Contentious debate this one, and I will preface my discussion with this is just my opinion. You may disagree with me and that’s all good, but I have done a fair bit of thinking about it and I like the way I go about it. It wasn’t until after I listened to a Podcast (pretty sure it was this Velo News Fast Talk episode) that I realised I wasn’t the only person thinking about it this way. The TrainerRoad Podcast also has some great discussion around this topic.
You can do the same as me, or you can do it differently. But let me know your thoughts in the comments section, I’m always open to hearing differing opinions.
I’ve never much enjoyed the Indoor Trainer (however over recent times apps like Trainer Road and Zwift have certainly helped). The indoor trainer is uncomfortable, I’m easily bored and distracted and I just love riding out on the road so much. However the fact there’s a lot more traffic on the road and safety is becoming more of an issue, I’m finding myself doing more and more of my training indoors. I also don’t really like doing hard intervals on the road, as there’s too much risk and too many interruptions. I find the indoor trainer fantastic for interval training, but not so much for steady state endurance training. I’m using a direct drive Wahoo Kickr and it really helps to give a smooth, accurate and reproducible power reading, which is much better than the old ‘wheel on’ style trainer.
I now view my cycle training as being broken up into a different styles of workouts. You have your testing, your interval work, your technique/neuromuscular stuff, your adaptation and your endurance.
It’s obvious that the more aero you are the the faster you travel, however a lot of people find that the more aero they are the less power they can put out. That right there is the reason for my opinion on bike position when Indoor Training.
When I’m doing high power intervals and neuromuscular training I want to get the most out of myself. I want to push myself to the limit of the training zone I intend working, and when I am on the Indoor Trainer those zones will range from Sweet Spot (88% of FTP) right up to Anaerobic Capacity (130% FTP and beyond), the durations for these intervals are anywhere from 15 seconds up to about 20minutes. If I am sitting up out of my aero bars I am able to push much higher power than if I remain aero. So why would I want to limit the power I’m putting out? I very rarely race at those intensities on the road, and if I am it’s generally when I’m up off the aerobars anyway (climbing or accelerating out of corners). I’m not racing an Individual or Team Pursuit on a Velodrome, I don’t need to produce massive amounts of power for 4-5 minutes and remain super low and aero.
When it comes to endurance intensities below Sweet Spot there is another thing I’m conscious of, comfort. Who else finds it so much harder to stay in the aerobars on an indoor trainer than on the road? I don’t know about you, but I struggle to remain aero for 5-10 minutes on the trainer, however on the road I can stay aero for long long periods of time without being uncomfortable or losing feeling in the ‘downstairs’ region. So I give myself shorter periods in the aerobars where I focus on holding power, but as soon as I feel like it I come up out of the bars and just ride comfortably. I still want to enjoy riding my bike, and battling in the mind about how long I can stay aero isn’t enjoyable for me. One thing you may find though, is the lower your target power the longer you can stay aero, so sometimes I might be happy staying down for as long as 10 minutes!!
The important part of all this is adaption. It’s one thing to be able to put out massive watts on the trainer, but as mentioned earlier, if you can’t stay aero, comfortable and produce good power on the road then your performance will be affected. So when I am doing an endurance session on the road I use that time to build up the time I am in the aerobars, and I will work through the range of powers I expect to be racing in to make sure I’m capable of maintaining it. I make sure I give myself plenty of time to build this up weeks or months before a key race too.
I’m often asked if power testing should be done sitting up or in the aerobars and I think it should be done the way you expect to train. I have two different FTP values and training zones, Indoor and Outdoor. My Indoor FTP value is measured using the Trainer Road Ramp Test sitting up as I know I will do most of my interval training this way. My outdoor is tested as either a 20 minute or 60 minute TT in the aerobars as I want it to be the closest to the way I will race. Having access to both these values means I can be confident that my training will be optimised and realistic.
I hope this has given you a bit of insight as to the way I like to do my Indoor Training. As mentioned earlier I’d like to hear what you think works best for you.