Making the most of your indoor riding experience: What app should I use?

Now that the weather is changing, the snow is coming down and the days are shorter, winter seems to have arrived. You have a race or event you want to do next year and want to train for it although you live in a climate where riding outside is not necessarily an easy thing to do this time of year. Yea you can ski, snowshoe, or ride a fat bike outside in the snow but conditions can vary based on where you live and it is not always possible. With some of the new smart trainers and various apps indoor cycling has become much more entertaining and can be very structured for those people with coaches or particular workouts they want to do.

Smart trainers: What is a smart trainer? Smart trainers are interactive turbo trainers that connect with apps to control the trainer’s resistance to help replicate hills, winds and even drafting when riding in a virtual reality app such as Zwift. These smart trainers work via bluetooth or ant + signals connecting to various apps via your phone, tablet or computer. A smart trainer when in erg mode, changes the resistance based on the input it is receiving from an app or other computer program. All you have to do is pedal and it sets the resistance at a certain level in order to maintain a specific power number ( FTP or difficulty based on personal physiology). One thing that is different when in erg mode is if you stop pedaling or significantly slow down your cadence the resistance on the trainer can increase to the point where it is almost impossible to pedal. As I tell the folks who come to my classes power=force times velocity. Where force is the resistance on the trainer and velocity is your cadence or rpms. When a smart trainer is in erg mode ( i.e. it is controlling your power input) it will change the resistance based on your cadence or rpms. So if your power number you are supposed to hit is 200 Watts it will do whatever it can to maintain 200 Watts based on your cadence. If you are spinning a low cadence it will have a higher resistance, if you are doing a higher cadence the resistance isn’t as high to hold that 200 Watts.

There are many smart trainers on the market, both those you take the rear wheel off (direct drive trainers) and those you leave the rear wheel on (wheel on trainer). You can also use a regular fluid or wind trainer with a power meter, cadence or speed sensor that is bluetooth or ant + compatible as it will work with some of the apps. With this type of setup the resistance doesn’t change automatically on the trainer but you change gears to simulate riding on the road maintain the suggested power number.

I love the Wahoo Kickr as it has a real feel to it and I can use it with many apps to keep me from getting bored.  I also have the Wahoo Kickr Climb which simulates the grade in the climbing on the apps. In particular this set up with Fulgaz is an amazing experience.

Apps: The main apps I like are Rouvy, Fulgaz, Zwift, Sufferfest and Trainer Road. You can also take a workout written in apps like Training Peaks or write. workout directly in Garmin Connect or Wahoo Element App to your Wahoo or Garmin device for you to follow while on your smart trainer. Many of the Garmin and Wahoo computers will actually control the resistance on your smart trainer.

Here is a brief table of the most popular different apps, the cost and what they offer:

Table of Apps Used with Smart Trainers

These are a great way to keep things fresh and interesting when you have to turn to indoor rides and offer great interfaces for coaches and athletes.

Right now my favorite is is Fulgaz since I have the Wahoo Kickr and the Climb as it really does simulate riding in the mountains. Last winter I rode Alpe D’Huez a lot here from my home in Bend, OR to help prepare for our training camp. When I rode the real Alpe D’Huez I was ready and holding similar effort it seemed my speed was very similar to when I rode it in my Fulgaz app. I also enjoy playing around with Rouvy and when I have friends over like the fact we can have three of us riding the same route from one computer (has to be a PC). I have done the Sufferfest and did the 4 DP Power test and although it was difficult I loved the fact I was doing the 20-min portion while chasing Peter Sagan in the winning move of the Tour of Flanders. I also like the 4DP power test as it shows more than just your 20 min power. Zwift is fun if you want to join a group ride or want to simulate a race against riders all around the world. As a Trek Women’s Advocate I helped lead a group ride for Women on Zwift and although that was fun, it was hard to keep everyone focused on maintaining a similar effort ( w/kg).

If you are a Bend local and want to check out the Wahoo Kickr or Garmin devices come over to Sunnyside Sports to check them out. Or send me a message if you would like to do a class or individual session on the Wahoo Kickr.

Here’s to having fun building winter fitness!

If you have any questions or are interested in coaching or training with myself, Chris or Beth Ann let me know. We would love to help you!  Send a note over here.