The ultimate guide to indoor bike training – plus 8 indoor workouts for the pain cave

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 “To Me It Doesn’t Matter Whether It’s Raining Or The Sun Is Shining Or Whatever. As Long As I’m Riding A Bike I Know I’m The Luckiest Guy In The World.”

– Mark Cavendish

Every year at about the same time, I find myself setting up my indoor bike trainer and getting ready to spend some serious time in the pain cave. The days are getting shorter, colder, and my local trails are getting ugly. Despite this, my training plan usually calls for some serious time in the saddle with long endurance rides.

Well, that time is this week. I’m setting up my indoor bike training studio this week and thought I’d share what I’ve learned over many years of training indoors with all of you.

Benefits of indoor training

So, to be honest, riding a bike on a trainer sucks compared to riding out in nature on real trails, but for many of us who live in places where we can ski, biking has to move indoors for part of the year. It’s not an entirely bad thing either as there are many benefits to riding indoors on a trainer that can be hard to come by when out on a trail or even on the road.


If you’re at all serious about hitting your biking goals for the year, you need to work at them consistently. Riding outdoors in winter doesn’t lend well to consistency because you never know when a big storm will dump snow all over everything. Even when trails or roads are rideable, there’s significantly less daylight during the winter months making riding outdoors a bit more challenging and even dangerous. Having an indoor bike trainer set up for biking means you can ride any time, day, or night, storms or no storms.


When you ride on an indoor bike trainer, you can fine-tune your workouts more precisely than out on the trails or roads. Whether you train with heart rate, power, or just go out and ride, you’ll be better able to avoid things like traffic lights, other trail users, or specific terrain features of a trail or road route that could throw off your workout plan.

On indoor trainers, you can ride in whatever zone your workout plan dictates without worrying about having to punch hard up the next short hill and push your heart rate into Z5. Unless you let your pets or kids in the room where you’re riding, you should be able to keep a precise structure to all your workouts.


When you ride outdoors in the winter, you often have to drive even further than normal to get to trails that are rideable in the snow or you have to drive to a specific road or bike path that’s safe for winter riding. That driving all needs to happen with short daylight hours. You also have to ensure you’ve got charged bike lights and dry winter riding clothes. Also, be sure you clean your bike after a ride to ensure it doesn’t rust or corrode from all the salt on the roads in winter.

bike training indoors
Focus on pedaling efficiency while indoors

Riding at home on the trainer doesn’t have any of those challenges. All you have to do is set up your pain cave and ride. You save tons of time by not having to drive all over and prep for and clean up after a winter ride.

This can be even more important during winter when many people are doing aerobic base workouts that can last several hours.


An additional benefit of riding on the indoor trainer is that you can focus on very specific elements of your riding. No, you can’t practice corners or riding rock gardens, but you can hone in on pedaling efficiency, breathing, body position, or pacing without having to worry about all the distractions that come with outdoor riding. This will mean you don’t have to think about these finer details when you get back out on the trails in the spring.

When it comes to mountain biking, every trail requires different physiological demands, which means that the trail will dictate what you are practicing for the day. If you have a race or a workout with a very specific focus, a focus that the trail you are riding does not highlight, it will be difficult to achieve your goal. When riding the trainer, however, you are able to tailor your workout to meet your specific needs.

Convinced to try indoor bike training this winter?

Here are my best tips and tricks on how to set up your pain cave for maximal benefit and ease as well as an intro to some basic workouts you can use in your indoor bike training plan.

The right space for your indoor bike trainer

Perhaps the most critical part of your indoor bike setup is the location in your house. The better your setup, the more likely you’ll be to put on your chamois and crank out the intervals.

The ideal location for your training setup will be wide open with at least 4×8 feet of floor space for your bike and mat, it will have easy access to electrical outlets without needing ugly extension cords running all over, it will have an interesting and encouraging view (like out a window), and will be out of the way so you don’t constantly trip over your bike or bike trainer.

Here’s my indoor pain cave setup this year:

indoor bike training setup
My current indoor bike setup

Also, consider the location of your pain cave in relation to the rest of your household. Is it next to bedrooms where you’ll wake people up? Do you have apartment dwellers below you that may be able to hear the bike trainer through the floor?

