The Joys, and Dangers, of Turbo Training

Posted on March 4th, 2010 by Tim Bell in Getting Started, The Road to Tourmalet

The spirit was willing but the weather was woeful. If I was going to finish the Etape du Tour in July, serious training had to start in January – and it was going to take more than the occasional weekend ride while the weather was clement. Even when the roads weren’t covered in ice, the sky was dark until work started and before it finished. It was time to buy a turbo trainer. This is a device which fixes your back wheel against a spinner which creates resistance, enabling you to ride your own bike on the spot, indoors. The cheapest ones are very noisy, so I went with the CycleOps Magneto which isn’t too bad sound-wise and folds away neatly. It even came with a training DVD so you can pretend you’re taking part in a lungbusting criterium with an enthusiastic Australian (is there any other kind?) called Robbie Ventura. I’m sure there’s a Suzuki Ventura or something. Anyway it looks like this:

CycleOps Magneto turbo trainer picture

My turbo trainer

This was a breakthrough. No more wrapping up in all those clothes, no more dodging cars getting to Regent’s Park, no more waiting for the right weather. Welcome to Position ‘A’ in front of my telly. One of the great things about cycling compared to running is that you see more scenery, unless you’re going round in circles. In this case you need company, otherwise the tedium can be overwhelming. Getting through my DVD backlog while putting in the miles was a revelation – learning from David Attenborough as I rode, I would be able to tell my nephew where the first seed came from next time.

All well and good. The spirit was willing, the weather didn’t matter but… the patella wasn’t happy. Anterior knee problems are the bain of the cyclist, and I was pounding headlong towards a nasty kneecap inflammation. They generally occur around this time of year to new and experienced riders alike. I expect the main cause is overuse after a period (or life) of time off, combined with lack of rest & recovery – but am sure asymmetry of body and idiosyncracies in technique also play a part. I decided to nip this in the bud and go get myself analysed at a bikefit session. The Specialized propaganda talks about getting the Saxo Bank team in to try out their Body Geometry bikefit voodoo, which to be fair makes a lot of sense. We expect our bodies will fit the bike, instead of adjusting the the bike to fit us – or something like that. Apparently every member of the team, including the Schleck brothers, needed various adjustments made, except for Mr. Perfect Fabian Cancellara. If someone can find that video of him descending in the Tour de France 2009, I would love to see it again – heart in mouth.

Fabian Cancellara time trial champion picture

Fabian Cancellara - Mr. Perfect

I was about to have a week away snowboarding (giving the knee a subtle variation on its trauma-to-date), and went to get my ride position analysed beforehand, giving me yet more exposure to purchase temptation. Is it possible to engage in a meangingful conversation about cycling with someone who; a) knows more than you and b) works in retail, without coming away with loads of new stuff?

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