Indoor cycling is any type of indoor exercise that focuses on rotating pedals in circles.
It can involve very different looking equipment including under-desk pedal systems, rolling cylinders, exercise bikes, or indoor bike trainers.
To get an overview of indoor cycling, let’s take a look at the most popular forms of equipment! For each indoor cycling system, the more it’s like an outdoor experience, the more useful it will be in improving outdoor cycling abilities. We’ve divided all cycling systems into two categories to reflect this.
Indoor trainers are devices that attach to a rear tire of a real bike and provide resistance that simulates riding uphill or against the wind. Smart trainers are a subcategory of indoor trainers that have a computer inside and can use its processing power to closely replicate the feeling of pedaling against natural resistance. Smart trainers can also be hooked up to ride simulating software and TV to create a virtual ride experience.
There are also some exercise bikes that do an especially good job at replicating the experience of riding. Wahoo’s KICKR BIKE simulates coasting and has simulated gear-shifting profiles of real bikes. Made with the processing power and connectivity of a smart trainer, it takes ride simulating software like Zwift and the SYSTM Training App to the next level of realism.
Rollers are a series of suspended cylinders used in conjunction with a real outdoor bike. They make direct contact with the bike’s tires, keeping the bike off the ground while the user pedals. There is a lot of side to side wobble while riding because the user is not restrained. This creates more realism but also can lead to wipe-outs. They can come with or without a system that creates resistance. Systems with resistance are often limited in how much resistance they provide. Wahoo’s KICKR ROLLR is a dual-roller design that lets the rear wheel move naturally to match the intensity of your workout, while keeping the front wheel locked in so you can skip the wipouts and keep the realism.
Many exercise bikes are less like real outdoor cycling. They often have upright or reclined body positions that are not like outdoor pedaling. Their systems of resistance can involve a physical block that drags on the flywheel, making the resistance feel unrealistic. Instead of feeling like you are pedaling uphill or against the wind, it feels like you are pedaling while braking.
Some desk cycling systems have no resistance at all. Many have a physical brake for resistance. While they are an improvement from sitting motionless at a desk, based on body position and ride feel, they barely resemble outdoor cycling.
There’s many equipment options for first-time indoor cyclists. We recommend trying out all the various options because there is a wide variety in ride quality. Even people who do not compete will find motivation and entertainment value while using a smart trainer hooked to a ride-simulating system like the SYSTM Training App or Zwift. See how engaging top end gear can be with the cutting edge realism of Wahoo smart trainers and the Wahoo KICKR BIKE.
Winter training on the turbo used to be a simple affair. Shut yourself in the garage with a towel, your iPod and a grim expression, and pedal away. The decision over which trainer to buy was similarly simple as feature counts tended to be pretty minimal but now, with immersive training environments such as Wahoo Systm, Wahoo RGT, Zwift and FulGaz offering a wide variety of ways to ride and train, choice of trainer depends very much on what you see yourself getting up to over the winter months.
Broadly speaking, turbo-trainers can be divided into two categories, smart and dumb, with smart trainers having the ability to control resistance levels using software, whereas dumb trainers require you to set resistance level manually, either via a mechanically adjusted magnetic resistance unit or simply, in the case of fluid-trainers, by pedalling harder.
And while you can use certain dumb trainers with many virtual-reality software packages, a smart trainer provides a much more seamless experience, with resistance varying automatically according to the parcours of your virtual world. Even if you don't plan on riding up a computer-generated Alpe d'Huez, smart trainers are also great when used for more traditionally designed training sessions, such as interval workouts. If your plan calls for, say, intervals at 260 watts, then that is what the trainer - controlled by your computer, phone or tablet - will demand of you. Slow down your cadence and the trainer responds by increasing the braking load, leaving you no choice but to work harder or quit - brutal, but effective!
On a "traditional" style turbo-trainer your bike's rear wheel presses against a roller which spins a resistance unit, whereas a direct-drive turbo has a freehub permanently fixed to it, on to which is fitted your choice of gear cassette. You remove the rear wheel and mount your bike straight onto this cassette, so that bicycle and trainer become one single unit, offering a number of advantages.
Chief of these is that there is no possibility of slippage occurring between wheel and roller, meaning that much higher resistance loads are possible; the direct-drive Wahoo Kickr, for example, can generate 2200 watts of resistance (enough to simulate a climb of around 20%) whereas the wheel-on Kickr Snap maxes out at around 1500 watts and can simulate a 12% climb. Still not bad to be fair, many other wheel-on trainers can't get close to this.
Power measurement is more accurate with direct-drive too. Using the Wahoo range as an example again, all models have a powermeter built-in but the Kickr is accurate to +/-1% (comparable to the best standalone powermeters) while the Kickr Snap claims accuracy around +/-3%. Variations in tyre pressure with a wheel-on trainer mean that consistency can vary too so the Snap, in common with other similar types, has to be calibrated using a "spin-down" test each time it is used.
Direct-drive also tends to be quieter, because there is no interface between tyre and roller to generate noise and vibration, and while the Kickr Snap is pretty good in this regard, the Kickr is basically no more noisy than your bike.
It has to be acknowledged that fully loaded direct-drive turbos are more expensive than the wheel-on variety - the Kickr retails at £999.99 whereas the Kickr Snap is £429.99 - but to address this Wahoo also offers the direct-drive Kickr Core which, at £699.99, sits mid-way between the other two models.
It's mid-way in terms of features too; maximum resistance is 1800 watts (equivalent to 16% incline), powermeter accuracy is +/-2%, and its flywheel is lighter than the Kickr's and heavier than the Snap's. The flywheel weight, by the way, has an impact on how "real world" your pedalling feels by simulating the momentum you experience out on the road, ensuring you don't immediately come to a halt if you stop pedalling.
Digging a little further into the Wahoo range, there are a number of other small but significant differences between the three models:
...and also a large number of key features in common:
Another thing all three Wahoo trainers have in common is that, as well as being compatible with Wahoo's own fitness app, they can be used seamlessly with all of the popular third party apps and websites around at the moment. In another blog, we'll be looking at how you get set up on probably the most popular one out there, Zwift, so stay tuned.
And of course, if you have any further questions about Wahoo trainers, or would like information about any of their other fitness products, such as the always-popular Elemnt Computers or new Power Link Zero Power Pedals, please feel free to give us a call or drop in. We don't just sell Wahoo gear, we use it ourselves too!
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