Often people plan to use their TV as entertainment and as a training tool while they ride, so consider if you have space near an existing TV or if you’ll need to install an additional one.

You’ll also want to pick somewhere that isn’t too hot. Basement, the garage, or even out on the back patio if it’s covered well enough. Don’t set up your trainer near a heater vent or in a small upstairs room that will get all hot and muggy after a bit of intense riding. Having a window nearby also allows for better ventilation.

Also, consider a location that can be closed off to pets and small children as they can easily get hurt playing around your bike when you ride.

If at all possible, choose a spot where you can leave your full indoor training equipment set up permanently. This will make it easier for you to ride your bike all winter.

If you plan to ride with rollers instead of a bike trainer and you haven’t spent much time on them, pick somewhere near a wall or doorframe because you’re gonna need it!

Another thought is to set up near a mirror if possible, so you can look at yourself to keep an eye on your form and posture. Long endurance rides can make you look like a zombie on the bike and a mirror keeps you in check from slumping shoulders and curving backs.

The right gear for indoor bike training

Here’s a list of essential items for your pain cave. Click on each one to dig deep into choosing and using each item.

A bike for indoor training

Many people ask what’s the right bike to ride on the trainer or rollers all winter? The simple answer is whatever bike you have, but if you have choices, the best one isn’t your full suspension mountain bike. Ideally, choose a road or gravel bike or a mountain bike with suspension that can be locked out. I ride on an old hardtail mountain bike that’s been set up for indoor/road use.

Whatever bike you choose, I recommend taking time to set up the bike fit because spending countless hours in the same position without the dynamic movements you get on the trail will expose any bad bike fit in a hurry. I like to match the bike fit as closely as I can to my mountain bike so I train to ride in the position I’ll use outside.

indoor bike training room
Just add pedals!

A dedicated trainer tire

If you’re using a mountain bike, you’ll definitely need a dedicated trainer tire like this one:

if you ride on rollers, you’ll want two of them. These tires are designed specifically for trainer use. They dissipate heat and wear better than other tires and will keep your other tires in good shape for when you get back outside on your bike. They also grip the trainer wheel better than road tires allowing for more efficient indoor training sessions. I’ve had good luck with these Vittoria Zaffiro Pro trainer tires:

The right indoor trainer

can be confusing and overwhelming. You can spend a couple hundred dollars for a basic model, or spend up to a couple thousand for top-end exercise bikes that basically do everything for you but sweat.

Wheel-on turbo trainers:

I picked up my first turbo trainer on an online classified ad for about $30. With a bit of TLC, it worked great for a long time. Turbo trainers clamp onto the axle skewers of your rear wheel and push a drum against your tire to provide resistance. The basic models can’t be connected to online bike training apps like Zwift, but can make awesome budget-friendly tools if you want to take a trainer on vacation over the holidays or work on your mental toughness by going without any digital distractions.

Here are a few I recommend:

The premium model: The Saris CycleOps Fluid M2 Smart indoor bike trainer is equipped with smart technology allowing direct connection to Zwift or other training programs. It reads power if you want to use power as a training modus and adapts to almost any type of wheel.

The best value model: The Saris CycleOps Fluid 2 indoor bike trainer is a mainstay that’s been around for years and has a proven track record of reliability and support. It’s priced a bit more than the budget model, but will far outperform it as well. Read about it here:

The budget model: This is a no-name indoor bike trainer that won’t set you back much if you’re just looking to get the whole indoor bike training thing figured out before investing big bucks. It has good reviews on Amazon for the price and will give you the value you’d expect at this price point.

Direct-drive trainers:

Direct drive trainers offer an upgrade to wheel-on trainers in terms of power capacity, stability, and wear on your bike wheel. They also come with a ton of extra features such as hill simulations and a more true-to-feel road riding experience. They also cost quite a bit more.

Here are three I recommend:

The best value model: The Saris H3 Direct Drive Smart Bike Trainer takes this title for direct drive trainers. It consistently gets good reviews, has less than 2% margin of error on power measurements, and it can replicate up to 20% climbs. Check it out here.

The premium model: The Garmin TacX Neo 2T Smart Trainer is a great direct drive trainer that will make your indoor riding experience more enjoyable and more beneficial with an incredibly realistic pedal-stroke feel and near-silent function even on hard sprints. Check it out here.

