Turbo or Road Training?

Hello Everyone! This is a follow up article to the very first article I wrote for the website over 3 years ago! Being open minded and adaptable is at the very heart of progress, advancement and improvement. Here is how I began the article 3 years ago. It is a question that I often get asked. Can I do my Propello weekly workouts on the road rather than indoors on the turbo? The quick answer is yes. We should all train in the way that best suits the time we have available, that keeps us motivated and delivers results. However, we believe that our structured workouts are best executed on a turbo trainer. Why? Training using a turbo trainer removes many of the external elements that can hinder the delivery of a consistent training effort; rain and wind are obvious climatic variables that can alter the way that we have to ride. Living and training on the edge of Exmoor we also struggle to find flat roads to put in a sustained effort for more than a handful of minutes. Using a turbo trainer means that you can hop on your bike and have exactly the same conditions to train in day after day. A turbo will allow you to train with more control, delivering more consistency to your efforts and be more specific in terms of training intensity. Importantly it is also a much safer environment to train in, removing the need to be traffic aware, which allows you to focus on delivering the effort needed and wonder at the increasing power numbers that you are delivering on your cycle computer screen! So have I changed my mind? Well YES and NO! I actually still believe in most of what I wrote back then, BUT in recent years I have not swung my leg over the top tube of my turbo bike or used a Wattbike (I should not really say that owning a Wattbike Studio!) from about April to November unless the weather has been truly awful. Why not? There are several reasons that training outside has advantages over the indoor set up
  1. It is more realistic - one of the fundamental principles of training is that it should be specific to the demands of your event. Unless you are riding Zwift races all year, then outside has got to be more specific. Even training for the long climbs of the mountains can be done in Devon, but not on Exmoor hills!
  2. It develops greater riding skills - having to deal with the elements and road conditions is a crucial part of becoming an accomplished rider. We see far too many riders who are fit but still can't ride a bike properly outside!
  3. It is more engaging - training on the road means that it easier to introduce different motivators. For example, indoor training nearly always specifies intensity and time as the goal - go this hard for this length of time. Get outside and we can now specify intensity and distance as the goal. - go this hard for this distance. A small change but one that is somehow more engaging, especially for repeated intervals when you know exactly where the finish line is!
  4. You can get more watts out! Generally you will be able to put out more power on the road, especially for those crucial race winning super hard efforts which are impossible to replicate indoors.
  5. It is easier to build in some useful endurance zone riding time with an extended cool down ride. You can do this indoors but who really wants to ride 60 mins endurance indoors at the end of an interval session?
  6. And not forgetting that it is better for your wellbeing, and much better for tanning those cleanly shaven legs!
There are pros and cons of both indoor and outdoor approaches. The safety element is definitely one to think about. If you are new to training and new to doing hard efforts then I can see a strong argument for keeping indoors. If you have been training for a while and have experience out on the road, then I just think that outside training is more specific, develops better skills, is more engaging, uncovers true power and is more versatile. Whatever your preference have a great weekend riding! It looks like the sun is out so go on get those guns out and soak up some Vitd! Rob