Last November, I joined Trainer Road in an effort to bring a little more intensity and purpose to my riding. It is now about two months later and in that time, I've logged somewhere around 500 miles on the trainer. All of these rides have been done using Trainer Road. In short, TR has been a great tool for training so far this year. Here are the benefits that I've noticed:
An affordable way to train with "Power": Since I don't own a Power meter, I usually gauge my effort according to Heart Rate and/ or perceived exertion. TR allows you to establish a virtual power based on the trainer that you use (they have a list of many different brands/ models, so you're likely to find yours). Whether or not virtual power is completely accurate is difficult to say, but used consistently, it allows you to establish a basis for comparison with yourself, which is really what matters. However, for a middle of the pack guy like me, it fits the bill at a nice price point. In the nearly 30 rides that I've done, I've definitely developed a sense of what my effort feels like at different power levels. Since HR and cadence are also detailed on the TR software, it has helped me to get a sense of how hard I'm working at various stages in any given workout.
I've also done two FTP tests using TR. Each was an hour long ride building up to the last 20 minutes done as hard as is sustainable. From that last 20 minnutes, an FTP is established. Subsequent workouts are done in relation to this FTP so if a workout interval requires you to ride at 90% of your FTP, it will automatically adjust to that percentage. The first test I did right after I joined TR. I established an initial FTP of 182 on that ride. In mid-January I completed a second FTP test with a score of 196 watts. The graph from each test is listed below (Note: The initial test was set with FTP at 200 which was just a "guess" as I hadn't tested before. The second test shows an FTP of 182, the result from the first test. After the second test, a new FTP was established at 196). I'll plan on doing another FTP test in about a month to see how I've progressed.
|First FTP test in Late November with a result of 182 Watts.|
|Second FTP in January. Result was an FTP of 196 Watts.|
More purposeful riding: In the past, I would usually get on the trainer and spin at a steady cadence for somewhere between 30-50 minutes. Very rarely would my ride extend beyond this level. And while my average trainer ride is currently only at about 1.2 hours, they involve a lot less mindless spinning and much more purposeful training. In the last few months, I've become familiar with everything from Isolated Leg Drills to Over and Unders to 30 second bursts at 130% of FTP. The rides on TR do an excellent job of maximizing your workout time. Now keep in mind that they aren't at the same level as the insane and appropriately named "Sufferfest" videos (that shit really is crazy!), but they also don't let you sit back and relax.
|TR captures "Career" stats, documenting the data from all of your rides.|
|A "snippet" of the Sweet Spot Plan.|
But does it work?: Last weekend the weather was just too nice to stay inside. I decided to go for a 40 mile ride outdoors. I looked at the planned two hour ride on TR that basically consisted of 4x25 minute intervals at a higher pace (still below FTP however). Using my Garmin, I set up an interval workout to use during my ride, and although I didn't have the benefit of Power, I made an effort to ride at a higher cadence/ effort during each interval. I rode the 40 mile route in just over two hours with an average speed of 19.7 mph. I also noticed that my average cadence was 84 rpm. This is an improvement from other rides where I usually average anywhere from 74-77 rpm. Right now, my riding seems similar to where I would be in early to mid- Spring. For the Ironman, I'm hoping that my average speed is not below 17 mph, so I feel like the time on the trainer is helping me to get closer to that goal.
|Results of an outdoor ride after 2 months on TR.|
TR is good if:
- You want to train indoors, but find the trainer a bit boring.
- You would benefit from having training plans and workouts available that meet your riding needs (whether that's triathlon, criteriums, or cyclecross).
- You are time-crunched and need to use the trainer to get workouts completed.
- You love data
You can skip TR if:
- You plan to do more than 70% of your riding outdoors.
- You just want to spin and aren't focused on a long term goal or plan.
- You have no interest in data.
- You don't ride a bicycle at all.
I'll continue to use TR during the next several weeks and I imagine that it will still play a big part in my training until early summer when my schedule "lightens up" a bit.