The “budget” model: Okay, so it’s not so much a budget model as it is a lower entry point for a direct-drive bike trainer if that’s what you’re set on purchasing. For this, I’d recommend the Tacx Flux S Direct Drive Smart Trainer. It’s not the top model offered by Tacx, but it won’t disappoint either. Check it out here.

Stationary bikes

If you’re looking for the ultimate training experience with every bell and whistle, you need to check out the Wahoo Kickr stationary bike. It’s adjustable to match your bike’s fit and geometry and will give you the most true-to-feel riding experience you can get on an indoor bike. You also won’t have to use your bike. The downside is it takes up a lot more space and costs a lot more than the other options – well, maybe not if you include the cost of your bike with the other trainers.

Wahoo Kickr Stationary Bike

indoor stationary bike

If you’ve spent much time in the biking world, you’ve surely seen people jamming on their rollers before a race. Rollers can be an awesome option for indoor training during winter for many reasons. Rollers offer an amazing quality of riding indoors since both wheels are free and you have to balance the bike on your own without support like on a trainer. Because of this, rollers will help you improve your bike handling and balance quite quickly. They’ll accentuate any poor position or technique you have since you’ll likely fall off if you don’t fix it.

Rollers are also durable, relatively quiet, and easy to transport. They don’t, however, typically connect to training apps like Zwift or TrainingPeaks. You can put speed, power, or cadence sensors on your bike to fix this, but that adds to the expense and complexity.

If you’re interested in rollers, know that I have a set and I love mine. I spend some time each winter on my rollers. Here are the ones I’ve had and have used for over 10 years.

Regardless of what type or grade of trainer you get, be sure to get one that’s compatible with your bike and one you can fit into your space at home. Also, consider how loud it may be and if it has the features you’re looking for to assist with your indoor bike training plan.

Bike shoes

If you don’t already have a pair of dedicated bike shoes, a perfect time to get some is while setting up your indoor bike pain cave. The advantage of having bike shoes is that you can transfer power more effectively to the bike. The stiff soles and solid connection between the pedal and your foot provide efficient power transfer and will train your mind and body to ride with this efficient foot position when you go back to riding outside.

If you’d like to learn how to ride with clipless pedals, riding on the trainer can be a great introduction and safe place to get used to them before going outside. The options for shoes are many, but look for something like this that has a stiff sole, can be easily adjusted to fit tightly, and is durable. This is a women’s model, but they have men’s too.

Bike shorts

If you don’t already have a good pair of padded bike shorts, you’re definitely going to want some for your indoor training sessions. Spending long periods of time on the bike without much movement from the same position beside the quick standing bursts will start to rub you in the same spots. Having a pair of good quality and well-fitting bike shorts is a must for anyone planning to spend any time biking indoors. I just bought this pair a few months ago and they’ve been great. They also weren’t too expensive.

A sweat guard and towel

If you’ve never ridden your bike indoors, you should know that you will get sweaty! Even with a huge fan, you’ll be dripping by the end of your ride. It’s not just uncomfortable to ride with sweat dripping down your face, it’s also not good for your bike. Sweat dripping all over your headset, running down your fork, getting on your chain, or just getting on your nice paint job will cause corrosion and damage your bike. You can drape a towel over your bike or you can get one of these handy bike shields to keep the sweat off.

Here’s one I like that also has a phone case so you can see your ride stats or control your music while you ride.

Either way, you’ll also want a towel to wipe your face and arms between intervals.

A bike mat

Unless your trainer came with a bike mat, you’ll want to get one of these too. All that sweat plus the weight of the trainer, bike, and you can damage your carpets, hardwood floors, or even concrete pretty quickly. Pick up a mat and protect your floor. I’ve always just used the ones that came with my trainers, but this one has good reviews:

A water bottle

If you don’t have a water bottle, it’s a great addition to your indoor cycling studio. It can go right on the bike so you don’t have to set up a table or have a chair next to your bike while you ride. Using a water bottle also helps you practice the motion of bending down on the bike so it’s easier to do when you’re on the trail.

My favorite water bottle is this Camelback Podium.

