Trainer Season Is Here - How to Set Up Your Indoor Cycling Space This Off-Season

Written by Alvin Holbrook, on September 30, 2021

Summer riding season is coming to a close, and while temperatures are dropping, nobody wants to lose their hard-earned riding fitness. Better yet, you might want to build up your fitness to better enjoy the riding that's left, or prepare for the next spring. What's the solution? Well, you could join an indoor cycling class, or you can make an indoor trainer setup at home.

Here's how to dial in your trainer setup for this winter to help you come out stronger than you came in. Shop trainers and accessories now.

Contender Bicycles Trainer Guide Winter Riding

Why Have a Trainer Setup?

Riding in the winter and colder temperatures come with a few inconveniences, no matter how you shake it. The obvious one is the cold, and while there are excellent winter kits at the shop that can keep you going all year, not everyone can ride comfortably. Then there are the environmental hazards, namely the inclusion of ice, snow, and even minimal daylight that'll have you riding more in the dark and less visible.

What does a trainer do then? It allows to you ride whenever you want, regardless of whether it's snowing out or it's dark at 5:30 pm. Do you only have one hour to ride during the day before work? A trainer allows you to get right into your training without the hassle of getting all of your gear ready.

The other reason a trainer setup makes sense - even in the middle of the summer - is because of targeted training. Sure, there are some of us who might have intervals they like to do on their bike rides, but you can get in and out of your training much faster, saving time to back into your other hobbies. A trainer can also allow you to take advantage of programs like Zwift or TrainerRoad, which offer a sense of structure that you may want when riding.

Zwift riding with Contender Bicycles

And of course, riding your bike on the trainer is safe for both you and your bike. You'll never be hit by a car (hopefully), allowing you to really zone out and just pedal. And when it's cold and dark, it is likely to be grimy, and riding indoors is more likely to keep your bike is great shape.

trainer stuff youll need from contender bicycles

What Do I Need?

To get set up training this season, you will need some space, a bike, and a trainer. Most people will go for their road bike, because they tend to not use it during the winter. You can also use a mountain bike, gravel bike, or even your commuter; really, use whatever you're comfortable riding for an hour or more with. Most trainers are highly adaptable and can be used with just about any bike. 

Next, we recommend some sort of trainer mat. Yoga mats are often too thin for a trainer and bike; we recommend going with something like a treadmill mat or one of Wahoo's own trainer mats. These are beneficial to prevent your bike from ruining your carpet, prevent slippage if ever and - particularly if you're anywhere that isn't a basement - absorb some of the noise vibrations that can emanate through your trainer space to the rest of your home. 

 wheel on smart trainers at contender bicycles

You'll Need A Trainer

For all intents and purposes, there are two kinds of trainers: wheel-on and wheel-off trainers. The on-wheel trainers, also called resistance trainers, keep your wheel on but can eat up your tire depending on how much resistance you set in. They likely won't work with your mountain bike or bike with knobby tires without a tire swap. If you go this route, consider buying an inexpensive rear wheel, trainer tire, and cassette to keep wear down to a minimum. The Wahoo Kickr Snap trainer and Elite Tuo trainers are some of our favorites.

wahoo kickr bike at contender bicycles

Wheel off trainers - often called direct-drive trainers -  work by having you remove your rear wheel and placing your chain to shift through a cassette that is built into the trainer. These offer greater amounts of resistance, and in most situations, are more likely to offer smart connectivity. These are also generally more expensive. part of this is because you'll certainly need an extra cassette to mount to the trainer, unless you like removing your cassette before every ride. Popular options include the Wahoo Kickr and Kickr Core, which we carry almost exclusively due to their reliability and performance. wahoo kickr bike at contender bicycles

Then there is the smart bike. We scoffed when we first saw them, shocked at their pricing that you're picking up yet another bike. But if you're looking at a full-time indoor bike, the Wahoo Kickr Bike does as excellent job. You'd go for something like this as a set-and-forget option that is by far the most immersive indoor training experience around.

Then you'll have to consider whether or not you're going to use a smart trainer. There are plenty of wheel-on smart trainers, but as you go to the higher-end models with more features, they tend to only be available as direct drive trainers. For most people, a smart trainer is what you'll want; they can be easily controlled from a bicycle computer or smartphone app or pair nicely to your preferred training app. They'll also include all the bells and whistles, from variable resistance, to power meters and cadence sensors.

zwift riding at contender bicycles

Here Are A Few Extras

A program to structure your indoor riding helps make the riding go by more quickly and ensures that your time on the trainer is effective. The ubiquitous options has to be Zwift, which offers a virtual universe in which to train on your own and ride bikes with others. More a game than training program, there are different group rides, workout plans, and even races to be won or lost. It is full-featured enough to be fun on it's own, not only as a stopgap in between riding seasons.

If you're using a program like Zwift, you're going to need a way to use Zwift. It could be as rudimentary as setting your phone up on a table or as immersive as setting up a projector controlled by an Apple TV, but you'll need something that can easily be interacted with should you care to chat with anyone or choose where you ride.

But for most situations, people seem to go with either their laptop computer or a tablet of some sort. If that is the case, we are big fans of the Wahoo Trainer Desk. It was designed literally for this whole thing, after all.

Of course, you're going to want a fan. How else are you going to stay cool when pedaling this winter? You could go with a standard box fan found at a hardware store. Those are generally well-liked and they'll offer plenty of ventilation. You could also go with something like the Wahoo Kickr Headwind, which offers a ton of power in a compact shape. It'll also increase or lower it's output based on how fast you're going or your heartrate, so the more intense you go, the more intense the wind becomes.

And if you're doing it right, you're going to need a towel. Being a hot, sweaty mess is to be expected, and in this case, encouraged! A towel over your frame protects your bike from moisture, and it keeps your sweat from getting all over the place in the middle of a hard ride.

There's one other thing that is pretty cool: the Wahoo Kickr Climb. In short, it takes information from your favorite training apps like grade and raises and lowers your bike depending on the grade of the terrain upon which you're riding. You don't need this to augment your training, but the Kickr Climb does make your training a whole lot more engaging.


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