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Home » Cycling » Cycling, and How I Will get Faster Over the Winter… On a Trainer.

Cycling, and How I Will get Faster Over the Winter… On a Trainer.


November 2016

Notice, please, that I didn’t use the word “intend” or “plan” or “think I can” in the Title?  While this isn’t a foregone conclusion, as I still have to put in the saddle time, I have already started on the path….

I bought a turbo from a buddy of mine who had no use for it, expecting the same old results from winter training – maintenance of fitness.  A beautiful Giant Cyclotron Mag II, for $40 (they retail for $180) with seven resistance settings that can be controlled by a dial that clips to the bar top.

It’s the quietest trainer I’ve ever used, but also the hardest to get the pedals around on.  As you might expect if you’ve read anything I’ve written about cycling, I’ve got mine set on the hardest setting….  It’s not even marked as 7, it’s H.  

I noticed the first time I rode on it, maybe two or three weeks ago, that this wasn’t my old Blackburn Track stand.  The Giant elicited a burn in my quads that I hadn’t felt since Day 2 of DALMAC… and that burn came on pretty quick too, maybe two minutes into my 45 minute session.  

I kept it up for a few minutes with my gear selection at 52/13, about 28 mph.  I downshifted a gear and 24-1/2 was a bit more reasonable.  I still went back to the 13 cog every once in a while.  I was intrigued because that felt a lot like 23 or 24 on the road… certainly that can’t be, I thought.

I spent a few days on the trainer, between rain, cold and a 5:30 sunset.  When the weekend rolled around I felt spectacular and was able to spend quite a bit of time up front.  That was followed by another few days on the trainer, all the while increasing the time I spent in the higher gears.  I even dabbled in the 12 for a bit.  

When Friday rolled around, our last true hooky-worthy day of the year with the temperature expected to top 72 degrees, we had a great group of hooky players show up to ride at 9 am.

I spent a ton of time up front while we battled the wind heading out and it was rough…. but something unexpected happened in those first ten miles.  I didn’t suffer like I normally do trying to hold 19 or 20 into a stiff headwind.  When we headed back toward home and finally got a bit of tailwind, I was energized.  

This was exactly opposite late autumn last year.

We finished the ride with only 32 miles but I could have easily doubled that.  Subsequent outdoor rides have produced similar results, I’m happy to report.

Last night I came up with a fantastic trainer workout as I was watching Star Wars: The Force Awakens for the 23rd time, almost by accident.  I shifted to the 13 tooth cog and gave that a go for ten minutes…. I know, most people warm up first.  I’ve never been much of a fan.  After that ten minutes my legs were burning quite well and I downshifted one gear and held that between 90 and 100 rpm.  I figured that was good enough and I’d just spin the rest of my workout right there.

My breathing normalized and my legs started to feel better at the 5 minute mark.  Then the cogs in my melon started turning…  At the 10 minute mark, I shifted to the 13 again, figuring I’d hold that for five minutes.  I went ten instead.  Another downshift to the 15 tooth cog (it’s a 9 sp. on the Trek) and ten more minutes in the easy gear…  I figured I’d do the last five minutes as a cool down… but when I got to the last five seconds I changed my mind.  I shifted to the 13 and did the last five minutes in the harder gear.

When I got off the bike, I could feel it in my legs, more than if I’d have ridden 25 miles outdoors…. in 45 minutes.

And I still have the 12 and 11 cogs to go…

This aggressive workout plan won’t be easy to stick with over the winter.  I don’t know about anyone else but I’ve historically shaded more toward sustaining some level of cycling fitness rather than building through the winter.  It’s a long season (between 9 and 10 months depending on how willing I am to ride in sub-freezing temperatures) and I typically look at winter as my time off, even though I still put in 45 minutes a day, five days a week on the trainer.

On the other hand, if I can build on the guns through the winter while everyone else is maintaining, why not?  Oh, that’ll make for a fun time next year!  

My lesson learned here is that all trainers are not created equal.  While my Blackburn did the job of keeping me at a good level of fitness going into last Spring, I would have been mistaken to hope I could get stronger on that trainer.

Well, that and I’m willing to throw rest under the bus if it means even the hope of hanging with the racers on Tuesday night next year…. and I was close to that at the end of this season.  With just a little more ass and “want to”, who knows.


  1. Tony says:

    Fascinating read, Jim. As you know the only speed I seek is enough to get my heart rate up, so it isn’t very high. One thing pops into my mind, though. As an old man riding along around 12 mph, I still managed to experience some very bad falls. I went over the handle bars in April and landed on my hands and knees on the pavement. Got X-rayed and was lucky enough not to break my wrist again, but the trauma on my left hand was enough to keep me from being able to do a push up for six weeks. Your seeking speed makes me wonder about falls. Do you ever …?

    • bgddyjim says:

      Never riding a road bike, knock wood. Speed is your friend, as they say.

      I have fallen three times off of my mountain bike. Twice from going too fast on a single track, my first time. Once was riding behind my daughter at slow speeds. She fell, so I went down rather than run her over…. that was pretty early on too.

  2. All I can say is “watch it”. I know that the computrainer classes that I used to ride (2-3 times per week) were designed to sustain fitness up to January, then focused on speed training January and February. The idea was to prevent burnout by making the first months less about pushing hard, although the workouts were not easy.

    Around here there are computrainer races. I have done a few. One racing club sponsors a 4 race series, then finishes with an outdoor time trial — and the races actually count for points.

  3. Psst… Trainer Road, TheSufferfest and Zwift have virtual watts – meaning using your cycling computer and your mag/fluid trainer (I have a blackburn 6 fluid), you can get a rough estimate of watts to train by. Indoor training with watts (virtual or otherwise) would give you a benchmark to work from instead of perceived exertion. Both TR and ‘Fest have training plans for different goals. Train smarter, not harder!

  4. unironedman says:

    Don’t know if I mentioned this guy: but he does some serious cycling too. Has some good stats and thoughts about turbo trainers as he uses them a lot. Roughly speaking he reckons two hours on a turbo is about three on the road. Your only real danger on a turbo is mind-numbing boredom, unless you’re doing intervals, maybe. So having a screen is a bonus, I guess…

  5. zoeforman says:

    YouTube helps the pass the time
    Also as recently diagnosed with exercise induced asthma I’m not risking cold weather rides so turbo time for me for a few months.

  6. sarahdudek80 says:

    I always thought these trainers look like so much fun. Now that we are in the north, I might just have to look into this and a treadmill as well!

    • bgddyjim says:

      Save your money on the tread mill/clothes rack. I ran outside in weather so cold my eyelashes were freezing together when I blinked because of my hatred for the treadmill.

  7. Dave Dally says:

    Very interesting. Thanks!

  8. […] At the beginning of the winter, technically on Novermber 23rd, 2016, I wrote the following: […]

  9. […] last winter’s hard work on the hamster wheel trainer panned out better than I ever could have hoped.  2017 has started out even better than last year and I’m happy each morning I wake up to […]

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