Home Cycling Tips: top 4 mistakes to avoid on a cycling simulator

Indoor training is considered a fallback choice for many cyclists who prefer to face the rigors of the climate so they don’t have to give up cycling on the road. Of course, the pleasure of cycling outdoors is irreplaceable but are we sure that using a smart trainer, or a turbo trainer to understand our potential, is in fact just a fallback?

In our opinion, no. Rather, let's try to understand what the types of advantages of this training method are and what the most common mistakes to avoid are.

The 4 most common errors to avoid while you're on your cycling simulator

Turbo trainer is perfect to start your training at home
  1. Not knowing your own threshold power, at medium and long depths: without these parameters it is practically impossible to organise a good workout. You end up just turning your legs.
  2. Cycling on a smart trainer that is not very precise and that does not allow the set wattage to be maintained regardless of the number of pedals (constant power): the precision of the intensity of the exercise is fundamental for the quality of the session.
  3. Train in an environment that is too hot but above all without a fan: if it is too hot and there is no ventilation, the performance will be affected.
  4. Do not vary power and pedalling cadence: this is the most important point and it is worth analysing it in more detail.

Quadrant analisys

So let's start with what happens in a road race. The alternation of climbs, flat stretches, group pulls and shots creates a great variety of variations in strength and cadence of pedalling.

Analysing a graph recorded with a power meter during a performance on the road, in fact, we can see how there are continuous variations in power and cadence that we could schematically divide into 4 areas and possible types of pedalling:

Area I - high force / high speed

At the extreme, this would be represented by the sprint, but most of any prolonged effort above the high force/low cadence level threshold (for example, attack or attempt to bridge during a race) would involve the Area I.

Area II - high force/low speed

High force but low speed. Typically, It occurs when you climb or accelerate, especially at low speed. However, even a road race may require a large percentage of such pedalling if the climbs are steep and/or the cyclist is oversized.

Area III - Low force/low speed

The races that involve a very high percentage of pedaling are typically those used for recovery or for social purposes, not for training itself.

Area IV - Low force/high speed

Perhaps the most obvious example of quadrant IV pedaling would be the use of a low fixed gear or rollers in an attempt to improve the smoothness of the pedalling.
This means that indoor training should be organised in a manner similar to what will be the commitment on the road to achieve the desired improvements.

Therefore, if we know our powers at the long, medium and threshold base, we can exercise them at different pedal rates to obtain significant improvements in performance.

3 advantages of power cadence variations

The advantage of these cadence/power variations can therefore be summarised as follows:

- Greater similarity with the type of engagement in the race

- Adaptation to changes in pace thanks to a greater stimulus that we can call neuromuscular

- Increased completeness of stimulation on slow, intermediate and rapid muscle fibres.

Cycling on an inaccurate cycling simulator that does not allow you to maintain the set wattage regardless of the number of pedals is an error to be made when training indoors.

Those who have tried to train in this way report that they feel their legs feel "fuller" and are ready for changes in intensity.  But is this method always okay?  This is the time to make some clarifications depending on the phase of preparation and the type of race you want to face. Let's divide the off-season training into three phases: construction, development and finishing. What differentiates them is the amount of time spent in the long, medium and threshold areas. The phases of greater intensity believe, in fact, that phase by phase with the approach of the races.
However, in each training session of each period, there remains a mix of stimuli of cadence/power that is extremely diversified.

However, when you begin the specific preparation of an event, you must refer to the type of effort that you will have to face. If, for example, you must do a time trial the exercises must include more stimuli at high power and low cadence, say between 60 and 90 rpm. If, on the other hand, the objective is a flat time trial or an Olympic or sprint triathlon, the focus should be on high cadence/high power.

In short, quality indoor cycle training can provide highly training stimuli as long as you know your data well and use it to build ad hoc sessions.

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