The ultimate pain cave: How to set up your training space for the best indoor cycling experience

Training is going to be painful but where you do it doesn’t have to make you wince

Clock17:41, Wednesday 15th November 2023

The environment we ride in can determine if we love or loathe indoor riding. Hopping on the trainer means escaping the elements and leaving behind the stimuli of the outside world, so taking the effort to elevate your indoor riding space can make a huge difference.

These spaces are often affectionately referred to as 'pain caves', but the suffering will be eased with a few touches that should make your riding more enjoyable and your training more rewarding.

With some set-up considerations, as well as some financial investment, you could have yourself a pain cave that makes you excited to get some indoor training underway.

Here, we take a look at the things that are going to take your indoor riding space to the next level.

A big and bright display

One of the most engaging ways to set up a pain cave is to install a nice big display. With the visual stimuli of the outside world gone, a screen will give you the chance to ride on virtual platforms, such as Zwift, or even watch TV shows or films, if you prefer.

Although you can use a laptop or even your phone in some cases, getting yourself a large, dedicated screen is going to take things to the next level. A wall-mounted TV is just the job in this respect.

However, there is another option, one that will give your pain cave more of a cinematic feel: a projector. This could also be a solution if you haven't got the space for a TV screen to be permanently mounted to the wall.

All this requires is a blank pale wall for the display to be projected onto. The brightness and maximum image size will be dependent on the projector that you use.

A good set of speakers

Whether you listen to music, a podcast, watch a film, or just love the soundtrack of Zwift, having some good quality audio is a must for the ultimate pain cave.

A Bluetooth speaker is going to give you the most flexibility when it comes to pairing it with whatever device you want.

If you are particularly sweaty and you tend to boost the humidity of a room through the roof when you get in the zone, an outdoor speaker that has an IPX rating for dust and water resistance will make sure that you aren’t unknowingly causing any damage to your tech.

Smart trainer accessories

At the heart of the pain cave is, of course, the bike, and there are numerous options, from basic wheel-on turbo trainers, through smart hub trainers, to dedicated smart exercise bikes.

We have already done a complete rundown of the various trainers you can use, but when it comes to building your 'ultimate' pain cave, we're going to be looking at the smart end of the spectrum, because they offer greater functionality and a range of accessories to take the indoor riding experience to the next level.

One of the most premium smart trainer accessories is a gradient simulator, such as the Wahoo Kickr Climb. This replaces your front wheel, with your fork mounting directly to the device. As you ride around in a virtual world, this will pitch your bike to simulate the gradient that you’re riding on.

When it comes to virtual riding, another option is the Zwift Play controller, which enhances your immersion in the different worlds with real-time responsive steering and button commands.

A smart fan to raise the game

One accessory that is a complete must-have for indoor training, on any budget, is a fan. The lack of airflow in stationary riding will cause you to heat and sweat much more readily, so you are going to need some sort of cooling system.

A basic fan will do a job, but a good quality fan, which can be remote-controlled to vary the power, is a worthwhile investment.

However, the pinnacle of fan technology would be a smart fan, such as the Wahoo Kickr Headwind. This offers a variable airflow depending on the exerted effort of the rider. The more power you put down, the more the fan tries to cool you.

A dehumidifier

No matter how good your fan, you're always going to have some moisture lingering in the air.

The effect humidity can have on athletic performance has been well documented. Athletes have even been known to purposefully train without fans in small rooms to simulate the intense training stress of riding in humid conditions. For most of us, training in conditions like such will be mostly detrimental and will lead to sweating even more than usual, which can lead to damage to your bike and equipment, given the potential for sodium corrosion on certain parts.

Using a dehumidifier in your training room will keep the air at a lower humidity level. This means that the air has a higher capacity to hold perspiration, meaning that when you sweat a high proportion of it can evaporate into the air quicker.

It is good to run a dehumidifier for a little while before starting a training session to allow for the room's humidity to drop. This is the next level up from using just a fan and if your pain cave is in a small enclosed room this could transform your indoor training.

A wipe-clean floor mat

These are a small but mighty inclusion into the ultimate pain cave. Getting some high-density EVA foam floor mats to put your bike and trainer on will do wonders for sound dampening, which is ideal for anyone living in an apartment. It also protects your floor from sweat, or any oil and dirt that's jettisoned from your bike whilst riding.

If you can't find these then a simple indoor training mat will offer you plenty of protection from dirtying your floor or dripping sweat on to your carpet.

Having a wipe-clean surface that collects dirt and sweat will protect your floor and also prevent any slip hazards from accumulating for any unsuspecting visitor to the pain cave.

Motivational memorabilia

The pain cave is the place for you to delve deep into your motivational reserves and push yourself to new limits. One of the best ways to do this is to turn it into a shrine for your past achievements and anything to remind you of your future goals.

Hanging any trophies, medals, or event number boards inside of your pain cave is a surefire way to make to get you in the zone. If you have any posters or photos of an iconic climb or event you are training for – it could even be a training plan – putting this within eyesight can really focus you in on the task at hand.

But the main point here is simply to decorate the room with things that are going to lift the atmosphere and make you actually want to spend time in there.

Pain cave hacks

Although there are plenty of accessories to make indoor training the best it possibly can be when you spend hours on end in the pain cave, you are sure to find little quirks that you think you can improve. And when it comes to creating a space that's going to inspire you to ride, a little personal touch goes a long way.

Alex Paton took on this challenge himself and ended up making a misting device to spray a fine mist over him at the touch of a button in an attempt to better aid cooling.

If you think you have any bright ideas that could make indoor riding even better for you, don’t be shy about making something to fill that gap. If you have any top hacks for the ultimate pain cave, let us know in the comments section below.

If you are a fan of indoor riding or if you are just getting started, be sure to head over to our indoor training page, where you can find out everything you need for this season of indoor riding.

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