Unless youíre lucky enough to live somewhere with pleasant weather year-round (Iím certainly not), it is an unfortunate fact of life that nature eventually throws snow or rain or even extreme heat in the way of our cycling habits. We can stay fit and ready to ride, however, by using bicycle trainers indoors during the off season.
Bike trainers hold your bike vertically and use some sort of mechanism to provide resistance as you pedal. Trainers can use any of three types of resistance mechanisms: wind, fluid or magnets.
Wind trainers use a small fan to create resistance. As you pedal you turn the fan which in turn provides resistance. Wind trainers are the least expensive of the three types, but have some definite drawbacks. The primary one is that they can be extremely loud. They also provide the least amount of resistance of the three types, and using one tends to feel more like riding a gym exercise bike rather than real outdoor riding. Resistance levels vary on pedaling speed, so you canít really control the level of resistance to create specific workouts.
Trainers that have magnetic resistance use magnets set in opposition to create resistance as you pedal. These models are significantly quieter than wind trainers, but do cost more and still donítí provide a very realistic ride. Magnetic trainers also allow some sort of resistance variation so that you can vary the intensity of your workouts. Check the model youíre considering, however. Some require that you get off the bike to adjust the resistance, while others have a remote control.
Fluid trainers use a liquid silicone in a drive wheel to create resistance. These trainers are the quietest of the three and usually provide some sort of resistance control. They also offer the most realistic feeling ride. The primary drawback is that older and cheaper models may leak silicone, so itís worth it to either spend the money on a good one or invest in a mat to catch drips.
Resistance can be applied through either the tread or the rim of your rear tire. Tread connected resistance applies pressure against the tread of your tire as you pedal. This system is simple, but may cause uneven wear on your tires as the contact point on the tread is smaller than when you ride on the road. Knobby tires donít work with tread resistance trainers. Rim connected resistance occurs when the trainer presses against both sides of your rear rim while you pedal. These systems tend to be more expensive, but any kind of tire can be used.
Once you have your trainer, there are a variety of options for creating a training program to meet your needs. Training can be as simple as just pedaling or as complex as a regimen of intervals. An assortment of books and videos are available to help you develop the training program that is right for you.
Donít let inclement weather give you the blahs. Invest in a bike trainer to keep yourself moving year-round and both your mind and your body will benefit.
Be safe and keep riding!