Friday, October 31, 2014

Taking the "Pain" out of the "Pain Cave" - Part 4: Accessorizing

Image used with permission from Saris Cycling Group.

Well, it's been a little while since my last post, as a family trip to Disney World has kept me busier than I thought.  Thus far, we've covered the different types of resistance used for trainers, along with some of the more advanced trainer options like power trainers and rollers.  As mentioned in part 3 of this series, today's post is all about accessorizing your trainer session.  If you're going to be spending a few hours a week riding and not going anywhere, we might as well make sure we're comfortable.  So, let's look at a few accessories that you should factor into your indoor cycling budget.

Image used with permission from Saris Cycling Group.

Front Wheel Riser

The classic trainer designs will raise the rear wheel off the ground a bit.  This will leave you feeling like you are on a constant downhill, and it can actually get a bit uncomfortable.  The way to fix this is with a riser for the front wheel.  All of the aforementioned trainer manufacturers offer a front wheel riser of some sort.

Elite Travel Block - $12.99 (at Performance Bike)

CycleOps Leveling Block - $19.99
Kurt Kinetic Riser Ring - $29.00
CycleOps Climbing Riser Block - $29.99
Elite Su Sta - $34.99 (Performance Bike)
Kurt Kinetic Turntable Riser Ring - $45.00

As you can see, you can save some money with the Elite Travel Block or CycleOps leveling block to simply get the bike close to level.  You can also get by with a small piece of 2x4 or a few magazines, if you're really not wanting to spend the money.  It won't be perfectly level, but you'll be close enough.

The others offer multiple heights, allowing you to simulate a climb.  The Elite Su Sta has 5 levels, allowing you to simulate up to a 6% grade.  The CycleOps and Kurt Kinetic Riser Ring allow you to stack more than one if you want to simulate a tougher grade.  Of course, this doesn't do anything to simulate the actual change in resistance of a climb - it is more about the position on your bike you will be in for climbing.  

If you choose to use rollers, your front wheel is incorporated into the drive system, so these risers won't work.  Additionally, the direct drive trainers like the Wahoo KICKR don't require a riser.  Since the rear tire is not involved, the height of the hub can be kept lower to the ground.  But, if you are riding a bike equipped with 650c wheels (found on smaller geometry bikes, versus the 700c wheels found on most road bikes) or a mountain bike with 26" wheels, you may still need a riser, depending on the adjustability of the direct drive trainer.

Image used with permission from Saris Cycling Group.
With any of the classic trainer designs, the back tire is going to be getting some wear.  This is definitely an advantage of the direct drive models.  You want to have a durable tire that doesn't slip on the trainer.  Some of today's lightweight, low rolling resistance tires are not the best choice for indoor training - they wear too quickly.  Heat is also a concern.

Additionally, if you have a tire with a tread pattern, such as a mountain bike or hybrid tire, you'll find that the noise levels and "bumpiness" of the knobs will be loud and annoying, and also make it difficult to grip the smooth surface of the resistance unit on the trainer.  Ideally, you want a slick tire - one without any tread pattern to allow for complete adhesion of the tire surface to the surface of the trainer resistance unit.

Some of the trainers also caution of the combination of tire size and trainer - for example, Kurt Kinetic recommends using a Kenda Kwick 1.5" commuter tire when using a 26" mountain bike on the trainer to prevent frame rub.

When it comes to tire recommendations, there are several trainer-specific models available.  Here are a couple of options from the trainer manufacturers:

CycleOps Trainer Tire - $34.99

Kurt Kinetic Trainer Tire by Kenda - $60

Additionally, most of the tire manufacturers offer tires that are either specifically designed for use on the trainer or suitable.  

Using a trainer-specific tire introduces a bit of an issue - if you are the type of person who might ride 2-3 times a week indoors, and do your longer rides outdoors on the weekend, you're going to be swapping back and forth between your trainer tire and your outdoor tire.  That's kind of a pain.  A lot of folks will buy a cheap wheel for use on the trainer so they can just swap wheels.  That's a bit of extra expense (you'll probably want an extra cassette, too).

Another option is to just go with a really durable road tire.  From my experience, I've had really good luck with good old Conti Gatorskins.  I do about 95% of my riding indoors, and I have over 5,000 miles on Gatorskins and have not yet had to swap out the rear tire.

Keeping Cool
If you plan to spend any amount of time on the trainer, you'll need a fan.  It's amazing how much heat we can put out, and if you overheat, how quickly you'll fade.

For fan choices, get something that will move a lot of air.  The pictured Utilitech fan above is what I use.  It moves a lot of air and is available from Lowe's for around $40.  You can pick up a 20" box fan for less than $20, although they don't provide the tilt that the aforementioned Utilitech does, which is nice for allowing you to point the fan at your body.

I would definitely opt for a 20" or bigger fan.  The 18" and smaller fans just don't move enough air.  If you really want the good life, find a fan with a remote control.

Image used with permission from Saris Cycling Group.

Protecting your Floor
Indoor training involves a lot of stuff that will ruin your flooring.  Even with a good fan, you're still going to sweat on the trainer, especially if you're set up in a relatively small room.  You will also notice black dust around the trainer itself from your tire wearing.  That stuff gets into carpet and will eventually leave a blackened section you can't seem to get clean.

Another aspect to consider is vibration.  When you ride, your trainer is going to provide some form of vibration.  This is fine if you are in the basement or a cement ground floor, but if you are an apartment dweller or have your trainer on an upper level of your home, you might find that the vibration is annoying to your family members or neighbors.  

To solve these issues, once again, the trainer manufacturers have you covered:

Kurt Kinetic Trainer Mat - $69.00

Wahoo KICKR Trainer Floormat - $69.99
CycleOps Training Mat - $74.99

As you can see, these can be a bit spendy.  You can find more affordable options from places like Dick's Sporting Goods, or possibly roll your own.  Just make sure you use something that is relatively dense so it supports the weight of the trainer well and is stable.  A cheap yoga mat could work, if it isn't too thick and it is big enough to cover the surface area below your trainer and bike.

Image used with permission from Saris Cycling Group.

Protecting your Bike

There are a few solutions out there to protect your bike from sweat.  You don't want to be sweating all over your crankset, shifters, brakes, and headset. 

CycleOps Sweat Guard - $24.99

Elite Protec - $24.99 (Performance Bike)
Kurt Kinetic Sweat Guard - $27.00
Elite Protec Plus

I included two links to the Elite Protec products - it appears the version that Performance Bike is different than the one Elite shows on their website.  

I've used the CycleOps sweat guard, but frankly, I prefer just using a towel.  I can drape it over the stuff I want to protect and use it to dry myself as needed.  Just make sure you don't block your fan too much by draping an oversized towel over your handlebars.

Bike Fit

Finally, as a bike fitter, I have to recommend one of the most important indoor training accessories - a good bike fit.  If you don't fit your bike well, the trainer is going to expose any issues fairly quickly.  Since most classic trainers don't provide a lot of side-to-side movement, the bike moves less naturally with you than it will on the road.  This can aggravate any issues you have, such as saddle sores and chaffing.  So, for my shameless plug, come and get ForeverFit at Vector Cycle Works!

That's it for this part.  As you may have noticed, accessories can add up pretty quickly, if you let them.  You can do just fine with a towel, box fan, and something to prop up your front tire.  In the next installment, we'll start looking at ways to make indoor training more entertaining.

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