While the long winter nights may be coming to an end, I’d found myself doing a few hours a week on an old exercise bike that I found propping up a load of clothing in the spare room. While getting out into the fresh air is always the best option, I’m no road cyclist, and the local cycle tracks only offer out and back routes that can get a bit tedious, so getting a few hours in seemed ideal.
Turbo Trainers are a posh word for a stand that basically turns your beloved mount into an exercise bike. The obvious advantage being that you’ll then be cycling on a proper bike as opposed to what is often a cheap exercise bike. You’ve got to store the bike somewhere, so by doing it this way you get to use it as well. While there are awesome versions available for over £100, I decided to be a cheapskate and buy one of the budget offerings online – variously branded but clearly the same trainer. This one’s labelled Bike Magnetic Turbo Trainer and sold by Black Dog Bikes.
The trainer took just minutes to set up. This was despite the single sheet of folded A4 that masquerades as a manual. The trickiest step was finding the quick release skewer that was meant to come supplied. It was, but was hidden underneath the polystyrene in the box. This skewer is designed to make the turbo trainer clamp more securely to your bike, though I’d change this back if going outdoors just in case. Another thing it comes with is a stand for your front wheel that props the front of the bike up so you don’t feel as if you’re constantly cycling downhill (even though you’re still pedalling like crazy).
This model comes with remote resistance adjustment that clamps quickly to your bars. You’ll need to play with this in order to get it just right – but you can also train, arguably more effectively, using your gears. I don’t know if this is just overkill, and would consider a manually adjusted one to be just as useful as I didn’t find that the handlebar control did anything.
With everything set up, I realised that I wouldn’t be able to train as I usually do. I use a GPS on rides as a rule, but that isn’t going to be much use on a stationary bike. Those in the know will probably say that you don’t ride for distance on a turbo trainer at any rate, and that a watch with a HRM will be more than sufficient. I just like to know how far I’ve gone, even if I’ve not actually moved! I ordered a Cateye Cadence cycle computer for the simple fact that it was recommended for turbo trainers. You can’t use any old computer either. If you’ve already got one that attached to the front wheel then you’ll need to replace it with one that fits on the rear.
How does it feel in use? In feel it’s smoother than an exercise bike, and much better for the simple fact that you’re really sat on a bike. Where it’s very unlike an exercise bike is that it’s simply a tougher workout. I struggled to do half an hour on the first outing, even though I’d been doing over an hour on the exercise bike regularly over the last few weeks. Not only that, but the distance I covered in that half an hour was much less than I would have done on an exercise bike, which makes me seriously question the accuracy of the exercise bike. Like the calories they report, they give inflated figures in order to give the users a sense of achievement in order to get them using that machine next time.
As you get an effective workout, you’ll be sweating so much that you will need a towel protecting your bike. If you’ve got a fan, get that set up as well. In front of the screen, you can then choose to watch TV online, or view turbo trainer vids online. Definately better than looking at a blank wall.
I decided against putting a trainer tyre on this for the simple fact that I don’t think I’ll be training seriously, and can’t be arsed to change the tyre each time. I was also using a slick on my MTB at the time, which is OK to use while a knobbly MTB tyre might be a bit noisy in use. I used it on the first floor of the house, and I was initially concerned about the noise. It was difficult listening to music on speakers, but I just turned them up the next time and it was fine! The noise does ramp up once you start getting into the tougher gears, and I’d be concerned about using it during the night or early morning.
This budget trainer does the job and is good enough for the more casual cyclist who wants the option of some indoor cardio as opposed to the more serious cyclist who might want something with more effective resistance. You’ll just need to get yourself motivated to use it!
If you want some inspiration of how to make your time on the Turbo Trainer more interesting, then visit this post – Turbo Training not Torture.