Getting started with Zwift indoor training
Some surefire ways to make the most of indoor training as the days get shorter and the weather less appealing
Junior Tech Writer
Here at GCN we have partnered with indoor training platform Zwift to go through how you can get the most out of indoor training on a static bike, and how to make it more productive and enjoyable.
Zwift offers an immersive riding experience across multiple 'worlds' with the ability to race other riders in real time, complete workouts or just go for a spin, making indoor training that little bit more enjoyable.
For a lot of us in the northern hemisphere we are squeezing out the last of summer, with autumn just around the corner. That signals shorter evenings and bad weather so riding outside becomes less appealing. A solution that has never been more popular is indoor training. This approach allows you to carry on putting the miles in even on the worst winter's day.
If you want to get started with indoor training, here's everything you need to know. From equipment to entertainment, this is our guide to training indoors.
Set-up and equipment
Riding indoors requires some specific equipment and comes with an associated cost, but with a bit of patience you can often find second-hand trainers online. A direct drive trainer is an ideal solution as it allows you to replace your rear wheel by mounting your frame directly on to the trainer's own cassette. The advantage of this is that your bike feels more secure and you're less likely to wear down your tyres quickly, which can happen on budget roller trainers. That said, the best equipment to get is whatever your budget can accommodate.
If you can stretch to a smart trainer, you'll have a far more realistic and immersive indoor riding experience. As the name might suggest, a smart trainer has the ability to adapt the resistance it offers. The functionality of a smart trainer works most effectively when it is paired with a virtual training app like Zwift. It allows you to ride around on routes in the virtual world with the trainer varying the resistance to simulate riding in the real world.
A smart trainer set up like this one will offer the most realistic riding experience
Beyond the trainer and any associated software, you'll also benefit from a training mat to put under the bike. This will help keep the floor in your home clean and prevent any chain oil or dirt from being flicked onto the floor. A powerful fan is also a must, as the lack of air flow when riding indoors means you'll get very hot very quickly. So a fan to help shift some air to cool you down is a necessity.
Luckily for us, the days of suffering mental torture on the trainer are long gone. Indoor training used to be quite uninspiring and it was tough to stay motivated with nothing to take your mind of the act of pedalling.
One of the cheapest ways to invigorate some life into your indoor rides is to put a race on, or find some other cycling content that can put you in an immersive state. This is a great way of getting your brain involved on a budget - and this is where we come into our own as we have lots on the GCN YouTube channels! A really fun way to train can be to watch the latest race as it happens over on GCN+ and imagine being in the race reacting to moves as they happen.
Using a platform like Zwift offers an engaging experience with real time racing and exiting 'worlds' to ride in
For those with access to it, a training platform like Zwift is the most interesting and immersive option for indoor training. This allows for goals and PBs to be set and recorded with daily KoM and segment challenges to really keep the focus. Not only does Zwift offer personal challenges and a variety of routes and ‘worlds’ to ride in but it can also be used as an e-sports racing platform, offering a live racing environment from your home.
What sort of training is good to do indoors?
You can do a whole multitude of high quality training indoors allowing you to build and maintain fitness when riding outside isn’t all that appealing. Sometimes it can help you in training for a specific event if you don’t have the terrain you need available to you. For example if you live somewhere with rolling punchy hills and need to train for long steady Alpine climbs, an indoor trainer can give you that controlled environment and provide for those continuous long efforts.
The only training sessions that can be difficult to replicate with an indoor trainer are full gas, flat-out sprint sessions. This is because out on the road you tend to rock your bike quite aggressively from side to side during a sprint. On an indoor trainer it is not possible to do this as the bike is fixed to the floor, so you can't use your natural technique to the same effect. As a result sprint efforts are still best done out on the road.
GCN Training offer a wide range of training rides to get you in shape for you next target event
If you are adamant about full gas sprints indoors you can get rocker boards that both the trainer and the bike mount to. This then rocks underneath you as you move the bike around, giving it a more outdoors feel. However it should be noted these are quite cumbersome and costly.
Training indoors is completely personal to you and your goals, and the best training you can do, whether inside or outside, is the one that gets you excited to ride your bike. If you keep selecting sessions that don’t inspire you, indoor training very quickly loses its appeal. And remember that if you are using indoor training as a substitute for riding outside during bad weather, any ride is better than no riding at all.
If you are looking for some inspiration, or workouts to complete on your indoor trainer why don't you check out GCN Training where there are loads of videos to follow along with. Or check out our article on indoor training to find out more about it.
Junior Tech Writer
Alex writes for the GCN editorial tech with a passion for all things bike tech.