70 degrees and above in mid-February in Kansas City... unreal!
If you're experiencing anything like what we have going on in the Midwest this winter, the temptation is there to find any way possible to get that bike ride in outdoors and ditch the trainer.
I mean how often are you going out in shorts in February and play with the neighbors!?
But wait, should you cast aside the trainer?
I pose the answer, no.
Hear me out.
There's a couple reasons why you would ride outside on the ole two wheeled steed.
Is leisure is your mission, stop reading now and get out there.
If you're training, thinking specifically for triathlons, then read on.
There's great gains to be had riding on the road, but there's great strategies to implement that makes riding indoors on trainers the corner stone of a solid training plan.
1. Weather independent // below 0 outside? Rain? Snow? 110 degrees? O-dark thirty in the morning and don't have a light? None of that matters. All you need is your bike on a trainer in your pain cave and the forecast just doesn't matter. You eliminate weather as an excuse not to hit your workouts.
2. Time // don't need 5 layers to ride in the cold and the 20 minutes it takes to get it all on. Don't need to account for time to unload and get your bike ready to ride. Don't need to have backup time for flats or wasted time being stranded with a mechanical issue. Don't need 10 minutes to shower with sunscreen. Don't need 10 minutes to find gps signal. Just plop your tire pump by your bike mounted full time on the trainer and throw on bike shorts and workout shorts and walk to your pain cave and you're on.
3. Safety // rarely do you need to worry about vehicular traffic on your trainer. There might be a random trash truck driving into your house, but odds are you won't get hit by a car, run off the road by a car or harassed by a jerk in a car. No need for sunscreen and worry of melanoma. Unless your on rollers, odds are low that you'll need a helmet for a crash. Potholes aren't a problem on a trainer. No need for dog repellent on your trainer unless you live with Cujo. Flat front tire during your ride? Ride on indoors and no worry about losing control on the road. Not only do cars pose a risk, but when some neighbors headed out for a mid-winter 70 degree day ride and I missed out, I later found out they crossed paths with a group ride that the tail end joined them and decided to pull a u-turn and caused a bike pile up. Needless to say I wasn't sad I missed a bike wreck due to poor cycling etiquette by inexperienced riders.
4. Better workouts // YES, you can get a better workout on a trainer than the road. On the road we have a tendency to spin easier in the wind and up hills. Sketchy road conditions can lead to shower riding. With today's trainer offerings you can manage so many metrics to dial in the exact workout you want. Power. Cadence. Speed. Heart rate. You name and you can test it and train by it. Unless you know your local routes and exactly which to take for power intervals, speed work or hills and hopefully a strong wind or weather don't house your goals, riding outside is less than ideal when you have a goal for your workout. This is assuming you or your coach has developed a solid training plan.
5. Teamwork makes the dream work. Along the lines of time, a large contingency of triathletes are parents. Even more may have young kids you can't just ditch to go ride outside. Killing two birds with one stone is getting a ride while your kiddos get their steps up on the treadmill next to you. You're spending time with your kids showing them the work it takes to accomplish your goals. They're getting positive influence to get some physical movement going. You all get some bonding time. They get off the iPad or video games.
Don't get me wrong, you need to ride outside. I recently changed up my cockpit and on the trainer it felt fine, but outside in the wind with race wheels, I realized the elbow pads were too close to keep control in higher wind gusts. You don't want to spend 100 percent of time on the trainer to find out you lose confidence on the road on race day.
But, there are affordable trainers out there that you can obtain your training gains you want without having to spend all your time on the roads (I just ordered my CycleOps Magnus Trainer). You have to sit back and look at your riding goals and what your reality is. You don't have to be stuck in the whoa is me mode if you can't get outside. The days of trashing your bike training over the winter are gone and I challenge you to really consider if your goals will be met with 100 percent outside riding.
Personally I have saved what money I would have spend in cold weather riding gear and invested it in better trainers with power, speed and cadence output. I opted to go with the trainer with power over bike mounted power meters since I spend 70 to 80 of my riding time indoors and use road and tri bikes switching between bikes semi often. My situation demands a change of approach or I'll be stuck in training paths of past with minimal year over year gains.
Since I don't have hours of excess time, I've narrowed my focus to get the most of my time and workouts that I can. Less time to get ready and get done means more time on the trainer working killer sets building gains and making progress.