Tips for Turbo Training


Training on a turbo is one of those aspects of cycling that can really test our determination and enthusiasm. No-one took up cycling so they could spend hours pedalling in a static position – getting very bored and hot at the same time! Yet, on a wet / icey day, even the turbo can seem more appealing that going out on salty roads. Quite a few people recently asked me about turbo training, but I have to admit that where possible I try to avoid training on a turbo. However, I have been through phases (like very bad weather) where I’ve done quite a bit of training on the turbo – and, like many things, turned out to be not as bad as you feared.


Advantages of Turbo Training

  1. Avoids getting wet and cold. A real boon when there is snow and ice or driving rain.
  2. Avoids weather related accidents; it is much safer, especially when it is icey outside.
  3. You can control the environment and makes very specific interval training much easier to regulate. (e.g. don’t have to worry about dodging cars, whilst also trying to race at 100% of max heart rate.
  4. Protects your bike from salty and dirty roads.

The disadvantages  of training on a turbo are quite obvious for those who have ever spent an hour on an indoor turbo trainer – it is pretty boring.

Tips for Getting the Most out of Turbo Training

(or should that be tips for surviving turbo training)

  1. Use music or even TV to give your mind something to occupy itself with. I did find a period of winter turbo training a good exercise for discovering all those lost tracks on your iPod.
  2. Use a fan (or two) to create an artificial wind. This is almost essential to prevent overheating and excess sweating.
  3. Wear at least one moisture wicking vest. You may get hot, but it is better to have at least one layer to prevent that windchill factor. (There have been times on an indoor turbo, when I have needed gloves and overshoes)
  4. Give yourself realistic targets of 30 mins or one hour. Don’t use turbo to get your 5 hour base training in. No harm to taking a bit of rest in bad weather.
  5.  se a speedometer / power-meter to give someway to measure your output. It can be rewarding to know how many theoretical miles you have done.
  6. Even short training sessions can be a big help in preventing your fitness draining away. Just remember how much you will be glad you did a few interval training sessions.
  7. Mix up the training. Even in winter you can do some higher intensity training or try riding at a higher cadence to get better at spinning.
  8. Make sure the bike set up is exactly the same as your road bike. Any differences in set up, especially saddle height, can lead to injury.
  9. Use something to catch the sweat and prevent it corroding a bike.
  10. Keep well hydrated – you will lose a lot of water.
  11. Invest in a specific turbo training tyre. I use this Continental turbo trainer tyre It doesn’t overheat, but more importantly it doesn’t wear away. If you use a turbo on an ordinary tyre, you will soon see how the tyre surface wears away making punctures more likely.
a turbo set up in my garage. This is my old winter training bike. I keep an old wheel with specific turbo tyre on.

Using A Turbo Trainer Before a Race

Another big advantage of a turbo trainer is that you can warm up for an important race, without risk of a last minute puncture. The slight disadvantage is that I like to use a spare wheel, so there is lots of last minute wheel changing. I also recommend giving time to test the bike on the road, you may spot some problem (like brakes) that you wouldn’t notice on turbo.

Intervals on Turbo

If you are really strict about sticking to target training zones, using a turbo can make it easier to keep your eyes focused on your heart rate monitor and power meter. However, it is a trade-off. Psychologically, it is more testing to do intense training on a static position. Personally, I’d rather do intervals on hills and on the road. For me it is important to enjoy training, and I enjoy the challenge of real hills more than a turbo.
Turbo Trainers

More Articles on Training

11 Responses to Tips for Turbo Training

  1. Hortoris December 8, 2011 at 9:14 am #

    Turbot training is more my poisson – too much pedaling would turn me into a Puffer but I will skate over that.

  2. Lee December 8, 2011 at 7:54 am #

    A question if I may. Last year (using all the books you recommended) I started base training (on a turbo trainer) in Oct in prep for a ride 114 mile Sportive in Jun (only been cycling two years), by the time Feb arrived I was bored so the remaining fun training (interval) suffered. So moving from sportive this year to audax I have delayed training until now, I’m about to start, however due to work hours I go to work in the dark and by the time I get home and taken the dog out its dark, so most of my training is done on the fan, (with music and training dvds) and weather permitting a long ride at the weekend.

    When I ran (before I saw the light) it was drummed into me that base training should not be interrupted, take your heart rate to high and it ruins what you have done. This year I had made a decision to mix my training on the fan by doing some base training and interval training for variety. Audax is a totally different style of riding as you know its endurance slower but more distance. To me training for audax is time in the saddle.

    At last my question, for Audax will be ok to mix my training for variation or stick to the books?

    Thank you in appreciation of your thoughts. Lee

    • tejvan December 8, 2011 at 8:40 am #

      The most important thing about training is that it has to inspire you, it has to motivate you, and you have to enjoy it.

      If you’re trying to be a world champion, then there is perhaps a point in sticking rigidly to a coaching plan.

      But, if your goal is long audax, definitely do the training you enjoy.

      Nor do I think mixing the training will do any harm. It doesn’t do the pros any harm to be training hard 9-11 months a year.

      I kind of regret recommending that book now.

      • Lee December 11, 2011 at 2:12 pm #

        No the books were great I achieved my goal I was 5 mins off what I wanted but that was down to hot and windy weather not Training.

        The books were and are very helpful without them I would not have a clue. The books point out all parts of cycling from the bike to the event, most important to me is nutrition with out that knowledge you might as well stay at home.

        Anyway your blog is really entertaining so please keep it up, what i like is you, is you look at all cycling not just your sport. Most helpful this year FAQ Tour De France being new to cycling and having your information I coulnt wait to get home from work to watch it (wife not to happy) but having a little understanding of what its all about made it fantastic….Thank you hope we all have a good season 2012 Lee

  3. Doug December 7, 2011 at 9:13 pm #

    This post is both spooky and very helpful.

    While I was driving to work this morning (actually, just crawling along, grrrrr) I was toying with the idea of dropping a few hints at home that a turbo trainer might be a good idea. This has helped my thinking.

    Today has been cold, windy, damp and generally unpleasant. Suddenly very tempting.

    Thanks again,

  4. Alex December 7, 2011 at 3:38 pm #

    I’d also recommend training videos for something to watch on the turbo. The Spinnervals series are good, but a little pricy. The Sufferfest ones are much more affordable and some of them are a very tough workout. I either play them back on a laptop but I have even selotaped my iphone to my handlebars and watched them like that.

  5. Brian Nicholson November 22, 2008 at 12:52 pm #

    Hi Wayne,

    I use the training schedule that you can buy from the site and this year I PB’d in a 25m TT in 58:08 and 23:46 on my club 10m TT and it is not even flat so I can advise it is a good buy and excellent workouts

  6. Wayne Reid September 5, 2008 at 12:36 pm #

    how can u cycle fast under 1hour in 40km?

    please give me some winter turbo training tips for triathlon’s olympic distance bike 40km. i need to improve that cos that’s my weakness.

    thanks for your time



  1. Staying Motivated In Winter | Cycling UK - December 16, 2009

    [...] Winter Turbo Training [...]

  2. Indoor Cycle Training | Cycling UK - November 1, 2009

    [...] Tips for winter training [...]

  3. X Dream Exercise Bike | Cycling UK - December 9, 2008

    [...] have spent about 5 minutes for the entire duration of the holiday. I’ve written a post on turbo training – but, its more theoretical than practical – I just don’t like using it. I know some people [...]

Leave a Reply

+ 5 = 14