After last week’s question about starting cycling in general, we  received a question asking for advice geared more towards the practical aspects of riding a trainer for the first time.  Although, of course, we wish everyone could join us at the lab and escape the loneliness of basement trainer riding!

So perhaps you’ve considered hitting the trainer this winter, but the number of choices, purchases, and general knowledge to be accrued seems daunting. The available options for trainers, workout types,  and watches alone can be overwhelming. That’s why the preferred option is usually to join a community which can help you with a goal, metrics, and the community piece.

But what if circumstances dictate that you must ride on your own? In that case there are a few tips to ease the pain of getting started, and even to make the sessions potentially fun instead of drudgery. To start us off, here is a list of things you absolutely NEED to get started (note: if you have any specific questions about equipment, you should talk to the good folks at Podium Multisport.

Trainer Riding Necessities

  1. The bike– any bike will do, but if you use a mountain bike, you should replace the rear tire with a smooth one
  2. The trainer– Here is a great starting place for reviews of all levels of trainer
  3. A way to collect data– This can be as simple as a stop watch or a clock on the wall based on what data you want to collect. If you’re using heart rate, you’ll need a heart rate monitor. If you want a head unit that can connect with a possible future power meter you may purchase you need to consider that, too. Here is a great article that reviews many of the popular head unit/watch options.

Trainer Riding Extras and Tips

  1. Use a fan– Contrary to what some believe, going without a fan is not a sign of being hardcore, it’s actually limiting you.
  2. Set up a dedicated area– When the 5 AM alarm goes off, you’ll be much more likely to get up and go if your ‘pain cave’ is set up and ready to go. Even finding appropriate attire or putting your bike on your trainer can sound tough early in the morning
  3. Get some guidance– This can be anything from scripted workouts from your coach, to an online plan, or using a Trainer Road plan
  4. Pick your motivation– Notice I used the word motivation versus entertainment. In my mind, entertainment, like watching a movie or reading a book (how do people do that!) mostly precludes working hard. To each his own, but I think pure music, or if you’re especially masochistic, staring at a white wall while thinking about your next race, is a better motivator.