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Is 2024 the year when indoor cycling isn't just for winter? The case for hitting the turbo trainer year-round

Turbo training indoors has revolutionised winter training. Is it time we used it more in summer too?

Even just a decade ago, indoor training was mostly reserved for masochists. Only super keen riders willing to trade staring at a wall for a few hours to gain a few watts would choose it over riding outside, but how times have changed. Whether you're a budding elite cyclist, a cafe rider who wants an efficient fitness boost or even a non-cyclist (outdoors) who wants to keep fit, indoor training on the bike is now very much commonplace. This got us thinking, should indoor cycling be something that is only done during the winter, or does it have benefits year-round?

2024 Indoor training Aaron sweating

It is (believe it or not, if you're reading this in June 2024) summer right now, AKA the time of year that most riders dust off their best bike, put their winter jackets to the back of the cupboard, enter some events, and last but not least, cancel any indoor training subscriptions.

As someone who used to hate indoor training, I am now very much in the same boat. I'm a convert and one of the many riders who rely on indoor riding to stay fit over the winter. However, as the weather warms up it's an expense that I could just do without, so until October it's cheerio Metaverse.

2024 Indoor training on turbo shot front

That is until this year, because I've just come out of a winter season when my riding is as good as it ever has been, despite doing about half the hours. It's not a bad situation to be in, and one that I would accredit to a super regimented indoor training regime. I spent winter doing actual workouts and challenging myself against others rather than slogging around aimlessly in the rain.

Indoor training has also meant that I've been much more regular with my training, because it's far easier for me to fit in half an hour on the turbo than it is to layer up and head outside.

2024 Colnago C68 italy jamie riding shot hill road.cc kit riding away

Hopefully, the summer means that with longer days and mercifully less wetness, I won't be as reliant on indoor training; but should I cancel my plan when it does seem to be doing a pretty good job?

It's more flexible than ever

Clearly a lot of the same benefits of indoor training remain even when the sun's out. It's quicker, it's easier and it's traffic-free, but indoor training platforms can cost from anything from a few quid to almost £20 a month.

2024 Indoor training turbo trainer direct mount

Now, if you haven't already noticed this article is sponsored by Rouvy, so I'd be remiss not to tell you about their new pausing and day pass options. This makes it far more attractive to use an indoor trainer during the summer months.

As of June this year, you can now pause your Rouvy membership for up to 180 days. During that time, just like everyone else, you can still get 20 virtual kilometres for free each month. 

If you're like me then you'll be choosing one of the many mountainous routes to get some serious value for money! If you're on a yearly plan, you'll get all those 180 days added back on to the end, so you could potentially get two winters out of a year's subscription.

2024 pause rouvy membership

Next up is Rouvy's day passes, something that I think is a genius idea.

Usually during the summer I'm happy enough riding outside for the majority, and then out of nowhere we'll get an absolute washout of a weekend. Now I can purchase a 24-hour, 48-hour or 72-hour subscription while my membership is paused for just a few quid. Good work Rouvy!

Passes are priced at $2.99 USD for 24 hours, $3.99 USD for 48 hours and $4.99 USD for 72 hours.

It is possible, then, to use indoor training software less regularly than during the winter months without it being a waste of money if you don't end up using it.

Is indoor training 'proper' training?

2024 ROUVY - Cape Point - South Africa route

The next reason that many riders raise for not training indoors during the summer months is that they can get a more effective session outside. Is that true?

If you watch any pro cycling races then you'll know that they're a pretty hardy bunch; no broken collarbone or pelvis would usually stop them from finishing a stage! It's kind of hard imagining them sacking off a ride just because of the weather, but are any of us actually sacrificing any training effect by training indoors instead? 

Álvaro Hodeg and Xabier Azparren crash on muddy cobbles at GP de Denain (SprintCyclingAgency)

As I said earlier, I'm probably the strongest I've ever been on the bike after a winter of indoor training, but we decided to speak to someone who knows what they're on about to find out whether indoor training really is as good as outdoor. Or whether I just got lucky…

When she's not cycle coaching, Emily is the resident fitness and training expert at road.cc. She told us:

"You don't have to look further than the pros to see that indoor training has been proven to be an effective form of training.