A fan

The important aspect to look for on fans is the air pressure they produce. You can’t just pick a large fan and expect it to clear all the heated air floating around you as you ride, especially if you’re in a small room. A high-pressure fan will be able to blast all that nasty, muggy air out of the way. This fan also has the option to add a duct to it that you could run out the window to get an extra cool blast.

If you splurge and get a Kickr trainer, they also make a fan that changes speed based on the speed you’re riding. This is a nice feature, but not worth the price tag in my book.

An added feature that can be really handy is a fan with a remote control so you can turn it on or adjust the settings without getting off the bike. If the fan you use doesn’t have a remote, you can buy remote-controlled outlet adapters that let you control anything plugged into them from an app on your phone.

In addition to the essentials, here are some extra items to make your pain cave better at transforming you into a speed demon come spring:

Wireless headphones or speakers

These were close to being on the essentials list, but I know some people who don’t like to listen to music while they ride the miles away. Crazy, right? Anyone sane will want to pick up a waterproof set of Bluetooth headphones or a speaker you can set close to you if you don’t like riding with headphones. Here are the ones I’m using right now:

You could also crank up the stereo to the max, but then everyone else in the house (and neighborhood) may be subjected to Eye of the Tiger more than they would ever wish.

A riser

It’s likely that your bike trainer came with a riser for your front wheel, but you can definitely upgrade it. A riser can help you level the bike for general riding or raise up the front tire to simulate climbing different grades. Once again, Wahoo makes a riser that can automatically adjust to the grade you’re riding in your Zwift or other online workouts. If you don’t want to drop that much coin, you can get a basic riser or even use phone books under your current wheel block. Here’s a riser that allows for four different heights.


Most people set up their bike trainers in front of a TV or with a stand to put a laptop or iPad on so they can watch movies, old bike race footage, or use apps for bike training (we’ll get to those in one of the next sections.) If you want to get serious about your bike entertainment, set up a big 4K 90″ TV in front of your bike trainer or get a projector that projects onto the whole wall

Cycling apps and Programs

This section deserves its own post because the options here are wide and varied. The bottom line for this section is that if you’re serious about your bike training plan, you’ll benefit from using a bike-specific training program. The most popular ones I’ve looked into are:

Zwift: Zwift provides a simulated game-like ride experience where you ride with other players through different courses matching real-world rides. You can even sign up for races. Zwift reads power, speed, cadence, and heart rate from your smart trainer or other trackers and matches your performance in the program with your actual output.

The Sufferfest: The Sufferfest is similar to Zwift in that it can read all your bike metrics as you ride. It will let you build a structured training plan and has recorded videos of actual bike races or rides to watch as you ride your bike in the basement.

TrainerRoad is a serious program for serious training. It comes with tons of structured workouts and helps in meeting your goals. It’s less social than Zwift, but can be just as entertaining if you’re a data geek.

Rouvy: Rouvy works similarly to the other apps listed, but it overlays a 3D animated rider on a real ride video for an augmented reality feel. It will also connect with smart trainers and devices.

Bkool: Bkool claims to be the most realistic indoor bike training experience you can have. It’s similar to the other offerings and comes with a free trial period.

Whatever app you choose to go with, you’ll be much more successful at attaining your goals using a training plan and a visual aid in pushing yourself and avoiding boredom.

If you’re not interested in buying a membership in one of these programs, you can also find tons of ride videos online like these ones that I made for my own winter training.

A heart rate monitor

To accurately follow any training plan, it’s important to know your intensity level. You can get away with using relative perceived exertion (RPE) for a while, but if you want to get more serious, you’ll want to measure heart rate and power. Most smart trainers will track power for you, but not heart rate. A heart rate monitor is a great addition to your home training setup. Here’s the one I use:

A watch or timer

If you choose not to sign up for one of the training programs above, you’ll benefit from a watch or timer that can be programmed with intervals or with an app on your phone like Tabata. That way you can know how much longer the suffering will last and nail your training plan.

A stand

A stand is an important piece of gear for your bike training setup if you plan to keep things like your Ipad, phone, training documents, timer, towel, fuel, or other small items nearby while you train. You can get some pretty cool stands like this one here.

These dedicated bike stands are nice because they hold a lot of things and are pretty stable. You can also go the cheaper route and get an old music stand off the local classifieds.

