Set Up Is Easy
Training Is Sophisticated
To be clear, there are basically two options for indoor cycle training: stationary bikes or trainers.
The Trainer pictured here is CycleOps, which is one of the better brands, but there are many brands and styles to choose from.
A Stationary Bike is stand alone. It doesn’t attach to your bike and needs no other equipment.
The variety of stationary bikes is also endless: spinning, upright, recumbent, moving handles and more.
Some bikes come with computers and some don’t.
Some are designed to mimic the feel of outdoor cycling and some not. That’s important because if you’re interested in augmenting your road training, you want a bike that produces the same feel.
One warning, though. If cross training is your aim, then stay clear of strangely designed bikes. There are better ways to cross train.
The Wattbike pictured above is considered the cream of the crop. It’s used by pros and amateurs alike. They are standard equipment in gyms these days but can be purchased for home use as well.
Trainers vs Stationary Bikes
I only discovered this recently, but there seems to be debate over which is better: trainers or stationary bikes.
I had a question about the setup on my Wattbike and to solve the problem, I did what people do. I googled the issue and came across a review article for indoor trainers by DC Rainmaker – whose actual name is Ray Maker.
DC, like me, is an amateur sports enthusiasts. And, like me, he blogs. He has learned and shared a lot about training in general and cycling equipment in particular. It was the above referenced article – or rather the comments – that pointed out the difference between a Trainer and a Stationary Bike. It was news to me. I thought any device that wasn’t your bike was a trainer. Guess I was wrong.
The article was discussing only Trainers but one commenter asked specifically about Wattbikes and DC’s response was interesting.
I just don’t really get the Wattbike thing. Meaning, a core component of a trainer is getting time on YOUR BIKE. It’s super important for triathletes, especially iron-distance. But also important for all cyclists. If you train on one bike,and race on another, your fit will almost always be different. Even just a tiny bit, but that tiny bit you’ll quickly realize when you switch and have slight soreness the next day.
The implied takeaways from that statement are numerous.
Apparently, he’s not too keen on stationary bikes. In another article, he said:
Regular readers know that I’m hardly a fan of stationary bikes.
I was a bit surprised. I couldn’t disagree entirely but I couldn’t buy it completely either. In one way, he was absolutely correct but in another, I wasn’t so sure. Let me explain.
Bike fit IS enormously important! That goes without argument. Everyone agrees.
I learned that lesson by experience. My fit only came right when I contracted a professional bike fitter and that was after several cycle-shop fitters did their best. It wasn’t cheap but after years of pain, it was well worth the money.
The fitter I used was Deno at Performance BikeFit in Ballito. Deno is an ex pro cyclist who spent time training and racing in the UK and Europe. He knows his stuff and did a great job. I recommend him highly.
All of that is to say fit is important, but I’m not sure DC is correct in saying that the fit on your road bike can’t be transferred to a Wattbike. In fact, I asked Deno if it could be done and, if so, the best way to do it and he said sure. Just measure the distance from the center of the crank axle on the road bike to the center of the saddle and transfer that dimension to the Wattbike – not his exact words but the essence.
That’s the staring point and from there you can tweek the other settings.
It doesn’t get simpler than that and it really worked!
Of course, in response to DC’s remarks, the question is can your bike setup be replicated? Can you get the same fit on the Wattbike as you do on the road bike?
On some bikes, I would say DC is correct. The adjustment points are preset with no adjustments allowed in between. The Wattbike, however, has no presets. It’s designed for a wide range of fits that can be adjusted by the millimetre. Actually by the hair.
An endless number of vertical and horizontal adjustments can be made for the saddle and the handlebars. Once you know the settings, it doesn’t take long to setup and ride.
No guess work involved. Get the dimensions from your road bike and transfer them to the Wattbike. Start with the saddle height and work from there.
Advantages – Disadvantages
Now for a few final thoughts on why a stationary bike may be more advantageous than a trainer.
- It takes longer to set up a trainer each session than it does to adjust Wattbike settings. Remember, trainers come with special spindles for the rear wheel that must be installed and uninstalled every time.
- Multiple parts to keep track of. That spindle I just mentioned is just one part. It’s small and is accompanied by cables, front wheel props and more. The more sophisticated the trainer, the more pieces are parts there are to deal with. The idea is to train, not fiddle with your bike.
- Boring! Wattbikes can be boring too, but gyms provide TVs, fans and there might even be company to chat with. Not so on a home trainer.
- Both your bike and the trainer will experience wear and tear every time you train which means you’ll spend money maintaining both pieces of equipment. The gym maintains the Wattbike I train on.
- Trainers must be stored. My gym stores the Wattbike for me.
- Trainers are notoriously unstable and even the better stabilized brands still need careful attention. If you don’t get the rear wheel bound properly, you can fall over damaging equipment and body parts. Never had that happen on a Wattbike.
- You never find trainers at gyms.
A stationary bike – particularly a Wattbike – is a great training tool, but don’t take my word for it. Just ask the pros. They regularly use Wattbikes.