"The most famous example is probably Matt Hayman, who relied almost entirely on turbo training in the build-up to his Paris Roubaix win.

Paris-Roubaix 2024 cobbles - credit Ryan Mallon

"This doesn't mean we should all immediately jump on the turbo though. I always tell my coached athletes that it's consistency that is key, no matter their goal. For some riders this might be purely outdoor riding, for others purely inside, and for most it's a combination of the two.

"It's about finding out what motivates you. If that's a group ride then great, that could be either indoors or out. It might be a weekly chaingang. You've got to find ways to push yourself, not only during the session but also to get on the bike.

2024 Rouvy and Lidl-Trek Prepare for your target cycling event like a pro

"What I have found with my coached riders is that the ones who have seen the biggest progression do combine both indoor and outdoor riding. I think this is because unless you're a pro, cycling has to fit in around life. Sometimes, especially with UK weather, it's far easier to jump on the indoor trainer than it is to find the time to layer up and get outside.

"I rarely prescribe indoor sessions over outdoor ones, but there certainly are benefits to them: they tend to use up less time, an hour session actually takes an hour, there are fewer distractions, you're less confined by route choice, there's no junctions or cars to get in the way of efforts, and it's easy to complete a tailored session.

2024 ROUVY - Bormio to Tirano - Italy

"Most of us cycle to get out in the fresh air but for most riders, there's certainly room for both indoor and outdoor sessions even during the summer. You need to do whatever you enjoy, as that's where consistency comes from. But yes, it is 'proper' training!"

Should indoor training be reserved for winter?

Lidl-Trek partner with Rouvy

At the beginning of the article, I asked whether indoor cycling should be reserved just for winter... and the answer is yes, if you want it to be! However, in 2024 platforms such as Rouvy are making it more flexible than ever to cancel, pause and tailor your indoor training subscription to better suit your needs. 

That's why 2024 will be the first year that I do incorporate indoor training into my summer riding plan. Don't worry though, plenty of my rides will still be outside in the real world. 

Let us know in the comments below if you'll be joining me with indoor training during the summer months, or whether your turbo will be tucked away until autumn.

Click here to find out more about Rouvy's subscription plans, and use the code 1MROADCC to get your first month free. Valid until the end of June 2024.

Jamie has been riding bikes since a tender age but really caught the bug for racing and reviewing whilst studying towards a master's in Mechanical engineering at Swansea University. Having graduated, he decided he really quite liked working with bikes and is now a full-time addition to the road.cc team. When not writing about tech news or working on the Youtube channel, you can still find him racing local crits trying to cling on to his cat 2 licence...and missing every break going...

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13 comments

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Velophaart_95 | 1 month ago
0 likes

Each to their own, but its not for me. I understand it in winter in keeping a bit of fitness, bit all year.

I think there's many who think cycling is all about watts, w/kg, power, etc  We're seeing very fit riders, but have no skills at all......

You won't gain Nino like skills indoor, you need to be out on the trails......

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check12 | 1 month ago
0 likes

should we eat turkeys all year round - Bernard Matthews 

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junglist_matty | 1 month ago
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Grew up riding MTB on hills/mountains, always outside, getting muddy in winter.... Moved from Bristol to Cambridge for work, no more MTB so took up road cycling. Found a new love for XC so try to ride Thetford as much as possible but I have to keep fit somehow as I can only manage 1 or 2 rides a week in the forest. Indoor training works as it fits around job and young kids. Would be happy to never use it but I have grown to hate road cycling because of motorists and being knocked off several times by idiot drivers. So these days it's either MTB or indoor trainer away from idiot drivers wanting to kill me to save a few seconds on their journeys.

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Secret_squirrel | 1 month ago
2 likes

Funnily enough I did the opposite over this winter. Bought an eMTB and spent the winter covered in mud with a shit eating grin on my face.

