Written by: Ian Murray
Ian Murray shares some good drills to use when forced to use the stationary trainer.
If you’re still dealing will colder temperatures, now is the perfect time to let the bike become an extension of your body. All you need is a stationary trainer. Today, modern trainers provide smooth, quiet resistance and they are also indestructible, so expect the one you acquire to last decades.
Set up your trainer in the living room, garage, basement or anywhere else you’d like.
You will definitely sweat, so if you’re on carpet, put an old towel down to protect the floor. The trainer will lift the rear wheel off the floor, so use a wheel block (included with most trainers) or an old phonebook under the front wheel to get the bike level.
If you’re still riding in running shoes with platform pedals or toe clips, use this time to make the switch to a cycling shoe and a “clipless” pedal system. Have a fit expert position the cleats in the proper spot for you, and have them reduce the spring tension on the pedal to a minimum. Plan one ride a week that is 30 minutes long. During this ride, visualize a stop ahead every three minutes. As you slow your pace to a halt, unclip one foot by swinging the heel out. Then pop back into the saddle and guide the cleat into the pedal to clip in again. This practiced repetition will have you in full control of the new pedal system in just a few weeks.
Once you’ve mastered the new pedal system, you’ll be ready to incorporate some drills to your off-season bike training. One drill to improve pedaling efficiency is the classic one-foot drill. After a solid warm up, clip one foot out of the pedal and place it safely on the frame of the trainer. Then, with concentration, pedal the bicycle with just one foot. The goal is to make a smooth, fluid circle without any clunks or surges. Focus on transitioning smoothly from the “down stroke” (2 o’clock to 5 o’clock) to the “scrape” (5 o’clock to 7 o’clock) to the “pull up” (7 o’clock to 11 o’clock) and then advance across the top (11 o’clock to 1 o’clock). You’ll improve your neuromuscular fitness, or coordination, which helps your brain coordinate muscle movements faster. Start with four sets of 30 second one-leg drills (switching legs each time) with two minutes of easy spinning between each. Build progressively over several weeks to six sets, then lengthen each set up to 60 seconds.
Another drill that improves pedaling mechanics is the spin-up. After your warm up, set the trainer to moderate resistance. Put the bike in a fairly easy gear and find a nice comfortable effort at 90 revolutions per minute (rpm). Leave the resistance and the gear untouched and for 15 seconds and steadily creep your cadence up to 95 rpm, then 100 rpm and keep going until you find yourself bouncing in the saddle. Bouncing is your cue that you’ve increased the cadence too much, so decrease the cadence a bit and continue to spin for 15 more seconds. Try doing four sets of this drill with two minutes of rest between each spin-up. As you progress, you should be able to increase the duration of the spin-up and the number of repetitions.
Trainer workouts won’t have the interruptions that most rides outside throw at you. Because of that, there is great value in even a 30 to 45-minute workout. Put some of these drills to work and you’ll pop out in the spring a fitter, faster cyclist.
Click on the video player below for a video of these drills.