A tool kit & pump

I also like to keep my toolkit and pump nearby when I’m in indoor bike training mode. This way I don’t have to search for my hex keys in the shed when I need to adjust my seat height or tighten bolts that need to be snugged.

The right plan for indoor bike training

Set goals

Now that you’ve got the pain cave dialed in, you need a plan to make the most of it. Don’t just ride aimlessly all winter. Set some goals for the upcoming season and plan backward from when you plan to accomplish those goals with a plan of action.

I use a periodized training plan building up to my key events. This puts many long, slow, endurance rides right in the middle of winter. Knowing in advance that I need to do 2 hour workouts on the trainer helps me prepare mentally for it.

Your goals may be to perform well at a key race, hit a target weight, get a Strava KOM, or just ride consistently each week. Whatever your goal, it helps to schedule out your workouts well in advance.

Read why mountain biking is the best exercise for weight loss here.

Build your training plan

With your goals in mind, build a customized training plan to help you meet your plan. Many of the online training programs offer generic prebuilt workout plans. These can work if they match your goals and timeline, which I find is rare. Instead, I typically start with one of these plans as a boilerplate and edit enough to make it unique to my needs.

I usually do this in Excel and add the specific workouts to my calendar since I use my calendar every day. It keeps my workouts front-of-mind which helps me schedule them into my days. I’ve been using Joe Friel’s Mountain Biker’s Training Bible for years and highly recommend it for anyone wanting to up their biking.

Plan what time of day you’ll work out

Now that you’ve got your goals and plan in place it’s time to figure out when you’ll ride and what specific workouts you’ll do when. Do you have time in the mornings before work? The house will be cooler then and most races start in the morning so your body will get used to efforts first thing. It’s also easier to do fasted training in the morning since you’ve been sleeping all night.

Or maybe you have more time available at night. Many people often have more time at night to finish a ride, cool down, stretch, eat recovery food and wind down before bed.

Whatever you choose, plan a time that works for you so you remove obstacles to riding and following your training plan. Indoor workouts all winter are hard and you want to remove all the obstacles you can.

When I schedule early morning indoor trainer workouts, I like to get my trainer all set up the night before. I fill my water bottle, set out a fresh towel, position anything that’s been moved, and set out my riding kit and shoes. That way I have fewer barriers to overcome when I wake up in the morning and want to stay in my warm bed instead of go downstairs where it’s cold to ride my bike.

Pick your playlist

Another part of successful indoor biking sessions is preparing your entertainment ahead of time. It can be very distracting to fumble through tv channels or podcasts while you’re trying to get your heart rate up to zone 3 before you start your interval sets.

Set up your playlists or pick out your movies before you begin your ride. I like to do this the night before a workout while I’m winding down for the day and setting up my gear. There are some apps that let you pick playlists based on the tempo so you can match it to the cadence you’re aiming for.

Plan your nutrition and hydration strategy

Finally, remember that just because you’re training indoors, there is no excuse to skimp on your hydration and nutrition. In fact, because you may be sweating more than usual, be sure you have plenty of water on hand. If you plan to ride for more than an hour straight, you’ll also want to take in some calories in whatever form suits you best. Because of the controlled nature of indoor training, it’s a great time to experiment with various beverages or gels to prepare for races. That way you can better measure how they impact your performance.

water bottle for indoor bike training

Tips to maximize your indoor bike workouts

Pay attention to posture and bike fit

Riding indoors accentuates poor form or bike fit. Pay close attention to your bike fit as well as your posture on the bike. I like to ride with a mirror set up so I can watch my back and shoulders and keep my posture in check – especially when I’m tired. If you learn to ride with good posture indoors, you can transfer that to outdoor riding as well.

Pay attention to pedaling efficiency

Pedaling indoors means you don’t have to worry about balance (unless you’re on rollers), terrain, traffic, or navigation. You can focus on smaller details like your pedal stroke. Anytime you’re indoors, focus on how smooth you can get that pedal stroke and how even you can keep the tension on your drive train. Focus on smooth shifts, smooth sprints, and smooth riding all around.

visualize riding outdoors
Visualize the trail while you ride indoors

Visualize the trail

In my online training videos posted on the Adventure School YouTube channel, you can experience riding on real trails while on your bike trainer. Even though you can’t practice technical riding skills like jumps, corners, rocks, and drops, you can practice the movements and visualize yourself riding these features on your indoor bike. The mental skills you develop indoors can translate quickly to outdoors with a bit of good visualization and body position practice.

