Bike Trainers

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Bike Trainers and Bike Trainer Workouts

by Ron Fritzke

A bike trainer may be just what you need to keep your weight loss momentum going during the cold, wet winter months when cycling outdoors can be a problem. This article on wind trainers, magnetic trainers, and fluid trainers will get you pointed in the right direction; and the bike trainer workouts will jack up your metabolism so that the weight keeps coming off...and staying off.

You don't have to spend very much time learning about Rob's incredible weight loss saga to know that diet and exercise go hand in hand, with neither usually being sufficient in and of themselves.

During the winter months, a two-headed assault heads our way in the form of holiday foods and poor weather for exercising. Rob's the expert on what should be eaten, so I'll won't dabble in that world. What I can offer is information about something dear to my fitness heart... indoor bike trainers.

Bike Trainer Advantages

  • They're an attractive alternative to taking a ride outdoors when the weather outside is howling and conditions are hazardous.
  • They're a machine that puts very large muscle groups to work so the calorie expenditure can be tremendous.
  • They may even have an advantage over outside riding since there aren't any distractions (such as stopping at red lights or careless drivers) getting in the way of the purpose of the workout.
  • They force your bike to 'multi-task'. Besides doing its job outside, you can hook your bike to an indoor trainer to make it work for you indoors... without taking up any additional space in the house.
  • You're never far from home on a bike trainer...so you won't be left stranded by a mechanical failure or a glitch in your metabolism.

Three Basic Types Of Trainers

Without including the multi-thousand dollar varieties, there are basically three types of bike trainers...categorized by the way in which they generate resistance.

  • Some push air to achieve a workload,
  • Some use magnetic fields, and
  • Some spin an impeller through fluid.

Wind Trainers

Wind trainers are the simplest of the three, having the twin advantages of lowest cost and highest reliability. They're pretty simple machines. Essentially, the rear wheel of the bike turns a drum which spins an impeller through the air. kinetic wind bike trainer

And therein resides the duel disadvantages...

Wind trainers can generate a tremendous amount of noise. Often so much that family members cry 'uncle' when a wind trainer is getting cranked to maximum velocity (not that they can be heard above the roar). Couple the noise of the wind trainer with the sound of the TV at maximum volume in order to be heard above the tempest and it won't be long until the neighbors come knocking at the door.

Another disadvantage of wind trainers is that there is only a limited amount of resistance that can be generated by a small impeller moving through air. While a fluid trainer gets exponentially harder at high velocities, a wind trainer 'falls off' after a certain point. This makes it difficult to perform an interval style workout on it.

Magnetic Trainers

Magnetic trainers live somewhere between wind trainers and fluid trainers. This style generates resistance through the use of magnetic fields. In most models, the levels of resistance can be altered in one of two ways. kinetic magnetic bike trainer

The simplest mag trainers are altered at the unit itself, causing the rider to have to dismount, change the resistance level and remount the bike in the middle of a workout. One step up are the mag trainers with a cable and control lever that mounts to the handlebars, allowing the rider to stay on the bike to suffer longer without a break.

A recent innovation in mag trainers was recently introduced by the CycleOps company. In the CycleOps Magneto we have the first and only mag trainer that produces 'progressive resistance'. In this model, the magnets are mounted in the flywheel and the faster the flywheel spins, the further the magnets are pushed away from the center by centrifugal force. The trainer is engineered to generate more and more resistance as the magnets move away from the center shaft.

It's difficult to come up with distinct advantages and disadvantages of mag trainers.

Not too long ago it could be argued that mag trainers would self-destruct due to poor construction, but now that companies like CycleOps and Kurt Kinetic have entered the mag market, that's no longer the case.

But it can still be argued that high-end mag trainers cost nearly as much as good fluid trainers, but don't provide as quiet a ride...and can't produce some of the highest-end resistance levels.

Fluid Trainers

Fluid trainers sit at the top of the trainer pyramid. This is the type that produces the least amount of noise and the greatest amount of resistance. In fact, because the amount of resistance increases exponentially, it would take a beast of a cyclist to overpower a fluid trainer...even more beastly than the pro cyclists who regularly use fluid trainers to augment their regular training programs. kinetic fluid bike trainer

The most commonly purchased fluid trainer is the Kurt Kinetic Road Machine...and for good reason. Kurt Kinetic has engineered and patented a system that has eliminated the Achilles heel of fluid-filled trainers, namely leakage.

Bike Trainers Shine For Interval Workouts

Let's face it, the monotony of pedaling in one place on a bike trainer makes putting in two to three hour rides impractical. So it's a better use of the machine to do some higher intensity style workouts.

'Pyramid' sessions work well on a trainer, as do 'Descending Ladder' workouts.

Pyramid Bike Trainer Workout

Here's what a Pyramid Bike Trainer Workout would look like-

  • 15 minute easy spin warm-up.
  • Two minutes hard effort, followed by two minutes easy spinning.
  • Three minutes hard effort followed by three minutes easy spinning.
  • Four minutes hard effort followed by four minutes easy spinning.
  • Five minutes hard effort followed by four minutes easy spinning (four's enough, Mr. Sissypants)
  • Four minutes hard effort followed by three minutes easy spinning.
  • Three minutes hard effort followed by two minutes easy spinning.
  • Two minutes hard effort.
  • 15 minute easy spin warm-down.

A word about effort: optimally, the hardest efforts would be during the shortest two-minute time periods and the lightest 'hard' effort would be during the five-minute time period, with the three- and four-minute sessions falling between them. You get the picture.

Descending Ladder Bike Trainer Workout

Here's what a Descending Ladder Bike Trainer Workout would look like-

  • 15 minute easy spin warm-up.
  • 10 minute hard effort, followed by five minutes easy spinning.
  • 8 minute hard effort, followed by four minutes easy spinning.
  • 6 minutes hard effort, followed by three minutes easy spinning.
  • 4 minutes hard effort, followed by two minutes easy spinning.
  • 2 minutes hard effort.
  • 15 minute easy spin warm-down.

The 'easiest' hard effort is during the ten-minute session, with the effort gradually increasing as the duration of the hard efforts decreases.

In some ways, there is a psychological advantage to this style because the duration of the pain decreases as the workout progresses.

Efficient Exercising On The Right Trainer For Fitness Goals

There are definite advantages to using a bike trainer to achieve your year-round fitness goals. Finding the right type of bike trainer is important since there's no sense in spending 'Cadillac' money when a 'Chevy' trainer will provide all you'll need. On the other hand, you won't be satisfied picking a noisy, underpowered wind trainer if your goal is to do interval workouts.

And finally, bike trainers are tailored for shorter duration rides. So getting the most out of your indoor trainer workouts is best achieved by adding some structure to the session, rather than just spending time in the saddle.

For some of you, an indoor bike trainer will be just the ticket needed to keep those pounds coming off steadily through the cold winter months...until you reach and maintain your optimal weight.


About the author: Ron Fritzke is a cycling product reviewer with a passion for ‘all things cycling’. A former 2:17 marathoner, he now directs his competitive efforts toward racing his bike…and looking for good cycling products.





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