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Bicycle Training on Your PlayStation

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Indoor Bicycle Trainers -
Beyond the Boredom

See Also Weights and Cycling, Bicycle Saddles and Comfort

It's raining outside and you're suffering from exercise withdrawal.  But you're considering giving the cat a bath in order to avoid riding on that trainer.  Well, it doesn't have to be like that.  I'm an official weather weenie.  I don't road bike if it's under 40F.  And even then it's got to be sunny.  And the trails are usually closed in the winter where I live (covered with snow).  So I spend a lot of winter training indoors.  Here's some of the ways I've come up with to make it bearable.

Bicycle Trainer Types

There are three basic types of bicycle trainers.  Rear wheel trainers, rollers, and stationary bikes.  Stationary bikes are what you usually see in gyms (similar to the GB-200 above).  Rear wheel trainers hook up to the rear wheel of standard bicycle.  Rollers allow you to ride your bicycle much like you would on flat pavement.

Rear Wheel Trainer
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Stationary Trainer
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In my humble personal experience with trainers, I have found the following truths...

  • Don't waste your money on remote control resistance level adjustments; put the trainer on its maximum resistance and use your bike's shifters to adjust the how hard you have to pedal.
  • Magneto devices (at least the ones I could find) do not generate enough resistance to be useful for interval training, although they are generally fine for lower power endurance training.  This makes it impossible to simulate hill climbing.  For example, the MAG-850 must be at 45 mph to generate 500 watts of resistance.  When's the last time you went up a steep climb at 45 mph?  To simulate real-world mountain biking, you need to be able to generate your climbing power at cadences of 50-60 rpm. If you plan to use your trainer for interval training, then it should be have at least 500 watts of resistance at 22 mph if you're using it with a mountain bike, and at 30 mph if you're using a road bike.  I've seen some that claim 1500 watts of resistance, but you have to be at ungodly speeds to get anywhere near that on them.  So unless you plan on spinning at a 200+ cadence, the claim is totally bogus.
  • Wind trainers tend to be very noisy.  Your TV may not be loud enough to hear over these.
  • Rim drive trainers are a plus if you plan on using a mountain bike and don't want to swap tires.  Knobbies are really noisy on a tire-driven trainer.  But, the resistance level on these is usually pretty low.
  • Rear wheel trainers require a cyclometer that connects to the rear wheel.  The CatEye Astrale costs about $30 and includes cadence.  There are many others as well.
  • Rollers are better for developing a smooth stroke and balance, but require that you pay attention since you can ride off of them.  This is not a good thing to have happen indoors.  For this reason, many people avoid rollers.
  • Fluid trainers leak.  Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but one day it will ruin your carpet.
  • If your budget allows, get one that shows your power output or calories burned.  This can be difficult to determine from your bicycle's cyclometer (odometer), since most trainers use an exponential power curve.  This means that doing 20 miles at 20 mph burns more calories than doing 20 miles at 10 mph.  However, if you stay at a steady speed, you can use the speed vs. power graph (supplied by some manufactures) to estimate your power and calories burned.
  • Ride your trainer.  Unlike a Bowflex, they are too low to the ground to make good clothes racks.

I personally use both a 1up-USA trainer and the CompuTrainer (See below).  However, the 1up trainer is about $300, so it's nowhere near the cheapest out there.  But, it's one of the quietest.  It isn't silent, but it's a whole lot quieter than the magneto trainer I had before.  Also, there's no fluid to leak, although it did sling some lubricant out during its first few rides.  The main reason I chose it was the ability to set it to a high resistance.  I have it set to its maximum resistance by utilizing BOTH inner and outer pockets and no spring (this is how you adjust the resistance).  This requires and extra set of bearings, which they will give you for free if you ask when ordering.  This gives it a resistance of 500 watts at about 22 mph using a slick tire.  This makes it great for interval training.  For me, these sessions are too highly structured and too intense to be practical or safe on the road.  I'm usually slumped over the handlebars and about to collapse when done.

For those with deeper pockets, see the CompuTrainer (See My Setup).  This simulates real-world courses by using Topol Maps to plot the course of your choice.  The course is then displayed on your computer screen (you provide the computer).  You climb and descend as if you were on that course.  I use this to prepare for specific races and courses.  It also has a real-time spin analyzer to help improve your pedal stroke.  It is also a very quiet trainer.  The biggest disadvantage is the cost, which is about $1,500.

TV and Videos
When alone, I only watch TV or videos while training.  I tape programs and save them for training time.  Want to find out who the next American Idol's going to be, better get on the trainer.  See Exercise Routine for how I used TV and a trainer to get back in shape after sitting behind a desk for a few years.

