It was a beautiful morning in June 2017. For the past few summers, I would head out on the road or trails sometimes before dawn with LED lights blazing and get in a great training ride before work. This day was especially rad because my kid spent the night at her grandparents house and I got to get in an extra long ride on hero dirt on the local trails. I was pinning it, coming home with a few PRs and a Strava Top 10! After wrapping up on the trails, I had a short jaunt through town between the trail head and my house. I was enjoying the morning sun and grinning ear to ear after a near perfect ride. While riding on a quiet side road in a bike lane, a woman turned into a parking lot across the oncoming lane of traffic and hit me head on, sending me flying over her hood and landing squarely on my shoulder on the tarmac. It happened so fast, I had no time to react. While it hurt, it certainly wasn’t any worse than dozens of times I have gone down while mountain biking. For the next half hour I was the center of attention. A firefighter saw the whole thing go down and wouldn’t let me stand up. The ambulance showed up, the cops showed up, bystanders were circled around and the woman that hit me was more freaked out than I was. She had the glare of the sun in her eyes and simply didn’t see me.
I was able to hop on my bike and ride home but over the next weeks and months, I realized that my relationship with cycling had permanently changed. As a provider for my family, I thought a lot about the risks I was taking and from that point on, I have had almost no desired to ride solo on public roads. I started looking towards other options. I had heard of Zwift but had been putting off trying it but as early winter rolled around, I started with a simple set up that included a dumb trainer, a Power Tap hub and cheap lap top. I was hooked right away. After plenty of trainer rides over the years with cheesy Spinerval DVDs or GCN’s free YouTube training videos, this new method of indoor training was a quantum leap ahead and much more engaging! So, after a year and a half of being an avid Zwifter, here are the top 5 benefits that I have found for Riding Inside!
Number 5: Reduced wear and tear on bikes: if you are a cyclist, especially a mountain biker, you know that keeping up with bikes can cost a small fortune. Worn out tires, flat tires, suspension pivots, chain lube, brakes, truing wheels, cables, shock rebuilds and drive train parts. Your rigs will take a constant beating riding outside. With my indoor set up, I rarely need to lube my chain and never need to replace brakes or tires. Last year, I only replaced my chain and cassette and that was a DIY project that cost about $60 with parts on sale.
Number 4: Convenience: Getting ready for a bike ride can be a big undertaking. Making sure you have water, food, air in your tires, a planned route, CO2, extra tube, helmet and an array of layers for less than ideal weather can be time consuming. On a trainer, there is no waiting for the weather to break, no concern about your lights dying, no traveling by car to the meetup spot or trail head. Most of us leave our bikes on the trainer and start pedaling.
Number 3: Fabulous Fitness: I track my Fitness and Freshness score on Strava. You can see from the picture below that I had big winter time dips every year until Z-Day. From that day forward, I have not had seasonal fitness dips. Also, if you are on a training ride, there are no stop signs or stop lights to ruin your intervals. I find I can get the same training score in a much shorter amount of time on a trainer than on a bike in the real world. Indoor training is highly efficient and easy to track!
Number 2: No consequences to getting dropped! If you have spent any time doing group rides or races, you know that humiliating feeling of getting dropped. Maybe its because you weren’t as strong as other riders and you feel like you just pissed away race fees and a lot of hard work or you bonked because you ran out of water or food and are still 15 miles from home. It’s a terrible feeling. You’re on the struggle bus to get back to where you started or worse, you have to make the dreaded call to have the broom wagon sweep you up. When you get dropped in Zwift, you are still in the same place you started. Only your pride is bruised. Shake it off and come back tomorrow and get dropped a little later in the ride. Repeat until you are in the front pack!
Number 1: Safety and Injury Prevention: The roots of Indoor Specialists are DIRT ZWIFT TEAM. DIRT stands for Dads Inside Riding Trainers and there was story after story like mine popping up on our social media. Many of them much much worse. As a mountain biker I accept that scrapes and bruises come frequently but big injuries in my experience have been rare. Road bike crashes typically are infrequent but high speeds and hard surfaces are very unforgiving. Whether it is a tangle of wheels in the pace line or a collision with a 4,000 lb car, I have both witnessed and seen the aftermath of devastating bicycle crashes. Physical recovery times can take months and the mental and emotional scars sometimes never completely heal. I have yet to hear of an injury from someone falling off their trainer.
These 5 reasons to ride inside are a personal perspective on what keeps me engaged with indoor training. None of this is to say that you shouldn’t get outside and enjoy the experience of swooping through the turns, the wind through your hair, and sending it over the gap jump. What I have found is that due to all of the above listed advantages of indoor training, I never go through that uncomfortable period of getting back into biking shape in the spring. The first beautiful day comes around and your legs don’t match your enthusiasm to haul ass.
Now, at any given time of year, I can head into the real world and it is immediately hammer time as my legs and lungs are up to the task every day of the year. If you have more reasons to ride inside not listed here, let me know!
Thanks for taking the time to read and I’ll see you in Watopia. RIDE ON!
Ken “The Badger” Nowell