Turbo trainers for indoor training

Turbo trainers are popular with competitive cyclists and triathletes as a way of keeping in shape in the winter, but few people outside the racing community use them.

If you aren't familiar with turbo trainers, the principle is simple. Turbo trainers are a stand that you sit your bike on - the rear wheel is raised off the ground, sitting on a roller. As you pedal, the wheel turns the roller and the roller turns a turbine (hence the name).

The original models had a bladed turbine. These were very effective - the faster you pedal, the greater the resistance - but very noisy. Newer models use other forms of technology to achieve the same effect, with magnetic resistance being the most popular. It is quiet, smooth, and efficient, providing a great workout.

Turbo trainers start at under £100, and offer a great alternative to stationary bikes. Because you sit your existing bike on them, they take up much less space - when you are done, you simply put your bike away wherever it usually lives, and pack up and store the turbo trainer. They are quite compact, and will easily store away in a cupboard, behind the couch, etc.

It is recommended that when you use your bike on an indoor trainer such as this that you put down newspaper or a plastic sheet under the bike - an old plastic shower curtain works well - to catch any debris that falls from the bike. Even the cleanest bike can still shed tiny bits of grease from the chain, not what you want on your carpet. The sheet will also catch the sweat that pours from you when you work hard!

There are several tips to ensure that you get the most out of these workouts:

  • Get a good quality trainer :

    The smoother and quieter it is, the more likely you will be to use it. My original mid-80s model used to sound like a 747 taking off when I sprinted! By contrast, my current, magnetic model is so quiet that I can use it when the kids are asleep.
     
  • Plan your workouts :

    Don't be satisfied with just sitting on the bike for half an hour. Check online and you'll find lots of recommendations for indoor trainer workouts.
     
  • Get some DVDs :

    There are loads of great bike workouts DVDs on the market. These not only help the time pass quicker, they also ensure that you get a good workout. Following along with a bunch of other people, even if they are only on your TV, makes the time fly by.
     
  • Watch TV :

    If you are not training for a race, but just want to put in some time to stay in shape or lose weight, sit on the bike while you watch TV. You'd be sitting down anyway, but instead of sitting on the couch and snacking you'll be on the bike burning calories.

Finally, be sure to negotiate this with your partner. Suddenly appearing in the living room with your muddy bike just as Big Brother or Strictly Come Dancing is about to start is guaranteed to cause a problem. Talk about it first, and agree on some ground rules. Happy spinning!

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