bone) meets the tibia (lower leg bone).
We will all have our unique Q angles, females will tend to have a bigger Q angle due to their naturally wider pelvis (making it easier to give birth).
But importantly when cycling our bikes will have an affect on our Q angle, with many road bikes sporting narrower pedal widths and mountain bikes offering slightly wider versions.
The gap between the pedals is often referred to as the Q Factor.
If you are regularly riding on a bike with (for arguments sake) a Q Factor of 150mm, it makes sense to ensure that your indoor bike closely matches this. Some are WAY off.
Road bikes vary, but as an example the Specialized Allez (a very popular entry level bike) has a 144m Q Factor.
Compare that to a handful of indoor trainers and you can see the difference:
Watt bike (original) measures in at 173mm, the new atom at 160mm
Stages SC3 158mm
Keiser M3 196mm (reportedly, I’ve not seen official measurements)
You also need to ensure that if you are using a different bike on a turbo trainer, you want to try and match Q Factors as closely as possible, for example, I have a gravel bike which has a much wider angle than my triathlon bike, so when it comes to specific race intervals, I make sure I do them on my race bike.
4) Handlebars are up next
This is closely linked with comfort, but the handlebars you use shouldn’t be overlooked.
My triathlon bars as a starting point have some lovely padded areas for my forearms… lovely and comfortable enough to spend a few hours resting on which provides a big advantage over gym bikes.
As a studio, we are in a unique position when I say we are working with a number of Ironman triathletes, Great British Age Groupers, Sportive riders, road racers and Time Triallists. These are all athletes who need to be getting used to their riding position as much as possible.
I’ve had endless conversations in the past with riders who have spent all summer getting used to their aero/race position, to then use a different bike over the winter and then spend the first few months in the spring getting used to this position again.
Why put yourself through it?
Ride in your race position all year around, and then you’ll know with 100% conviction that your position is comfortable for you.
Not only that but by using the same position, you are also becoming more efficient at riding in that position.
As a quick insight into this one, I tested myself earlier this year on two different bikes (nothing too scientific, I just rode two separate Functional Threshold Power (FTP) tests).
My road bike scores came out around 20 watts higher than my triathlon bike. A huge gap.
[This is due to heavily hunched over position of being in an aero position (see below) which produces less power but is a lot more aerodynamic and therefore faster providing you aren’t sacrificing too much power in holding that position]
If I spent my time training on a different bike, I’d finish my winter with a very skewed idea of what figures I’d need to be using in my events.
Of course, there is no perfect set up for everyone.
We’ve put a lot of thought into the rider experience at HURTBOX to ensure we offer something that is entertaining, fun and importantly gets the results you want.
Hopefully these points will give you a few ideas on what to look out for so that you can make the right decision for your type of riding.
In summary, riding on a turbo trainer is something we recommend to anyone serious about their indoor training, from the fit of your bike, to the angle and length of the crank. If you are aiming to dedicate a lot of hours to riding inside this winter to benefit from the incredible gains in fitness possible, then these small changes (or marginal gains!) add up.
If you need any help with refining your training plan, or if you feel you need the accountability of coming along to a supportive network to get the best out of you – You know where we are.
P.S. check out the membership page for all the details on our membership and how we provide not just expert coaching, but an amazing atmosphere to motivate and inspire you.Find Out More