Videos for the Trainer
Many companies make videos specifically for bicycle trainers.  These can help to get beyond the boredom of just pedaling and marking time, by implementing a structured workout.  Lance Armstrong's coach Chris Carmichael puts a series of indoor trainer videos that I use.

What are your favorite videos to train with?  Send suggestions to epicidiot.com

I will usually watch TV on the trainer until I'm bored, and then bring out the motivator: The CatEye
GameBike! This is a device a that hooks your bike trainer up to your PlayStation or X-Box.  You then play standard car racing games by pedaling to make the car go, and using your handlebars to steer.  Braking is via a button that Velcro's to your handlebars.  The first time I hooked mine up, I played it for a while and then noticed my legs were burning!  I was shocked to find I had been playing for more than three hours! 

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GB-100 Click for Large Image
This is no longer available
GB-200 Click for Large Image
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Even now that I've been playing it for over a year, I'm amazed at how fast an hour goes by on the trainer.  I still have to make myself quit sometimes. (I just know I can beat my best time if I try it once more.)  My favorite game for it is Need for Speed 2.  You need to use a game that is primarily gas, brake, and steering since your hands are occupied by the handlebars.  Now for the bad news.  I have the CatEye GB-100 which costs less than a $100.  This is the one that you use you own bicycle hooked up to your own rear wheel trainer.  I love it, but they no longer make it.  They now make the GameBike-200, which costs more.  It is a complete unit (see picture), much like a bike trainer you might see in a gym.  I've never tried the GameBike-200, but I'm guessing it works pretty much the same.  If you don't have a rear wheel trainer, then it's probably just as well, since a good rear wheel trainer will cost about the same as it does.  With either unit, you must supply your own PlayStation or X-Box and games.  It's not perfect though.  The steering isn't as precise as a steering wheel or controller, so it takes a little getting used to. (This may be better on the GB-200 since it has built-in steering.)  Keeping your weight off the handlebars helps a lot.  You should learn to do that anyway since it'll help on the trail as well.  Another problem is when you stop pedaling, the bike's rear wheel keeps spinning and the unit thinks you still have the gas pressed until the wheel slows down enough.  I fixed this by moving the speed sensor from the rear wheel to the crank.  Now it lets off the gas as soon as you stop pedaling. (Again, this probably isn't an issue on the GB-200, since it doesn't even have a rear wheel.  I guess I need to try one someday, but my GB-100 still works great and is a blast.)  Also, they include a plastic cover to protect the part of the unit that mounts on the handlebars from sweat.  This is annoying, because you have to remove it operate the controls.  The unit really should be sweat proof.  I got rid of the plastic cover and now simply use a thick plastic bag held on with a twist tie.  That way I can just operate the controls through the bag.

My Setup
I have my bike mounted on the CompuTrainer with the GameBike, usually with NeedForSpeed 2.  The CompuTrainer has a unique resistance mode that lets you select the power (watts) that you want to pedal at.  If you change cadence, it adjusts the pedal torque needed so that you are always putting out the same power.  This has several advantages over standard resistance trainers.

  • It forces you to maintain power throughout the race course.
  • If you let the cadence drop, the torque increases to compensate, providing continuous feedback to remind you to keep the cadence up.  On a standard trainer, if you drop your cadence, your power drops, reducing the effectiveness of your workout.
  • Since you are always at the same power, you quickly become aware of changes in your pedaling technique that reduce your pedaling efficiency.  This does wonders for improving your pedal stroke.

Compete against others
Some trainers, such as the CompuTrainer, will let you connect to other riders via the Internet.  This can also be done with the GameBike-200, if you have this capability set up for your PlayStation.

Spin with others
Spin classes are another way to beat the boredom.  A good spin instructor can make the class both enjoyable and a good workout.

What are you favorite methods for indoor training?

Send them to epicidiot.com

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2006-02-16 Anonymous, Beginner (age 30-39), wrote
Interesting, Factual

2006-04-07 Anonymous, Weekend Warrior (age 40-49), wrote

2006-09-14 Weekend Warrior, age 20-29, wrote
Interesting, Factual

2006-11-02 00:32:49 Other need therapy for knee, age 30-39, wrote
Interesting, Factual

2006-11-26 :Beginner, age 60-69, wrote
Interesting, Factual

2006-12-03 Beginner, 13-19, wrote
Interesting, Factual

2007-01-03 amanda, Weekend Warrior, age 30-39, wrote
Interesting, Factual
did you mean to type: "This means that doing 20 miles at 10 mph burns more calories than doing 20 miles at 10 mph"?

epicidiot reply: Yes, that was a typo. Thanks.

2007-01-08 Marco, Pro Athlete, age 30-39, wrote
Interesting, I'm not sure of the accuracy


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