Dig deep

There’s a reason they call it the pain cave. Riding your bike is as much mental as it is physical, and building mental grit and stamina is easily worked on while spinning on the trainer. Instead of calling it quits early, focus on pushing yourself longer and longer while indoors (while also avoiding overtraining). You’ll feel tough as nails when you get outdoors again and those long rides will feel like cake.

Workout plans for indoor training

In this section I’ll go through some basic indoor bike trainer workouts you can use in your training plan.

Start with a fitness test

Most smart trainers and online bike training apps have fitness test protocols such as functional threshold power (FTP) tests or max heart rate tests. As part of your plan, you should conduct a dedicated fitness test to set a baseline for your training goals and measure your progress along the way.

Be warned though, if you haven’t done a fitness test before, they can be pretty brutal.

Here’s a standard fitness test protocol, but many smart trainers come with prebuilt tests you can use as well.

How to take an FTP test on Zwift

FTP test structure

  1. Warm up
    Start with a 20-minute warm up. Start at a low endurance speed. To complete the test, you’ll need to be well warmed up.
  2. 3 x 1 minute high cadence / 1 minute rest
    Pedal at a high speed for one minute with a cadence of at least 100 rpm. This allows your body to get used to the exertion of the FTP test. Repeat this three times and rest for one minute between intervals.
  3. 5 minutes steady riding
    Lastly, continue pedaling at an easy cadence for the last five minutes of your warm up. Grab a drink, monitor your breathing and prepare for the real test.
  4. The 20-minute FTP test
    Start your timer and pedal at full force for 20 minutes. Try not to sprint, since you’ll need to maintain this speed for 20 full minutes. Be sure to stop your timer or hit the lap button at the end of the 20 minutes. If you stop it right after the test, you’ll be able to tell exactly what your power was during the test.
  5. Cool down
    Don’t skip this part. Take at least 15 minutes to catch your breath and bring your heart rate down before you get off the bike.

The results of the test can help you establish your FTP and heart rate training zones for all other workouts in the plan.

Build base endurance

The winter months is the perfect time to lay the foundation for your fitness for the year by building your aerobic endurance capacity. This is done by spending as much time as you can in heart rate zone 2.

Long rides at an easy pace in zone 2 aren’t very exciting on the trainer, but they’re the meat and potatoes of what you’ll be doing on the trainer if you follow a periodized training plan like I do. Depending on your fitness, spend between 1 and 2 hours spinning at a steady state while keeping your heart rate in zone 2 with an occasional hill simulation into zone 3 to change things up while you ride. If you can’t stand being on your trainer for 2 hours straight, you can split these rides into two sessions in a day. The closer together, the better.

Speed Intervals

You won’t be spending all your time on the trainer slogging away in zone 2 all winter. Speed drills are also important to develop during this time and help balance out the slower cadence and feel of endurance workouts. Speed intervals help train your muscle fibers and nervous system to move at higher speeds so focus on the motions here, not necessarily the effort.

For speed intervals, you’ll use an easy gear and as high of a cadence as possible, but keep your rate of perceived exertion (RPE) low at like 50% or so.

  1. Warm up
    Start with a 10-15 minute warmup in an easy gear to get your legs ready for fast spinning.
  2. 3 x 1 minute high cadence / 2 minute rest
    Pedal at an uncomfortably high cadence for one minute while still maintaining good form on the bike. Rest for 2 minutes by spinning in an easy gear at a normal cadence.
  3. 5 minutes steady riding
    Continue pedaling at an easy cadence for another five minutes.
  4. 10 x 95% effort 30 seconds / 30 seconds rest
    Next, ride at 95% effort for a full 30 seconds. Don’t cheat and quit early! Then take 30 seconds of rest by spinning easy. Repeat that one minute set 10 to 12 times.
  5. Cool down
    Cool down for at least 15 minutes to catch your breath and bring your heart rate down before you get off the bike.

As you progress, you can add additional repeats to each of the interval sets. If you finish the workout and you don’t feel tired and in need of a recovery, you’re not working hard enough.

