RAGBRAI XLIX registration is now open!

Indoor Training May Be Your Best Option

  • 17 December, 2009
  • TJ Juskiewicz

0be05b0ca57dd8318c5690ce629cbdde_ac3If you have ridden RAGBRAI before, you know how hot it can get in Iowa in the summer.  Well guess what?  It gets just as cold in Iowa in the winter.  And this past week we got dumped on -14 inches of snow and then some ice to top it off.  Today it’s warmed up to a balmy 20 degrees F. 

No matter how dedicated you are, there comes a time when indoor riding makes a lot more sense than riding outdoors.  Here are a few reasons why it is a good idea to ride your bike indoors if you live in a northern location:

  • It is dark when you leave for work and dark before you get home.  It’s not dark in your house as long as you pay your electric bills.
  • Wind chill.  When you ride outside in the wind, you always have a wind chill because you are generating a 10-20 MPH breeze wherever you go.  Once it gets below freezing, this makes it uncomfortable to ride very long and dangerous if it gets really cold.
  • Road conditions in the winter may be hazardous.  Bike tires and snow/ice don’t go well together.  Also keep in mind that the car right behind you may not be able to stop as quickly when you fall in front of it.
  • What about bike trails?   There’s a bike trail under that two feet of snow?  Around here bike trails become snowmobile trails in the winter.
  • Indoor training actually can help you improve your fitness over the winter.  When you ride indoors, you don’t want to do it for a long time.  An hour is about all you should aim for, but make that hour count by pedaling hard. 

Sure you can be tough and go for a ride outside in winter and brag to all your friends.  They will likely be mildly impressed at best, or they may just conclude you are nuts.   Anyway, how many times to you need to keep proving to yourself and others how tough you are?  Indoor riding is tough in its own way.  It takes some mental toughness to do an indoor workout and when done right, you can get a better workout indoors than you can outside.  So here are a few ideas for staying on your bike during the winter when you can’t get outside.

If you don’t already have one, consider purchasing an indoor trainer.  You hook your rear wheel into these and can pedal against resistance.   There are three main types – wind trainers, magnetic trainers and fluid trainers.  Fluid trainers are the quietest, offer the most resistance and are of course more expensive.  But they are nice. 

  • You can purchase all sorts of cycling videos that you can watch when you are pedaling away indoors.  Or, hook up your iPod and listen to some motivating music.  Or, watch your favorite bowl game.  Sprint every time the ball is hiked until the whistle blows to end the play.   You can get a lot of short intervals done in a hurry.
  • Don’t forget the floor fan and a towel. You will want and need these because you will be working up a sweat.
  • Attend a spin class. If you belong to a gym, partake in their spin classes.  These are a fun and great way to get a good sweat going.

Staying in some level of shape during the winter will make a huge difference in the spring.  Instead of having to start from scratch with your training next spring, maintain some fitness this winter on your bike and be ready to roll when the winter breaks.IndoorTrainingCover

If you are serious about indoor training, check out my new ebook, Indoor Training for Cyclists.

If you want to read more about cycling training, sign up for my free monthly newsletter on cycling training.  You can sign up here.   You can see some the back issues here.

Coach David Ertl

David Ertl is a USA Cycling Level 1 (Elite) Coach. He coaches individual cyclists, the Des Moines Cycle Club Race Team and the JDRF Greater Iowa Chapter for the Ride to Cure Diabetes.  He is also an NSCA certified Personal Trainer.  Check out his website at www.CyclesportCoaching.com


  1. kspangler

    Pennsylvania is freezing too. I’m considering forcing a ride on my Long Haul Trucker today though. Encouragement?

  2. lesterlm

    Hello- I’m trying to decide if I can swing what it takes to train. Approx. how much time does it take to do the 150mi/ weeks? Also….is RAGBRI fun to do solo? I’m having a hard time getting any friends to consider it :)
    Thanks for any info/advise!

Submit a Comment

Related Articles
Friends of RAGBRAI