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Boost your cycling power and stay motivated this winter with these turbo trainer sessions

Turbo training in the winter is where PBs are made in the summer

Doing triathlon bike sessions on a turbo trainer can be dull, but it’s an incredibly effective training tool in terms of efficiency and saves you and your bike from the worst of the winter.

For all but a few fanatics, indoor riding is an evil, mind-numbing necessity compared to cycling outside. But with the right session, you can stave off turbo training depression. The following is an arsenal of training secrets to deploy against the problems of mindless boredom, lack of motivation and training stagnation.

Better than the real thing? OK, going nowhere fast in your garage, shed or back room certainly doesn’t come close to the rush of blasting along your favourite road with the sun on your back and your adversaries strung out behind you. In terms of prepping you for that perfect summer moment it does take some beating though.

For a start riding indoors is a very pure form of training. There is nothing to interrupt your progress, no traffic or road conditions to worry about and you also don’t have to think about having the right winter kit such as lights and jackets. In addition, the chances of freezing rain, fog and snow in your garage are exceptionally low and if something does go wrong, you’re already home, not stranded on a big hill in the dark.

Get Smart
There’s a vast range of stationary training equipment options, from simple turbo trainers from £80 through to top-end computer-linked trainers where you can race other people on the internet. All you really need, though, is something that can give predictable pedal resistance with enough of a workload to cope with your maximum wattage. Mobile feedback systems such as power meters and wrist-mounted heart-rate monitors that can be used anywhere, rather than fixed to your trainer, are a smarter year-round investment than a turbo trainer that does the same thing. Working out your own fitness programme or spending the money you’ve saved on a coach is likely to deliver better results than a programme from the internet or a spinning class at your gym.

Rollers Vs Turbos
Turbo trainers require minimum skill and come with a lot of optional feedback extras. However, as there’s no ‘riding’ sensation, churning them round can be extremely dull. That’s why rollers are having a renaissance. They need a lot of practice at first and max output sessions require serious skill. But if you can ride smooth and straight on rollers you’ll feel a real efficiency benefit when you hit the road in the spring. Concentrating on staying upright also adds an enjoyable challenge element that makes training time pass a lot quicker than it otherwise may do. Whichever appeals, we’ve got a grouptest on turbo trainers (p102) and a minitest on rollers (p34) to help you choose.

Motivation and Distraction
Now you’re ready to train you need to make it as appealing as possible. A heart-rate monitor allows you to use training zones. Adding a computer (with a rear-wheel sensor for turbo use) lets you compare heart rate versus speed to track basic fitness progress. Power measurement is also a useful feature if you can afford it.

While watching your own dashboard is motivation enough for some, something else for your eyes and ears can revive your inner Rocky. If there’s ever a time to play
Eye of the Tiger at full volume, this is it. Watching triathlon, F1 racing or Tour De France DVDs is also a good motivator. There are lots of computer-linked turbo or DVD/online training programmes to follow and we’re big fans of the brutal but entertaining race-linked videos from

Ideally, keep your bike set up ready to go, with your HRM belt slung on one side of the bars, bib shorts on the other, towel over the top tube and shoes already clipped in. Then all you have to do is fill your water bottle, check your tyre pressure, plug in your chosen distraction/motivation, jump on and roll. Even if everything has to be bundled back under the stairs after each session, try to keep it all together and ready to go. Otherwise you know that roller-ripping resolve will evaporate as you dig through the laundry basket for missing kit in a flurry of flying pants and profanities.

Technique Tweaks
As well as training, roller/turbo sessions can include drills to polish technique in the same way as swimming. Single-leg drills will show up a lazy limb. A mirror will help you stop excessive shoulder and pelvis movement or highlight any other position or pedal irregularities that might be worth working on. Because you’ve got HRM/speed/power feedback to work with it’s a great time to see how position or kit changes affect performance. Just be sure to only change one thing at a time, and only by a very small amount, keeping track of each tweak in a notebook so that you can go back to your default settings if you need to.

Turbo Lag
Finally, seeing as you’ve gone to the trouble of sorting out all the kit and saddling up, make sure you make the most of it. If you’re doing intervals, take each one to the max so you’re worn out and need to stop early rather than soft-pedaling and finishing fresh. However hard you’re going, with
20 seconds left on the clock there’s almost certainly an extra gear left. If the first set feels like lead at 140bpm, push through to your target. You’ll be surprised how often you’ll get there if you grit your teeth. If you don’t then spin out a recovery session knowing you’ve tried your hardest.

Above all, try to enjoy yourself – training should be fun. As with homebrew, garage-distilled suffering can be hard to stomach but when you’re smashing personal bests next year you’ll know it’s been worth all the sweat you put in over the winter.

Essential Indoor Equipment

These must-have items make indoor training easier, so you’ll keep coming back for more:

✔ A fan to keep you cool

✔ A towel to mop up sweat

✔ A mirror (or webcam and laptop) to let you monitor your position and technique

✔ Isotonic drink to combat electrolyte loss

✔ Chamois cream to keep your hindquarters healthy

✔ An old rear tyre or a specific trainer tyre (so you don’t ruin your best one)

Max Power In Under Half An Hour
For most of us, indoor training is all about efficiency of time and training gain. This session fits both technique and high intensity work into the shortest session possible. It’s called Pyramid Pain but don’t let that put you off.


  • 4 minutes of isolated leg drills. Unclip one leg, ride with low resistance and try to eliminate any jerky movements. Keep it at about 60rpm, alternating legs after every minute
  • 4 minutes of over gearing. Up the resistance, drop the cadence and keep it smooth
  • 4 minutes of spinning. Low resistance, high rpm, try not to bounce. Do 20-second intervals with 40-second recoveries


  • 10 seconds hard – 50 seconds easy
  • 20 seconds hard – 40 seconds easy
  • 30 seconds hard – 30 seconds easy
  • 40 seconds hard – 20 seconds easy
  • 50 seconds hard – 10 seconds easy
  • 1 minute hard – 1 minute easy
  • Complete in reverse for one full set of Pyramid Pain.

Warm Down

  • 5 minutes easy

You can find more winter triathlon training articles here