Climbing Sprints

This workout is designed to help you prepare for the short punchy hills you find on most XC mountain bike courses. Simulate a hill by raising the bike’s front wheel with a block or book or adding resistance to the tire. Stand and push hard for the 15-second intervals.

  1. Warm up
    Start with a 10-15 minute warmup in an easy gear to get your legs ready for a hard effort.
  2. 4 x 2 minute 80% effort, 15 seconds at 100% effort/ 30 seconds rest
    Pedal at a solid 80% effort for 2 minutes and then hit the gas for 15 seconds to push up the hill. Once you climb the imaginary hill, take a 30 second rest at an easy effort to prepare for the next push.
  3. 10 minutes steady riding
    Continue pedaling at an easy cadence for another 10 minutes.
  4. Repeat the 4x hill efforts followed by a 10-minute easy rest two more times.
    Complete steps 2 and 3 of the workout at least two more times.
  5. Cool down
    Cool down for at least 15 minutes to catch your breath and bring your heart rate down before you get off the bike.

Ladder Intervals

This workout simulates the demands of racing. It’s best performed closer to your races or key events and not during the base period.

  1. Warm up
    Start with a 10-15 minute warmup in an easy gear to get your legs ready for a hard effort.
  2. 4 minutes 80% effort
    Pedal at 80% RPE for four minutes.
  3. 3 minutes 90% effort
    Pedal at 90% RPE for three minutes.
  4. 1 minute 100% effort
    Pedal at 100% RPE for one minute.
  5. 5 minutes easy recovery spin
    Catch your breath and let your heart rate recover for five minutes before going back down the ladder
  6. 1 minute 100% effort
    Pedal at 100% RPE for one minute.
  7. 3 minutes 90% effort
    Pedal at 90% RPE for three minutes.
  8. 4 minutes 80% effort
    Pedal at 80% RPE for four minutes.
  9. Spin easy for 10 minutes
    Recover your heart rate and breathing for 10 minutes with easy spinning
  10. Repeat the ladder
    Repeat the ladder as many times as you feel you can complete.
  11. Cool Down
    Cool down for at least 15 minutes to catch your breath and bring your heart rate down before you get off the bike.

Pedaling Drills

Riding on a trainer lets you focus on your pedaling efficiency. I try to throw in a few drills each session to help with this. I do spin-ups to help improve pedaling smoothly at speed.

To do spin-ups, start at a normal cadence in a super-easy gear and then start spinning progressively faster for about 30 seconds and then hold your fastest possible spin for 15-30 seconds while focusing on maintaining a smooth and controlled pedal stroke without bouncing around on the bike. Repeat several times.

Another pedaling drill is single-leg drills. To do this, I take one foot off the pedal and using an easy gear, practice spinning the pedal around with only one leg. This helps improve your muscle memory in not mashing on the downstroke.

Repeat each of these drills each session. I like to do them as a warm-up or cool down.

Steady State Intervals

These are great for building up to riding at a sustained effort for a longer period of time in preparation for races or events.

  1. Warm up
    Start with a 10-15 minute warmup in an easy gear to get your legs ready for a sustained effort.
  2. 5 x 20 minute 75% effort, 8 minutes rest
    Ride at about 75% effort or zone 3 at a cadence of about 80-90 RPM. Rest at zone 1 effort for 8 minutes. Repeat the interval 5 times.
  3. Cool down
    Cool down for at least 10 minutes to catch your breath and bring your heart rate down before you get off the bike.


These are high-intensity intervals designed to work your lactate threshold abilities. Use this workout plan when you don’t have time for a long ride.

  1. Warm up
    Start with a 10-15 minute warmup in an easy gear to get your legs ready for a sustained effort.
  2. 3x (2 minutes 75% effort, 2 minutes 90% effort) 8 minutes rest. Repeat x 6
    Ride for two minutes at about 75% at about 80-90 RPM, then 2 two minutes at 90% effort at a higher cadence of 100-110 RPM. Repeat that rep 3 times followed by an eight minute rest. Complete the full set 3-6 times.
  3. Cool down
    Cool down for at least 10 minutes to catch your breath and bring your heart rate down before you get off the bike.

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