How training indoors can make you a better cyclist

Smart trainers such as CycleOps H2 let you reach new performance levels

indoor training Video
CycleOps H2 Smart Trainer

Get your work done in the winter and you’ll reap serious dividends come spring.

Editor’s Note: This sponsored post is courtesy of CycleOps. Learn more at www.cycleops.com.

Not so long ago, riding indoors was often viewed as an exercise in drudgery. Indoor trainers were loud, heavy, and imperfect devices, while entertainment options were limited to watching old Tour de France videos or reruns of Friends. But flash forward to present time, and so much has changed.

Online training platforms such as Zwift and TrainerRoad have helped transform indoor cycling into a virtually compelling and engaging experience, while smart trainers such as the CycleOps H2 can all but replicate the feel of riding outdoors. Indeed, for the truly performance minded cyclist, training indoors offers legitimate advantages over riding outside. And even if you only ride inside when absolutely necessary, those days of drudgery are long gone.

So how do you get the most out of your indoor training sessions? It starts with having a dialed set-up explains professional racer Toms Skujins of the Trek-Segafredo WorldTour team. “Of course you must start by getting a get a good trainer,” says Skujins who wore the polka dot best climber’s jersey at this year’s Tour de France and prefers direct-drive trainers such as the CycleOps H2 because of their wide bike compatibility and quiet performance. “And you won’t be burning through tires for no reason.”

CycleOps H2 Smart Trainer

The direct drive design directly connects the bicycle to the resistance unit, eliminating tire wear.

That’s because of instead of mounting your entire bike to the trainer, CycleOps H2 acts as your de facto rear wheel, meaning no trashed tires — and an incredibly realistic ride feel thanks to the H2’s massive, 20-pound precision-balanced flywheel that provides a quiet, vibration free and lifelike riding experience. The CycleOps H2 also has integrated cadence, speed, and power data, internal cooling, over-the-air firmware updates, dual-band ANT+ and Bluetooth compatibility, and an electromagnetic resistance system for rapid resistance changes within virtual training environments such as Zwift. Plus, at 64 decibels the H2 is library-level quiet. Check out this video to learn more.

Other important considerations when riding indoors are making sure you have everything close by before you get on the trainer so there are no excuses to get off your bike. “That means TV remote, towel, bottles, or whatever else you need,” Skujins explains. “And of course get a fan because you’ll be sweating a lot.”

Having a dedicated “indoor” bike is also helpful, says Allison Atkinson, an Austin, Texas-based racer who started the popular Wattage Cottage line of on- and off-bike cycling apparel.

CycleOps H2 Smart Trainer

Allison Atkinson started the popular Wattage Cottage line of on- and off-bike cycling apparel — and is an expert when it comes to training indoors. Photo courtesy www.wattagecottage.com

“I keep a spare bike setup on the trainer so I don’t need to take it on and off every time I ride outside,” explains Atkinson. “If you are spending a good amount of time training indoors, it’s advantageous to keep your older bike as a dedicated indoor bike. Generally speaking, you will sweat more indoors than you do outside. Think buckets. Sweat can corrode metal bits and even gets into your bottom bracket if you don’t take care to cover handle bars, headset, and as much as the frame as possible. No matter what clean the sweat off your bike after every ride.”

And while Atkinson doesn’t go so far as to prescribe having a dedicated training room, there certainly are advantages to setting up your own proverbial pain cave. “It’s nice to shut the door so you can tune out distractions,” adds Atkinson. “But wherever you end up be certain that the space has good air flow or AC, hard and even surface flooring, electrical outlets, and a good internet connection.”

CycleOps H2 Smart Trainer

The CycleOps H2 includes a Shimano splined freehub for compatibility with Shimano 8-11 speed cassettes. XD freehubs are also available and sold separately.

Indeed, with reliable internet connectivity and a smart trainer such as the CycleOps H2 you’ll be able to communicate with the ever increasing number virtual training application, including Zwift, Rouvy, TrainerRoad and others.

Check out this Mtbr contest for a chance to win a CycleOps H2 smart trainer.

And while indoor training is often pigeon holed as an exercise for road riders, the CycleOps H2 has a host of mountain bike specific features including thru-axle and boost hub spacing compatibility. And of course, if you happen to live in a place where winter means riding outdoors is not an option for 3-4 months of the year, riding the trainer can mean the difference between crushing climbs in the spring or getting dropped by your trail riding buddies.

