Winter came very late this year. As always, some are caught unprepared, and some have already planned everything: clothing, training camps in warm areas, and an object that can no longer can be missing in cycling training for amateurs, professionals or simple enthusiasts: a smart trainer.
We have already talked thoroughly about this training tool. We have also recommended some training plans for diehards who continue to train on traditional rollers. Now let’s delve further into some pros and cons of indoor training.
Pros 1: Power control on a smart trainer
Many enthusiasts train just with a heart rate monitor. Few use a power meter: the latest technological bulwark in training. Yet, training with a potentiometer is worth the extra gear. Today it would be unthinkable for a pro rider not to use a power meter. And the smart rollers make it available to everyone. You can spend the winter following your training plan with power. Run perfectly scalable tests—an extra gear within everyone’s reach.
Cons 1: Staticity
A trainer is stationary and vertical. This leads to 2 main consequences: the first is that our slightest asymmetry will stand out. For example, if we have a leg 1mm shorter, a so minimal asymmetry that it does not need to be corrected with orthotics or other, it can lead to pain on the roller. In contrast, the same problem is perfectly compensated on a bike, where we have freedom of movement.
The second consequence is a greater specialization of the muscles we use. As a result, we engage fewer muscle fibres. So we strengthen a smaller number of muscles than the actual movement of the bike on a natural path.
Pros 2: Learn real training tables
Virtually all smart platforms offer routes and also tests and training tables. These are not custom tables created by a personal trainer. But they are always serious and planned approaches to performance. Following these methods can lead to big improvement for those not followed by a coach. Not only that: they are repeatable methods in the summer on and off-road, if adapted with the right proportions.
Cons 2: Sweating and difficulty in weight control
One of the most frequent problems for those who train on the smart trainer is hyper-sweating. We have already recommended that you calibrate your workouts without ever exceeding them. Hyper-sweating can lead to fatigue syndrome. In more extreme cases, it can also develop a situation of cardiac extra-systoles. Therefore, staying focused and maintaining balance is essential in indoor cycling.
Furthermore, by training indoors, even if we lose a lot of fluids, we often accumulate fat because our training sessions are shorter and more static, with less movement of the whole body.
Pros 3: Daily training
The rollers allow us to train little but often. The ideal condition to keep fit, especially for those who don’t have time to train. Better 1 hour a day, with a Sunday long ride, than 2-3 average training sessions a week.
Cons 3: Loss of pace cycling uphill
As we have already said, the smart trainer is excellent and requires effort similar to reality, but in a very static way. This leads us to develop strength and power but also to leave out the aerobic part, which cannot be kept in shape as on a real workout on the road. In practice, we are always on the flat even if the roller tries to simulate a climb. And this can negatively affect the first climbs in Spring after indoor training.
Pros 4: Getting used to maximal effort
The beauty of online platforms is the availability of thousands of online races. Fun but also severe training. Everyone knows: the training that pays the most is the race. Always. And in this way, smart rollers have brought a new breath of preparation, allowing many cyclists to already have part of the famous “race pace” since the first outings in Spring.
Cons 4: Loss of handling skills
For some, training for a whole Winter on a smart trainer can certainly bring physical benefits, but it can also lead to a loss of driving skills. Resuming pedalling on the road or off-road in Spring may require a good dose of balance readjustment.
Pros 5: Change of routes
The boredom of the route can take over at some point. Nevertheless, we always take the same roads, with the only variant of the holidays. Sometimes we alternate road cycling with off-road cycling. In this overview, a smart trainer that takes us with the imagination to the Alpe d’Huez or to the final race of the Tour of Flanders, brings a breath of new motivation.
Cons 5: Pain from wrong bikefitting
Many cyclists choose to place a second bike on the rollers, perhaps an older model or otherwise cheaper than the bike they use on the road / off-road. However, these second bikes are often very different from the official ones. And the problems come if you start practising a lot of training sessions on the rollers: since the roller is static and vertical, it does not forgive positioning defects.