We asked over 100 indoor cyclists what they disliked about riding indoors. This is what we found…
See 107 Indoor Cycling and Zwift Tips for some solutions to these issues.
It’s raining and cold outside. It’s been a while since you’ve been out riding.
You know you’re getting slower.
And there’s a turbo trainer in the garage that you have purchased with hard-earned money. But somehow you can’t be bothered to move towards it and get in the saddle (at least not today).
If you’re like this, you are not alone. There are days when we all struggle to get on the bike.
So with this in mind, we reached out through Twitter to 100 indoor cyclists, who are on Zwift or The Sufferfest, and asked one question:
What is your main problem with indoor cycling and what difference would it make if it was fixed.
We also asked indoor cyclists to rate the various difficulties they faced as ‘Moderate’, ‘Difficult’, or a ‘Real pain in the arse’.
Here is an overall look at what came back if you’re looking for a more general breakdown. There are some interesting standouts.
What’s been listed below is based on how the issues were rated as well as their frequency.
Read on, to see if your particular issue is among the answers. And, if so, what we suggest to solve it.
1. Indoor cycling training is (literally) a massive pain in the arse
Maybe it was the mention of pain and arse in the same sentence, but saddle discomfort came out as a common issue.
It made up nearly 20% of the issues categorised as a ‘real pain in the arse’.
In non-scientific terms. Your centre of gravity stays the same whilst (in most cases) you still have to pedal through descents.
Here are some possible solutions:
- Change the gradient once in a while. You don’t need a Wahoo Kickr, just get off the bike and put some old Cycling Weekly under the front wheel.
- If you have a Smart Trainer, make an effort to change the cadence once in a while. Get out of the saddle.
- Ok, this requires investment. But Rockerboards are getting more popular. And they will help your core as well as your bum.
- Chamois cream. Come on, you would if you were going out on a sportive.
- Maybe that Fizik Arione is unnecessary on the turbo. Look at something comfy like a leather Brooks. Remember, indoor cycling is different to riding on the road. You posterior will spend more time in contact than on the road.
For more, check out this post on saddle soreness from British Cycling.
2. Smart trainers and kit almost cost more than the bike itself
The surprising thing about this was the relatively low number of people who put this down.
Out of 100 respondents, 6% said the cost of technology was too high.
But this is at number 2 because all of them described it as a real pain in the arse.
And right now, prices are more likely to go up than down. A lot of cycling products have become Veblen goods. Veblen goods where the demand rises as the price increases.
Yes, you can do cycling training on Zwift with a dumb trainer and an old laptop.
Of course, no one wants to use the old kit because the more realistic you make it the more your experience improves.
3. Sweat build-up during cycling sessions
Sweat was flagged as a problem by 18 people. Most of them ranked it as a difficult issue with a few rating it as mildly annoying.
The body removes the heat with sweat. And outside (usually) the wind dries it off. But if you remain indoors you’ll stay both wet and hot.
Besides getting a fan (see below), solutions include:
- Invest in a polypropylene layer that will remove the sweat.
- Stop yourself getting hot by drinking some iced water or energy drink
- Use a cooling vest while riding indoors.
Or check out this post on what to wear while indoor cycling.
Remember, you are not on the road. Riding indoors is harder, so use any advantages it presents.
4. Getting some nice airflow moving through the room while on the turbo
Fans are obviously still integral to indoor cycling.
7% people said airflow was a major issue, either in terms of being too hot or getting the fan right.
Many wanted an easy, and cost-effective, solution in terms of being able to run them by remote control.
Issues ranged from switching them on/ off to arranging them around the room.
Where to start?
Well, if you want to recreate the outdoors, here is one suggestion to do it without buying a Wahoo Headwind.
The Extreme Solution – use wifi-connected fans to create your own ecosystem.
- One Amazon Echo.
- Two wireless plugs.
- Four fans.
- Connect two fans to each plug.
- Put the first pair in front and set to high – this counts for headwind.
- The other two each side and on medium – this is cool breeze.
- Start with no fans. Then toggle cool breeze and headwind at will.
Ok – this is a tad excessive. But remote-controlled fans are relatively easy to install and allow you to focus on what’s important.
5. Setting up the bike, turbo, etc etc (and taking it all apart and packing it away again)
16% said hassle setting up the stationary bike trainer put them off of indoor cycling.
As a painpoint, it ranged across the spectrum.
Typical comments included: “Limited space, setting up and breaking down. Can end up spending as much time doing this as cycling.”
This appears to be about more than pulling the turbo out from under the stairs.
The two main issues that ran across all these comments was time and space (sounds like Star Trek).
Time is especially an issue when it comes to getting the set up right in terms of the bike and the connectivity.
This leads us to…
6. !**@ing connection is down again!
How many of you have been in a group ride or hanging on for dear life in Zwift race, when suddenly everyone disappears?
This is one of the big issues with indoor cycling and connecting to an online app.
9% of respondents said connectivity was an issue. Surprisingly, most of them only described it as mildly annoying.
It’s easy to blame Zwift when all the other riders disappear. But the real issue might be closer to hand, such as your own hardware or wifi.
Still, here are some quick fixes.
- Get a wifi booster plug. If you’re in the garage, you really need this.
- Disconnect your phone from the wifi. You don’t need Zwift Companion if you are on Zwift.
- Reboot your wifi. The IT Crowd solution – it works.
7. I don’t want to go out and into the fricking garage with all this stuff?
Garage woes tend to be a real pain in the arse.
