I know there are far important things happening in the world than home-trainer cycling. I hope everyone is well and I wish you good health. This post is just a type of distraction for me in these troubling times. Be well, stay fit.
I hate the home trainer. 🙂 But my final bike ride was almost two weeks ago and ended a few minutes after the official beginning of the lockdown here in France. This post will detail a few ways I have tried to make my home trainer rides more enjoyable.
Here’s my top tip: If you are fortunate enough to have a balcony or a garden, put the home trainer outside! Fresh air is so much better than sweating inside.
My next “stupid” tip: Have fun with kit choices. My first ride I went full polka dots, including my sunglasses:
- Canada kit!
- Welsh kit given to me by a girlfriend of my wife when she saw me supporting Wales vs England in a Six-Nations rugby match
- Evil US Postal Kit.
- Blue Polka Dot Mountain Kit with the name of big climbs in the Hautes-Alpes. I am pointing at Col Agnel while cycling it on the trainer.
- Podiumcafe.com Kit.
What’s the Best Home Trainer Program? ZWIFT?
I may be different than many of you, but I am not looking to ride crazy tough interval workouts or train for a specific event. In the past, I’ve tried Sufferfest and TrainerRoad.com – both excellent programs. But I need something that is more fun to survive this lockdown.
For a comprehensive look at trainer software choices see the just published Cycling Trainer App Guide In-Depth: 2020 Edition from the excellent DC Rainmaker.
Lots of my friends and people on Strava clearly favour the virtual cycling world of ZWIFT. So I used Zwift for my first few rides last week. It’s like a video game where you can ride with friends on imaginary roads. I chose hilly routes, but needed to do something to enjoy it more.
So I try and find scenes in the simulation that look like real-life places that I have cycled/photographed. You can click through the tweet below to see the 8 views I came up with.
Tonight's stupid idea to distract from far more important things:#cycling #lockdown
Side by side: Screen shots of today's ZWIFT ride that reminded me of real ride photos
1. Para-avalanche tunnel. Watopia versus Col de Pierre Carrée (highest paved col in Haute Savoie) pic.twitter.com/mF8zTFv3HI
— cyclingchallenge (@cyclingalps) March 23, 2020
Probably the best two were the communication tower in ZWIFT versus Chasseral (the Ventoux of the Juras):
And ZWIFT cycling under a cable car versus Kitzbüheler Horn.
But I wanted more fun than ZWIFT.
Someone on twitter suggested BigRingVR.com to me. It links with a smart home trainer or power metre to simulate riding real roads with real video (eg. the resistance of the trainer increases, so speed slows, on steep roads). It includes a fairly big library of famous Alpine climbs.
This is what I needed to have more fun (I understand BKool.com and Fulgaz.com are also very good at doing rides with real video of climbs). The videos are good quality and at the bottom of the screen are all the stats you will need:
Strangely, I have been comforted riding and re-living big climbs that I already know. Perhaps, next week I’ll start exploring famous climbs that I have yet to visit as a type of post-crisis route planning motivation. Over the last six days I have cycled the following huge cols. Note, the links are to old blog posts of the real climb, not to the virtual ride.
- The north side of Col du Galbier – link to real ride.
- The south side of Col de l’Iseran – link to real ride.
- The south side of Col d’Izoard – link to real ride.
- Tremola/Passo San Gottardo – link to real ride.
- The Italian side of Colle dell’Agnello – link to real ride.
- Colle del Nivolet – link to real ride.
The rides link to my Strava, the mal looks just like you actually rode the route. See my Nivolet ride here for example.
As I ride my trainer, I watch the screen as I slowly climb remembering the views and favourite photos from previous visits. For me, it’s very comforting. Here’s one real photo from each of the above climbs.
Re-riding old routes
You can re-ride old routes using a smart trainer. You make a Garmin course and load it into a Garmin Edge that has mapping and link it with the home trainer.
As you ride, the map on the bike computer will move along the course as though yoou are there.
So last weekend, I rode the last 57 kilometres of (the cancelled) Milan – San Remo course while pedalling in my garden. A poor photo of my Garnin Edge, but hopefully you get the idea:
How is my Annual Cycling Challenge Progressing?
The two main goals of my 2020 Cycling Challenge are going surprisingly well.
1) 160,200 Metres of Vertical Ascent
I’d been cycling a lot locally pre-lockdown, and now all these virtual rides are adding roughly 1000 metres of vertical per ride. Yes, the virtual ascent is going to have to count. As long as the trainer/speed takes into account the difficulty of the slope.
2) Cycle 100 Cols
Well, I am going to have to again count these virtual cols – at least the real ones. I won’t count the cols on ZWIFT. 🙂 But trust me, these trainer rides have been tough. In part because it’s just less fun than real rides. But, at least trying to virtually visit great cols should keep me motivated.
If you read this blog, you know I like to take cycling photos. That is currently difficult given that we are confined to home. But I’ve been taking a few sunset photos either on the trainer or using my lucky, tiny, wire bike as a model. I purchased the bike at Lourdes, along with some holy water, on my first visit to the Pyrénées. 🙂
Feel free to leave a comment with any of your best lockdown, home trainer strategies.
Cheers mate, love your stuff, here in Tasmania we can still go riding (solo).
Purchasing an indoor trainer will be a last resort for me although BigRingVR.com sounds interesting.
Happy virtual riding.
It’s such a shame that you don’t still live a few km away, on the Swiss side of the border. The Swiss government seem to understand that it would be stupid to tell people not to ride their bikes on their own outside and that they can leave the house without carrying a piece of paper with them like they’re a naughty schoolboy. I hope that when you’re not on the hometrainer, you’re lobbying your politicians to change their attitudes and rules. Cycling isn’t an inherently dangerous activity and the attention that these rules are receiving is negating all the efforts that cycling advocacy groups have been making to get regular people on their bikes – which in the long run is going to be much worse for public health. It all makes me so mad. I feel sorry for everyone living in France, Spain and Italy right now and thankful that the Swiss government are showing more intelligence (despite us having a higher per capita infection rate than anyone else right now).
Thanks Will. Your posts continue to inspire and at times make me laugh, which is even more important right now. For the BigRingVR are you using a laptop or table i.e. i-pad to ride with?
I have a little table in front of my bike and put a laptop on it
Am waiting for the cows to show up on your trainer photos. Since we have shut down our tourist visitors with a 14 day quarantine, my climb up Haleakala is a pleasure. Except the cows now are on the road in addition to their slippery presents, especially on the switchbacks for some reason.
Thanks, Will. Useful write-up of the home trainer apps available. Must admit I’d never really fancied them (I’d rather be out on the open road instead), but I like the idea of putting the bike in the garden to ride on. Getting some fresh air even if you’re not moving along!
Depending on how things go in the UK I might need to follow your example. For now, the roads are pretty quiet to cycle on!