Getting started with Indoor Cycling

As the days get shorter and the rainy season has set in finding time to ride becomes more challenging. While some people can brave the elements year-round, many people are looking to hang up their bikes for the season. But before you do that, we know how to keep you riding your bike all year long! Whether you are looking for general fitness or structured training there is a system that is right for you. The latest indoor cycling trainers on the market today and the apps that go along with them are engaging and challenging creating indoor riding experiences that have never been more fun and interactive.

However, sifting through all the information on these trainers can be a daunting task! We’ve done the research to help you understand the benefits of indoor cycling and guide you towards making the best choice for your cycling needs.

Why bring your training indoors? 

Cycling trainers aren’t just for elite athletes or use during the winter months. All year long anyone can benefit from the use of an indoor trainer to reach their fitness goals. Here are just a few reasons they are a great option for people everywhere regardless of  your fitness goals or where you live.

  • Climate – The weather can bring a variety of challenging conditions whether it is too hot, too cold, wet or icy. Bringing the training indoors allows you to focus on your training, not the elements.
  • Busy schedules – We’re busier than ever and finding the time to train in between all our other obligations can be challenging. Having a trainer at home allows you to ride when you can. Hop on the bike when the time is right for you, before or after work, while the kids nap…anytime you’re ready your bike is too.
  • Bike Fit, riding on your own bike ensures your riding a bike that properly fits your body. Many times the stationary and spin bikes at the gym are not set up or adjusted correctly with the right fit for you.  Adjustments in millimeters make a difference and this can have a big impact on your body and performance especially when riding in the same position for a significant period of time. Poor fit issues can create neck, shoulder and knee problems. In addition poor fit affects your performance on the bike, especially if you are training with a power meter.
  • Structured Training – For those who follow more structured training plans, indoor trainers are an important part of your program. A trainer enables you to train with power and to ride uninterrupted at certain levels or thresholds for the specific period of time needed. This type of training is very difficult to do on the road or trail. Traffic, signals, stop signs, etc. can cause you to start and stop throughout the ride preventing you riding at your designated training levels effectively. (Hint – Winter is a good time to that base training!)

Starting with the basics

So let’s start with the basics, what is an indoor trainer? An indoor cycling trainer allows you to easily convert your own bike into a stationary bike. There are three ways to connect your bike depending on the trainer purchased, rear wheel on, direct drive or rollers. The majority of the trainers on the market use the rear wheel to connect the trainer. It is as simple as attaching each end of your rear wheels’ skewers to the clamps on the trainer.  With the rear wheel connected and engaged on the roller you can ride with against the resistance provided by the trainer.

Rear Wheel On

Direct Drive


With a direct drive the cassette is connected directly to the trainer, this is the most accurate in terms of measuring power and resistance and there is no wheel slippage that might occur on heavy load with a rear wheel configuration. Rollers on the other hand are not connected to the bike at all. It is up to the rider to balance and keep their speed up!

So how does a trainer work? The resistance unit and resistance curve together make up the type of ride feel and resistance the trainer provides. The resistance unit is the physical part on the trainer, the resistance curve is the type of resistance generated from the unit.  There are 5 main types of resistance units; wind, magnetic, fluid, electronic and electromagnetic that utilize one of the following types of resistance curves.


Wind trainers use a fan based flywheel. The faster you pedal the more resistance is generated by the flywheel. While these provide a progressive resistance curve, they are typically louder as the noise level rises as your speed increases.

Magnetic trainers utilize magnets inside the flywheel. These use adjustable magnetic resistance that is either controlled by a knob on the trainer itself or via a shift knob cable you can connect to the handlebars to control the trainer.  If you do not have the handlebar knob cable for adjustments you will need to dismount the bike to change the resistance. They are quieter than wind trainers but provide a linear resistance curve.

Progressive Magnetic trainers utilize the same magnetic flywheel as the standard magnetic trainer, but they provides a progressive level of resistance.

Fluid trainers utilize fluid inside the flywheel to generate the resistance. These are quieter than the magnetic trainers and with a progressive resistance curve,  they offer a realistic ride feel.

Electronic trainers from Cyclops utilize PowerTap to provide the controlled resistance levels. To get the most out of these trainers use of a Virtual Training App, like Rouvy or Zwift provide the ability to ride using predefined customizable workouts.

Electromagnetic trainers utilize an electric current around a magnetic core to provide precise and rapid control of the trainers resistance allowing the rider to the most realistic riding experience.

Smart vs Basic Trainers

Now that we know a little more about the mechanics behind the trainers, it help us understand the differences between the Basic and Smart trainer. Trainers today fall into two categories Smart Trainers and Basic Trainers.trainercat

Smart Trainers also known as virtual trainers, utilize technology via ANT+ or Bluetooth to pair up virtual training applications that communicate with the trainer to provide controlled resistance during the ride to simulate an outdoor riding experience based on ride profile. These trainers provide power data as well. The Virtual Training Apps market is growing significantly as more people look for this engaging riding experience. Some of the more popular programs on the market today are Zwift, CycleOps Virtual Trainer (Rouvy) and Trainer Road. These programs can even enable you to ride other riders, you can create your own challenges and ride with friends across town or around the world without ever leaving your home!

Rouvy (CycleOps Virtual Training)


While Basic trainers do not provide a controlled resistance experience they are still a great training tool for reaching your fitness goals, if you have a power meter or even just speed/cadence sensors on your bike you can still pair up with many of the virtual training applications on the market today.  The main difference is that your resistance will not automatically adjust based on the dynamics of the ride/course terrain.  See my post on How to turn your basic trainer into a virtual training machine! Of course you don’t need a VT Application to keep track of your training, simply use your favorite cycling computer like Garmin or Wahoo. If you don’t have a power meter or speed/cadence computer you can still get a great workout – simply crank up your music and your motivation!

Virtual Training Demo Center


If you’ve tried indoor cycling the past and thought it was agonizingly boring, we agree it was! But the technology available now has changed the game dramatically making it an appealing option for everyone regardless of your fitness goals.  We invite you to come down to Camas Bike and Sport and try it out at our Smart Training Demo center. We have a CycleOps Hammer and Magnus available for you to ride with your choice of Zwift or Rouvy to experience. Want to experience it longer, you can rent a smart trainer as part of our demo program. Come down check it out and join in on the weekly power challenge.


  1. Cycleops: Which bike trainer is right for me?,
  2. Cycleops: Trainer Comparison Guide,


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