This quote said it all: “Having to go out to the garage to have enough space for the setup, and then needing to take a laptop out with me for Zwift/Trainer Road etc.”
Garage issues accounted for around 22% of respondents. These were split between a difficult issue and mildly annoying.
While the trainer might be in the garage, carrying you, your bottle, computer, phone and headphones can be less than straightforward.
If it wasn’t for this, one said: “I would probably ride my bike indoors more often and be healthier because I wouldn’t abandon running due to weather.”
Is there a solution to this?
Besides buying a bigger house or setting up in the lounge/ kids bedroom, not really. Sorry.
Just be glad you have one because of number 5.
8. Can’t face any more time spent looking at a computer screen
Ok, so we spend all day at work looking at a screen. Should we be doing it at home?
6% said screens were an issue. Not a pain in the arse issue, but a significant irritant.
But there is something in this. The negative effect of screen time has been well documented in kids.
But it’s also an issue for adults, a Nielsen study estimated, spend around 11-hours a day in front of a screen.
Well screens aren’t necessary.
- Well, Set the trainer to its hardest setting, put the radio on or some good sounds, and go for 30 minutes.
- Or let the bike computer handle it. There are plenty of decent workouts available. You don’t have to go onto an app if you don’t feel like it. Mix it up.
9. Keeping focus and dealing with the boredom
Just under 8% of respondents said boredom was a downside of indoor cycling. This mostly ranged across difficult and mildly annoying.
Here it is worth a reminder.
All these respondents have subscriptions to Zwift and The Sufferfest.
Similar quotes include: “I find it difficult to just go for a ride of any decent length of time. I can do structured training for up to 90 mins but find it hard to ride longer (mentally).”
“It’s dull, so it’s hard to get motivated.”
Others just wrote “Boring” or “Boredom” down when asked about there biggest problem with indoor cycling.
Ok, it’s sometimes hard to get motivated.
It’s much easier sitting on the sofa looking through cheap bike kit sales on Wiggle or whatever.
If so, don’t panic. Here are some motivational tips, actually adapted from a post by Birmingham University to help people studying.
- Work out why you are not doing it (maybe it’s one of the other reasons here and can be solved).
- Break it down. Just get your kit on and promise to go out for a short period. Even 10 minutes is better than none.
- Rewards. Buy yourself a new Garmin if you’ve finished that 10-week block of training.
- Be clear about what your aim is, ie better FTP, less weight etc. And focus on reaching it.
- Switch to another app. (yes, I added this one). But maybe Zwift or Sufferfest is not doing it. Maybe try Trainerroad instead and have the TV on.
10. Can Zwift put you off indoor cycling?
What exactly is Zwift, sport? Some say no, it’s not.
Three people flagged Zwift’s main point of difference as an issue. Not many but enough to make you sit up.
A typical comment was: “[There’s] too much focus on eSports, which isn’t cycling.”
Although many said it was not a huge problem. Probably because the obvious solution to this is to go and get a Trainerroad subscription.
But there is more.
Cheating is another issue that came up as a Zwift problem.
Zwift is pretty much the dominant app right now. But if it wants to push the whole sports side of it (and it does) then it may need to rationalise the competitive side.
And it’s more than people lying about their weight.
Recently it was reported that cybersecurity firm Carve Systems were able to swap a smart trainer’s power metre with an output generated by an Xbox controller.
To be fair, Zwift is making efforts to stop this.
But cheating comes with the territory of becoming popular. But if it gets out of hand it could end up being more than a pain in the arse.
Of course, it is yet to hit the point where you can buy a Zwift profile, with 50 experience and a Tron bike, on eBay.
11. Human interaction is preferable to automation
Well, this is where really Zwift does come in. But it’s all about interaction with others.
But around 7% put this down as a mildly annoying issue.
Because there is an easy solution. Great coaches are relatively easy to find and they can set you a program via Zwift or any other application.
Some of you felt the need for general human interaction. Maybe the idea of your sweaty hands typing out messages lacks appeal.
If so, then there’s a solution.
There is the option to integrate Zwift with Discord, a voice chat app.
You just need suitable hardware and a set of Bluetooth headphones with a microphone (don’t bother with a kit).
You just need to:
- Install the Discord app on your machine.
- Enter in the server code. You can either set one up for your group or add it in if the ride you’re joining has one.
Here is a basic guide to creating a Discord server.
General breakdown of the numbers
Here are the responses broken down by the nature of the issue (these categorisations have been done by your’s truly).
This produces a slightly different perspective to what was picked out above. The main thing to bear in mind here is that this doesn’t take into account the weight of the problem.
The interesting thing is that boredom and environment come out as the top issues. It shows there is still a lot to be done in terms of making indoor cycling as fun as going out on the road.
What to do next – get on the bike
Remember, you’ll enjoy your riding outside if you’re in good shape. And if one of these issues is affecting you, remember you’re not alone.
Generally, all respondents said the solving these issues would enable them to ride more often. Hopefully, some of these tips help.
It is also worth remembering that cycling in your garage is a different challenge to being outside.
It’s sweatier and requires less moving around. There’s nothing wrong with adapting to that situation.
The aim is to get stronger, not replicate outdoor conditions.
Especially during winter.
Just try and make the most of your indoor cycling training. It’s better than being outside in the rain, fixing and puncture, or avoiding wet leaves going downhill.
You have the time, it’s up to you to do it.
And if you have any indoor cycling issues of your own, add them in the comments below.