Why You Should Train With a Smart Trainer This Winter

Words by Kyle McFarland- Head coach of White Pine Athletics/USA Cycling Level 3 coach

wahoo trainer kickr

For us cyclists the winter tends to be a season of gluttony and lounging, and as a result we tend to enter the spring season a few pounds heavier, and a bit slower on the bike. Depending on where you are geographically there may be hope, you may have access to year-round outdoor riding, but for the majority of us, winter is coming…

Just because the days grow shorter and colder doesn’t mean you need to sacrifice your time on the bike, or your fitness. With the growing popularity and decreasing price of smart trainers you can emerge from your winter pain cave fitter and stronger than ever. 


First, what is a smart trainer? 

A smart trainer such as the Wahoo KICKR is a bike trainer that allows the user to either control resistance via an app or in some cases a bike computer like a Wahoo ELEMNT, or can be controlled by a third party training app such as Zwift or TrainerRoad. Many of these apps use calculated resistance to simulate hills/climbs, and can even simulate a draft when riding in a bunch. Essentially, smart trainers utilize a built in power meter to take your training to the next level, and allows for more purposeful training when compared to the “dumb trainers” of previous generations. 

wahoo kickr


So, why do you NEED a smart trainer? Well, here are six reasons why you need a smart trainer in your life.

Adds structure and quantifiable data to your training

As mentioned above, smart trainers utilize an onboard power meter to give you an accurate picture of how hard you are working at any given time. Power training has become the gold standard for training on the bike. Where hear rate can take minutes to adjust to an increase in stimulus, shifts in power production are felt immediately. This allows for more accurate testing than using hear rate zones. It also allows workouts to be scaled to users of all fitness levels. 

Also, perhaps one of the best reasons to invest in a smart trainer this winter is simply because all your training can be done on YOUR bike. Gone are the days of stationary bikes that don’t ever seem to fit like a real bike. With trainers like the Wahoo KICKR all your riding will be done on your personal bike. And, with the addition of thru axel adapters you can now ride both your road frame and your mountain bike so when spring rolls around you have been training to your specific bike and fit. 

That being said, to get the most out of your smart trainer experience we recommend a training program designed by a knowledgeable coach. Which is why we have partnered with White Pine Athletics to create a training program for our customers. If you purchase a smart trainer with us this season you will receive a 16 week power training plan with weekly access to a White Pine Athletics coach for $100 ($600 value). 


Smart trainers are very time efficient

Time on a trainer is not the same as your typical ride outside. There are no stop lights, and no coasting. When you’re on the trainer you are working, and usually working pretty hard. With no lights, or coasting you can condense a 2-3hour ride into an hour long trainer session with similar adaptation. Furthermore, you can hop on the bike whenever you want. You are no longer held captive by the constraints of weather and time. And with the portability of some trainers you can take them on the road while you travel to get in quality sessions no matter when or where. 


Smart trainers have created a whole new social aspect to riding

With the development of apps like Zwift training has become eerily similar to playing a video game. Now, even when your waking up at 5:00am to crank out a solo trainer session you can do so in the company of thousands of other riders all over the world. With apps like Zwift you and your virtual avatar can ride alongside pros, enjoy group rides with riders from all over the globe, even participate in time trials and other virtual races. For the first time in history you can train by yourself…with hundreds of other riders. 

zwift riding

Also, keep an eye out for Summit Cyclery sponsored group rides and races this winter on Zwift. 


Training indoors is infinitely safer than riding outside

Riding outside is amazing, there is absolutely zero argument there. However, with winter approaching the roads are becoming more hazardous, the trails are being covered in snow. Every time you step out the door to go for a ride you put yourself at risk for injury. Winter riding adds a whole new level of danger. Slick roads, icy trails, poor visibility and quickly fading daylight are all factors to consider when training in the winter. Or, you could warm up some hot chocolate, throw on a movie and log some miles on the trainer in the comfort of your toasty warm pain cave.


Build and maintain technique 

When out on the road or up in the mountains, the last thing you tend to think about is your technique. When your redlining it on a canyon road, or mashing your way through a beautiful single track line no one stops to consider their pedal efficiency, or if they are bouncing around on the saddle. This is where indoor sessions really thrive. Sitting on a stationary object gives you the ability to continue pedaling and also look at your pedal stroke, or see if your knees are tracking in or out, or whether your fit may need some adjusting. Additionally you can employ drills to improve things like your pedaling that would normally be unsafe out on the road. For example a great way to dial and identify weakness in your pedal stroke is to perform single leg pedaling drills. This is super easy on a trainer, but no something I typically recommend while out on the road in traffic. Logging serious time on the trainer over the winter usually results in more efficient riding in the spring.

wahoo trainer summit cyclery


Crush your early season races

If you’re like me, you already have the majority of your 2019 race season planned, and 2018 hasn’t even wrapped up yet. I have mixed feelings on winter training, and I suffer through it for a number of reasons. First, I will go absolutely crazy if I can’t spend at least 10 hours a week on my bike. That is the official cut off point for my sanity and the sanity of those around me. Second, races aren’t cheap…and despite what people say “just happy to finish” isn’t really in my vocabulary. I race because I enjoy the challenge, but I also REALLY enjoy winning, and knowing that I gave it everything and that I am as prepared as I possibly can be. And that usually means putting on long hours over the winter. And finally, when I plan my race season I carefully select my “pre-season” races that will allow me to go into my season with a solid base of fitness and confidence. Whether you plan to race True Grit, the Scott Enduro Moab, or for you roadies out there maybe an early century like the Salt Lake Gran Fondo, or my favorite the Vision Relay you want to show up fit, confident and ready to crush, and a winter of solid training on a smart trainer will definitely get you there. 

*Note from Summit Cyclery - We will be hosting a presentation and trainer demo by coach, Kyle McFarland on Thursday October 25th at 6 PM at the shop. Stop by to learn more about training smart this winter and grab a free donut. We will be taking preorders for trainers and training programs.

Conor BarryComment