Probably the unfittest I've ever been but had loads of fun. 

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dreamlx10 | 1 month ago
3 likes

The only indoor cycling is the track

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lesterama replied to dreamlx10 | 1 month ago
0 likes

Also roller racing, but it's in terminal decline now

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D.Railleur | 1 month ago
0 likes

Indoor training and racing is brilliant. Took me a while to really see it but now I prefer indoor/ training and racing to outdoors. I race/train indoors all through the winter months and also train indoors during the summer. This means I can just grab a bike and go for a ride outside when and only when the weather is perfect during the summer. ( not too many of those days this year so far). So happy with indoor riding I've recently sold all my TT bikes and kit to fund a new indoor set up, a dedicated air-conditioned space, huge screen, new smart trainer and dedicated indoor only bike. I'm fitter, stronger and having more fun overall.Racing far more than I would ever have done outdoors and enjoying my outdoor rides too cos they're just great bike rides in perfect weather with no pressure to perform.

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mctrials23 replied to D.Railleur | 1 month ago
1 like

Yep, people are very...snooty about indoor trainers and seem to look down on those who don't get outside at every hint of an opportunity. Personally I enjoy my rides outside more when I am fit and with young children and a job I don't get to pick when I can ride that often. I have been for a couple of evening rides this year but by the time the boys are down it could be only a few hours until sunset. 

Indoor trainers aren't as nice as riding in the sunshine outside but they are a damn site better than no riding and I just catch up on the TV I haven't had time to watch otherwise. 

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jaymack | 1 month ago
1 like

For some of us year round turbo-training has been a reality for years as getting home from work at 19:00 each evening is sadly the norm . So, geting out in the countryside on my bike's just not feasible, the only real answer is a turbo-trainer. I prefer Trainerroad to the Zwifts or Rouvys of the world 'cos the latter just remind me of what I'm missing, the outside world. The advent of catch-up TV has been revolutionary, at leat I can now watch what I want for a change. It's not perfect and I long for the weekend when I can get out in the fresh air, but it's good enough training to keep me fit enough for the odd audax.

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Charles Chevaux | 1 month ago
5 likes

Even if you always ride indoors there is no guarantee a vehicle won't crash through you wall and kill you on your bike.https://road.cc/content/forum/car-crashes-building-please-post-your-loca...

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fincon1 | 1 month ago
4 likes

I'm sorry, I don't have an indoor trainer and I have no intentions of getting one. For me, cycling is about getting outdoors with my pals, and only seriously adverse (read, dangerous) weather will stop us doing that. I rode all winter this year, and not once did I get home and think "I wish I hadn't done that". Each to their own, I guess!

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Rendel Harris replied to fincon1 | 1 month ago
3 likes

Good for you - but also lucky you to have the time and/or lifestyle to do that. Most people who work a regular nine to five will be leaving for work in the dark and coming home in the dark between the end of October and the beginning of March. That only leaves the weekends for any decent rides, and most will have family and other committments that realistically leave them room for maybe one decent outdoor ride a week. When you're in that situation it's not a choice between outdoor and indoor riding, it's a choice between indoor riding and no riding. I love my spring/summer/autumn outdoor rides, they are greatly enhanced by the fitness I've managed to maintain or even gain during the winter with indoor riding so I hit the ground running once regular outdoor riding becomes practical again rather than spending the first couple of months trying to get back to where I was at the end of the previous autumn.

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Brauchsel replied to fincon1 | 1 month ago
2 likes

I've got a job during the day, and a small child who I'm responsible for a lot of evenings: much as I'd love to be getting outdoors with my pals (who are in similar positions), I'd rarely get to ride a bike if I looked down on indoor cycling. I like riding a bike: if that has to be indoors sometimes, so be it. I'm noticeably better at riding outdoors when I've spent time riding indoors, which may be because there's a shortage of 1000m climbs or safe places to do 30-minute hard efforts on the London road network. 

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