The Chainlink

Winter Training - How to Make it Effective, Safe and Fun

While winter doesn't necessarily prevent cyclists from staying outdoors, Chicagoans have to be realistic about the dropping temperatures. At a certain point, training outdoors just isn’t very agreeable or efficient due to temperatures and road conditions.


Enter indoor training!


Options are endless, and with the right set-up, staying inside on the bike can be a lot of fun. What do you need to get started with indoor training? Essentially, two components are all it takes in addition to your bike, some self-discipline, and a set of willing legs to become a stronger cyclist for the season ahead during the winter months.


1. A Trainer or Rollers

Trainers come in many varieties and for all budgets. Conventional indoor trainers create resistance often through magnets. While those trainers get the job done, they tend to be noisy.


Smart trainers, which support the bike either in a similar fashion or through a direct drive, with an added resistance unit, have swept the market in the past few years.

One trainer that makes indoor training much more fun due to its unique design is the Kinetic Rock and Roll trainer - the world’s only free-moving fluid trainer. The main design feature that sets this trainer apart from others is the patented frame design. Other trainers are static and fixed, and don’t allow for much bike movement. The Rock and Roll frame on the other hand does move, and so does the matching flexible riser. This unique design a) allows for a more natural road feel and b) engages the core muscles more to maintain a good riding position. The movement does not necessarily feel 100% like the real road but it feels much more dynamic than a stationary trainer and mimics road feel as closely as possible on a trainer I assume. Another feature I really enjoy about the Kinetic Rock and Roll trainer is that its sealed fluid resistance unit is not only fairly smooth but pretty quiet. The low noise level is particularly relevant when training at unholy times in the morning or at night. There are a few accessories that are helpful with indoor training too:

  • A riser to keep the trainer-mounted bike in position (often comes with the trainer)
  • A floor mat to keep the noise level down and to prevent your sweat to ruin your floors (and sweat you will!)
  • A trainer-specific rear tyre is a good idea too, so you don't wear out your good tyre against the resistance roll.


2. A Plan / Program

Smart trainers use electronics and connect wirelessly to apps via bluetooth or ANT+ to transmit speed, cadence, power and heart rate.They often have their own app system (like Kinetic’s Fit app) but they also allow interaction with third-party apps that open up a world of possibilities to switch training up. Some apps even turn training at home in a social endeavor by facilitating races against riders from all over the world. Some controlled/fully smart trainers have the ability to be controlled remotely by software on a computer, phone or tablet in the ERG mode. A software tells the trainer what resistance to provide, which means you don't have to think about what gear your bike is in. Following this predetermined workout is a pretty effective way to hit your numbers and get your workout done. I am in the camp of those who like to be in control of their shifting, so I don’t use ERG mode during my workouts. It just feels more like actual riding to me.


The app I have been using in the past months to up my training is - appropriately - called The Sufferfest. Just like authors of famous sagas like LotR or Star Wars, the founders of Sufferfest have created an entire universe around their training program: Sufferlandria. Sufferlandria awaits with a large collection of training videos and a narrative that creates a sense of community that helps immensely with training motivation. The videos come with material from races or scenic routes around the world, a decent music selection and the right mix of humor and motivation. The video library includes countless structured workouts of different lengths and intensity levels, targeting different levels of power. An ideal start to the Sufferfest is their newly developed Full Frontal test. It produces a power profile of the rider assessing strength and weaknesses in a more detailed way than a regular 20 minute FTP test would. During the workouts, your metrics (cadence, heart rate and power) will show up on the screen alongside the target values, which makes it relatively easy to stay on track even without ERG mode on your trainer.


Working towards specific goals, the Sufferfest app lets you choose from a library of full fledged training plans. Those are tailored to different disciplines from cyclocross to road to triathlon, and supplemented by yoga for cyclists videos, and even a mental training program. The mental training part of cycling is often overlooked, and I really appreciate that it is part of the Sufferfest training plans.


What sets the Sufferfest apart is not their grueling, efficient, holistic and entertaining training program, it is their community orientation. Countless sponsorships of initiatives like the Homestretch Foundation, and community events like their fundraiser “Tour of Sufferlandria” ensure you can feel you are fighting the good fight - against the temptations of what they call “Couchlandria” and the fatigue in your legs.

Jasmin Welter is a dedicated commuter and competitive cyclist and triathlete, riding her mostly pink bikes around Chicagoland year-round. Jasmin is an Ambassador for The Chainlink and is involved with several other initiatives and brands to get more women on bikes. Jasmin writes regularly about new products, women cycling, commuting and more. Follow her on Instagram: @tri.heart and @princess_layup.


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Comment by Jasmin on February 19, 2018 at 7:49am

Absolutely, the competitive aspect of it makes it possible! Upwards and onwards!

Comment by Brian Marquis on February 17, 2018 at 8:05pm

I did cadence builds yesterday, other than that recovery, short walks, primers tomorrow and FF on Monday. I’m in the GSL competing against other knights, so I didn’t really have an option not to go nuclear. I always get my butt kicked, but it’s a fun competition that helps bring out my best effort. I’m always amazed at what some of the GSL riders are capable of.

Comment by Jasmin on February 17, 2018 at 5:16pm

oh wow, that's quite the accomplishment!! i hope you're taking a rest week now :D

Comment by Brian Marquis on February 17, 2018 at 5:09pm

I chose the nuclear option, brutal...

Comment by Jasmin on February 17, 2018 at 4:54pm

Hey Brian, I did not unfortunately. It didn't really work with my training and schedule, so I just rode my regular workouts... did you? 

Comment by Brian Marquis on February 17, 2018 at 3:45pm

I’m glad to see the Sufferfest gaining recognition for their unique training app. Did you do the Tour this year?

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