CycleOps H2 Smart Trainer

Toms Skujins of the Trek-Segafredo WorldTour team is a dedicated CycleOps H2 user and wore the polka dot jersey at this year’s Tour de France. Photo courtesy Trek-Segafredo Racing Team

“The biggest advantage to training indoors is that you control the environment,” says Skujins. “No cars. No pedestrians. You can just focus on the work at hand. Doing hard efforts on the trainer is amazing, as you can push yourself harder because there is no risk of a car pulling in front of you, or having to stop mid-effort because of a traffic light.”

Atkinson echoes Skujins, revealing that she achieved a 20-point functional threshold power increase after just four weeks of indoor rides.

“Indoor training is far more controlled and focused than outdoor rides,” she explains. “There’s no stopping or coasting, so it’s time effective, you have less excuses not to ride, and terrain can be selected based on daily goals.”

Learn more about CycleOps parent company Saris which is doing business the right way.

CycleOps H2 Smart Trainer

The CycleOps H2’s robust design is capable of handling up to 2000 watts at 20mph and can simulate up to a 20% climbing grade.

So how do achieve those goals using an indoor trainer such as the CycleOps H2? Mtbr asked Skujins and Atkinson to detail their favorite indoor workouts.

“My favorite is 40/20s,” reveals Skujins. “After doing my usual warm up of 10-15 minutes of easy spinning, I then do 2-3 sets of 40/20s for 10 minutes with 5-10 minutes rest in between each set. During the 10-minute set the first 40 seconds you spin a high cadence, say 110rpm, with as much power as you have, then you have 20 seconds to rest, easily turning the pedals before you go back into another 40 seconds of high cadence/high power.”

Skujins adds that he always tries to supplement indoor workouts with cross training and weights. “Whether that’s skiing, hiking, or running you need to make sure you get outdoors and breath the fresh air. Indoor workouts definitely are not exactly the same as riding outdoors, so in the spring you might be strong, but it will take you a week or two to really get going. But after that, all that work you put in over the winter will be evident.”

CycleOps H2 Smart Trainer

The CycleOps H2 seamlessly connects to virtual training apps with dual ANT+ FE-C and Bluetooth standards.

Atkinson’s go-to workout is one she says, “Won’t be your favorite while in the midst of suffering, but you’ll feel like a million bucks afterwards.”

Start by warming up for 10 minutes, then ride at 110% of your FTP for 5 minutes. For the uninitiated, FTP (or functional threshold power) is the power represented in watts that you can sustain for 60 minutes. Most trained amateur cyclists will be somewhere in the 200-300 watts range. After that 5-minute push at FTP, recover for 5 minutes, and then repeat 4 more times for a total of 5 intervals. It’s challenging but not impossible if you already have a solid base of training under your belt, says Atkinson.

And what fitness expectations can you have for the spring by training indoors through the winter?

“Weight loss for one,” adds Atkinson. “Hibernation is not an option. With the weather, the parties, and family get-togethers, it’s easy to gain a few extra pounds during the offseason.”

CycleOps H2 Smart Trainer

Having a dedicated indoor training bike will lower the barriers of getting your workout done. Photo courtesy www.wattagecottage.com

There’s also the likelihood of significant fitness gains. “Riding controlled, focused intervals is the best way to build a higher FTP fast,” says Atkinson. “I love the 4-week FTP building training program on Zwift. Once you have a solid base, you will absolutely crush your friends on your outdoor training rides and feel more confident going into those early season races or rides.”

You also may become a more efficient cyclist because riding a trainer, specifically a smart trainer like the CycleOps H2, forces you to spin at a higher cadence than you are used to, particularly when pushing bigger watts.

“If you do not sustain a good cadence, the trainer can send you into the dreaded ‘spiral of death’ making it impossible to pedal,” says Atkinson. “But once you get out on to the road or trail you’ll find that you are able to sustain a higher cadence and utilize more of the pedal stroke on all kinds of terrain.”

All that’s something any cyclist can benefit from.

To learn more about the CycleOps H2 spin over to www.cycleops.com. And press play to see how easy it is to set up.


CycleOps H2 Smart Trainer


About the author: Mtbr

Mtbr.com is a site by mountain bikers for mountain bikers. We are the best online resource for information for mountain bikers of all abilities, ages and interests.


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  • Teleken says:

    Your dedicated indoor bike needs to have a QR (no Thru Axle) or you won’t be able to hook it up to any trainer.

  • Ray says:

    I think someone needs to publish the counter point…so much speed in mountain biking is from technique, momentum conservation, and skills… Indoor training can build the engine, but the SYSTEM needs work too.

    • tyler beginy says:

      Rightly said, and may i add that there is no steady state in mountain bike riding.. the constant terrain change and climbing involves all your muscle groups not just your legs that one would use on the trainer.

  • Chance says:

    Teleken, thats not correct. My wahoo kicker fits thru axles. I ride a yeti ASR and it works great

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