What hath Covid-19 wrought? Well, besides the serious effects of 1.5 million deaths at the time of writing and some pretty derailed national economies, there was a lighter side with a lot of jokes about toilet paper shortages and a sudden scarcity of smart trainers for indoor cycling. While the pro bike racing season was on-and-off-again outdoors, there was a surge in the popularity of e-racing, even with some virtual races actually contested by top riders. And with Zwift’s recent US$450 million financing, inside riding is now clearly A Big Thing. Striking while the iron is hot, noted coach Joe Friel’s latest book looks at this trend and how to use it.
Joe Friel’s indispensable “The Cyclist’s Training Bible” has been a standard guide for over 20 years and his more recent “Fast After 50” was reviewed here in 2015. His latest book, entitled “Ride Inside,” was written in conjunction with Jim Rutberg, another coach who has written extensively on cycling matters and is the media director at CTS in Colorado Springs.
“Ride Inside” is subtitled “The Essential Guide to Get the Most Our of Indoor Cycling, Smart Trainers, Classes, and Apps.” The first five chapters, amounting to 84 pages, are indeed a useful guide as areas covered include the benefits of riding indoors, how indoor riding differs from pedalling outside, the kind of equipment necessary, how to set up that equipment at home for maximum efficiency and utility, and the different types of indoor riding that are available through modern software.
The difficulty of writing about indoor cycling, as the authors acknowledge, is how quickly things change. As a user of one well-known app for more than a decade, I have seen it go from simple videos for sale to a quite elaborate specific training system by subscription, offering strength training, mental training, and yoga in addition to the cycling elements. It also offers a very active on-line community and the opportunity to relate to other users.
Although the names of the most popular apps are mentioned, there is very little detail on the differences between them but the reader can look them up online to get current information. While this prevents the book from being immediately dated, it would have been nice to have a chart outlining the different approaches. The authors do, in fact, go into some detail about Zwift’s “PowerUps,” used for e-racing, without looking at other apps. For example, The Sufferfest is focused on specific training and offers extensive plans to be used in conjunction with its videos but does not allow users to ride together in a virtual world. Rouvy does offer virtual racing events along with a very extensive library of real scenery. RGT Cycling is the only app offering free (albeit limited) participation—and a weird arrangement that requires using two different apps to make it work. TrainerRoad has no videos but offers training via charts.
The advice in the first half of the book is a good summary for those entering the indoor cycling arena. Setting up your training area is important as the system that you want is the one that will encourage you to ride indoors consistently and not necessarily be the most expensive or complicated. Looking at the set-ups of professional cyclists and triathletes there is no question of the importance of maintaining temperature control and “Ride Inside” has good material about the issues related to overheating. The advice of having at least two fans running is spot-on, while a third to cool your back is a novel idea. It was surprising to see nothing about music, which is proven to benefit training, or the benefits of using a large screen monitor. There are people who use iPhones, iPads, or laptops to follow the apps but anyone who switches to a big screen will immediately appreciate the immersive effect which it provides.
Once the reader is all set up in the Pain Cave and understands the different types of trainer (dumb/smart/indoor cycles) and how they operate through ANT+ or Bluetooth connectivity and how resistance, in level mode or erg mode, functions, it is time to get riding. The second half of the book is, in my view, not especially indoor riding-specific but rather covers the classic elements of training. This is exactly the kind of material you will find in “The Cyclist’s Training Bible” although there are clearly certain workouts, such as V02 max intervals, that work better indoors than while riding on public roads.
“Ride Inside” includes valuable suggestions for maximizing training results. This is not a secret but today our technology makes it that much more enjoyable and those results can be measured far more easily. Fifteen years ago I was riding in Southern California and spoke to some local racers, who told me that they often trained indoors (even in nice California weather!) to concentrate on specific elements that they would be using in their races while saving time and reducing risks, such as dealing with road hazards or careless drivers.
Once upon a time, indoor cycling was something that people simply had to get through because the weather prevented them from riding outdoors. Bikes were set up on rollers, which gave some scares to neophytes, or basic wind or magnetic trainers. The technology has jumped so that smart trainers allow interaction with apps that provide focused training. Training time is efficiently utilized and, as Mathew Hayman showed at Paris-Roubaix in 2016, riding indoors can prepare you for the biggest win of a career. Today you can race friends or ride the most famous climbs of the Tour de France in the comfort of your home while improving fitness for the days when the road beckons.
Who is this book aimed at? Honestly, this is not clear as many people who are heavily invested in indoor training will be familiar with what is contained in the second half of the book already. I was surprised to discovered one year when attending spinning classes over winter than almost none of the other attendees actually rode bicycles outdoors. “Ride Inside” is packed with good advice but perhaps would be most appreciated by those new to both the discipline of training as well as the joys (yes, we can say that in 2020) of indoor cycling.
“Ride Inside – The Essential Guide to Get the Most Our of Indoor Cycling, Smart Trainers, Classes, and Apps” by Joe Friel, with Jim Rutberg
Foreword by Stephen Seiler, Ph.D
200 pp., sofbound
VeloPress, Boulder, Colorado, 2020
The book is currently on sale at VeloPress for US$17.47.
# Also available from AMAZON.COM HERE. #