Winter is coming – Part 1

I

know that we’re in the middle of September as I write this, but before we know it the nights will be getting longer and the weather will get worse… much worse! Many riders will be packing their bikes away in the garage, not to see the light of day until the daffodils poke their heads above ground again. However, if you want to get a head start and not spend the first few months trying to regain all that fitness you’ve lost over the winter, it pays to be prepared. Winter is coming people, I can smell it in the air.

In my coming series of blogs, I’ll be looking at some of the products, apps and programs that are out there to help make the winter grind more bearable. Not only that, these can also be very powerful tools to help target very specific areas of your fitness and maximise your available training time. But first we need to look at the hardware that makes this possible.

Smart vs Dumb Trainers:

Turbo trainers have been around for a long time. In their simplest form, they are a means of being able to apply resistance for you to work against. This can be in the form of air resistance (from turning a fan), magnetic resistance (which can be adjusted depending on how close the magnetic sits) or fluid resistance (where a fluid gets forced round a circuit). These standard trainers require you to manually adjust the resistance to adjust the level of work you’re doing. This can be easier said than done when you’re in the middle of an effort and can result in you not hitting the desired intensity and can be quite distracting.

A smart trainer takes care of this for you. They are a powered unit that can be programmed to automatically adjust the resistance for you in addition to measuring how much power you’re producing. Smart trainers have been around for a while now and I first started using one back in 2004 however it took a while for them to really take off because most of these trainers were designed to only work with that company’s program. While these companies were very good at making turbo trainers, they didn’t have the expertise to make good programs. This meant the software clunky, was full of bugs, and, was visually limited.

Wahoo changed all this. Their model was similar Apple’s and they looked to make the best possible trainer and then opened the code to allow third parties to design apps and programs to work with it. This has resulted in a whole library of apps and programs depending on what type of training you want to do.

To Direct Drive or Not Direct Drive that is the question:

There are two choices when it comes to Wahoo trainers: Kickr (£999.99) and Snap (£499.99). The Kickr is more accurate and able to withstand greater power outputs as well as having a bigger flywheel which gives more momentum while you ride. The absence of having to run a tyre on a roller also gives a smoother more road like feel. The big difference between the two however is how your bike connects to the turbo. The cheaper Snap is like a normal turbo trainer with the bike being bolted into the turbo by the axel and the tyre running on a roller. There are few downsides to this: Firstly your tyre gets worn out quicker and can develop a flat spot. You can change your tyre to a turbo specific one with a harder compound and if changing your tyre regularly becomes a hassle, you can set up a separate wheel with the tyre already installed. However, the cost of doing this plus the Snap brings you close to the cost of getting the more expensive Kickr where the chain drops straight onto a cassette that lives permanently on the trainer.  The other advantages of the Kickr are that it is quieter because you don’t have the friction sound between the tyre and the roller. In addition, you don’t need a riser block under the front wheel to keep the bike level.

So What Else Might You Need?

If you want to maximise the use of a smart trainer, having your computer or tablet close enough to be able to reach is invaluable. There’s nothing more frustrating than needing to pause or adjust the program you’re on and having to stop and get off the bike to do so. Whaoo have got you covered here by having a “Pain Cave” package which includes a desk designed to raise your laptop/tablet above the level of your bars as pictured (you can also just link your computer to a TV like we’ve done in store for a larger more immersive displayed workout). Additionally, the “Pain Cave” package comes with a rubber matt which a) protects your floor from the puddle of sweat that you’re bound to produce (if not, you’re not going hard enough) and b) dulls the vibration through the floor.

Controlling that sweat is quite important as it’s very corrosive due to its high salt content. I’ve seen many a bike with seize bolts and knackered headset bearings because they’ve seen a hard winter of drowning in sweat baths. A simple top tube mounted sweat guard can catch the worst of this.

A big @$$ fan can also help keep the body temps down during hard efforts but this obviously increases the noise.

Ready, Set, GO!

So now you’re all set up and ready to start training but what program are you going to use? Over the next few weeks, we’re going to review a number of programs that are out there so you can find the one that works best for your goals. If you want to try the Wahoo Kickr or the programs we review, pop buy the shop and we’ll show you.

Until then, enjoy the last of the summer sunshine but remember, Winter is coming.

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