Legendary cyclist Graeme Obree is quoted as saying that the first thing he’d rescue from his house if it was on fire would be his turbo trainer. While most of us probably don’t have the same zealous devotion as him – many would happily see the damn thing go up in flames – there’s no disputing its value as a training tool, especially when the weather outside is pretty awful.
Gone are the noisy air fan machines that gave the turbo its name, replacedby smoother and more realistic fluid- and magnetic-resistance models that provide accurate and reliable training data. There are so many variables on the road but if you gain 2% in performance on the turbo, it’s a tangible and real 2%.
Long rides on the turbo are only for extreme big freezes or complete masochists, but for interval, strength and test sessions, no traffic, no ice, no junctions and no distractions make the turbo ideal. Two to three turbo sessions a week – one strength/hill based; one intervals; and one technique/recovery – in conjunction with a long weekend ride will seriously improve your bike fitness.
Try some of these sets, some of our favourites and a few from elites – in part one of our series to help take your cycling to the next level.
Session one: Threshold Booster
This session is designed to raise lactate threshold and your ability to perform near it.
Warm-up: 5mins spinning whil increasing gear-resistance, followed by 5mins of 10secs sprint and 50secs recovery.
Main set: 3-6 x 5mins with 3min recoveries. Shift to the big chainring and work hard for 5mins (aiming for a heart rate 15-25 beats below your maximum or, if using power, FTP). At the end of 5mins, drop to the small chainring, drop the resistance and spin easy for 3mins. Repeat this work/recovery cycle for 3-6 reps depending on ability.
Cool-down: 10mins easy spinning.
Session two: Stairway to Heaven
This is great for building hill strength, as well as mental toughness.
Warm-up: 10mins easy spinning, including some 10-20sec seated sprints in the second 5mins.
Main set: 3 x 6mins of ascending difficulty with 2min recoveries. Select the big ring but with a moderate sprocket. For example, 22t. Resistance should be at about a third of your turbo's maximum. Ride moderately hard.
After 3mins, shift up two gears and try to maintain the same cadence for a further 2mins.
Finally, shift up another two gears and ride hard for a minute out of the saddle, then drop to the small chainring, drop the resistance and recover with easy spinning for 2mins.
Shift back to the big ring but this time performance the '3mins, 2mins,1min' sequence with two more clicks of resistance. Recover for 2mins again and then work through '3,2,1' again cranking it up by a further two clicks.
Cool-down: 10mins easy spinning.
Session three: Cat Morrison's session
"This is a session that I do when I'm coming back from illness, injury or a season break," explains Cat. "It's a way of introducing some intensity back into your training in a flexible, 'fun' way.
Warm-up: 15mins easy spinning.
Main set: 30-45mins on 'shuffle' fartlek! Put your playlist on shuffle. Work at your chosen intensity for the duration of the track, rest for a given interval (for example 30-60secs). Repeat for your chosen length of time! For me it's usually 20-45mins depending on my fitness level. You can choose to do strength low-cadence intervals, fitness-building intervals at threshold intensity or even work on your spinning.
Cool-down: 10mins easy spin.
Cat's Top 5 Playlist:
Poker face - Lady Gaga
Dog days are over - Florence and the Machine
Harder, better, faster, stronger - Daft Punk
I need a dollar - Aloe Blacc
Hello - Martin Solvieg