The indoor trainer season has – effectively – just been extended for most of us. Now is a good time to check some positional challenges the trainer puts on us, and find ways to get around them.
• Challenge 1: Most trainers come with a block to place under the front wheel to level it with the rear wheel. Some direct drive trainers don’t need them. You should, however, be aware that neither the blocks, nor the settings on the direct drive trainers guarantee to put your wheels level. Very often the front wheel will be up to 15mm lower then the rear one. The result is not just a lower handlebar but also a saddle that is 5mm more forward compared to your real life riding position. This is a significant amount! With your body mass being shifted forward, it is not just your hands and shoulders that will be under more stress but your quadriceps, hamstrings and glutes workload sharing that will be affected. You may be training on a muscle-firing pattern that you are not going to use in real life.
Solution: Make sure the distance from the centre of the wheels to the floor is equal. You can use a measuring tape to do that. Be also sure to check the front wheel is pumped up.
• Challenge 2: There is no consistent gradient in real life. Unless you have a dedicated grade simulator for your trainer, you are stuck to riding level. Your smart trainer may be simulating inertia with gradient change very realistically. But if your position does not change accordingly then you will be training a different muscle group compared to what you will use on a real climb. This is especially critical if you plan your season around an event featuring long climbs.
Solution: When – or just before – you get to a long climb on Zwift (or any other software) jump off the bike and put a block, books or magazines to simulate the gradient. You can calculate from your wheel base length how much you need to raise your front wheel. On Zwift, 7cm for the Epic KOM and 10cm for the Alpe Du Zwift should be about right.
• Challenge 3: Your reach to the handlebars may feel inconsistent to how it feels out on the road.
Solution: You will usually reach less when riding indoors. One reason is that you will be looking forward much less of the time. To avoid this, place your screen at a height that will make you lift your chin as much as you would on the road. And don’t forget to keep an eye on the road! Wind also has a significant effect on how you position yourself on the bike. You will undoubtedly need a fan when riding indoors. The trick is to believe the indoor wind is real and aero still makes a difference!