Written by Eric Levario, Age-Group Triathlete and Customer Service Specialist
Trainer season is here! For some, you set up your trainer in the garage or basement and get your cycling time in over the winter. For others, trainer season means moving to the “pain cave,” where you go to get your workouts in with big screen televisions, a smart trainer, and surround sound; maybe catching up on the latest Game of Thrones…..or American Ninja Warrior? Top of the line electronics make for a top of the line workout. Is a smart trainer worth the upgrade this season? Here are five reasons to upgrade this trainer season.1. All workouts are recorded in detail
You might ask yourself, what is a smart trainer? A smart trainer is named as such because it connects to an external source. Smart trainers do this by connecting through ANT+ or Bluetooth 4.0 (Smart or Low Energy), such as a tablet, computer, or cycling computer that display workout data in real-time. This means that your two-hour trainer ride (a little over two Game of Thrones episodes) is a recorded workout, to be used to analyze training progress. The smart trainer records and displays data such as speed, distance, cadence, and, for some trainers, even power. Many of these values come from the trainer itself. Add in a heart rate monitor and you have a very nice workout with enough comprehensive data to dial in your training. The values are calculated on the unit itself and will not necessarily need additional sensors; this is where the term “smart trainer” comes from. It’s important to think of this type of trainer as a computer. This helps you distinguish between a “smart trainer” and a “dumb trainer.” A dumb trainer is only named as such because it’s not a computer. All data must be collected through external sensors and the trainer itself does not need power to function. 2. Easily control the ERG trainer from mobile devices
You may have heard a bit about ERG trainers from other triathletes and cyclists. It’s important to note that all ERG trainers are smart trainers, but not all smart trainers are ERG trainers. Some trainers have the ability to be controlled through an external application. Some popular choices are the Tacx NEO or the Wahoo KICKR. These trainers connect to smart phones, tablets, or computers and can control the resistance of the trainer electronically through apps.3. Program your workout ahead of time
One of the best benefits of the ERG trainer is the ability to get a quality workout without having to think about it. With an ERG trainer, you can download an application to spoon feed your trainer a detailed workout. This is important because you may lose focus when watching your favorite TV show. Especially on a season finale as this means you will likely start to soft pedal when you should be paying attention to your workout. Your trainer doesn’t care whether Columbo catches the bad guy or if McDreamy’s not going to be on the show any longer. While you may want to focus more on the TV, your trainer is focusing on your workout. Gone are the days when you could slack off. Let your trainer be the coach, so you can focus your efforts on the training session. Kurt Kinetic Road Machine 2.0 Smart Trainer has a complimentary Kinetic inRide app that will keep you on-track with built-in workouts and easy upload of workout data for analysis.
4. Intuitive training effort progresses with you
If you train with a power meter, you likely know what kind of power (measurable by watts) you are capable of holding for a full hour. For some of us not in the know, this is called your Functional Threshold Power (FTP). Workouts on an ERG trainer are based off of your FTP and there are a number of ways to calculate this. Whether you go for an all-out effort of 60-minutes, 2 x 20 minutes, or 2 x 8 minutes, your FTP is essentially the smartest data you can collect. FTP data field illustrates your training progress. As your FTP increases, you can see that you are getting stronger. The caveat of this though, is that your workouts on your ERG trainer will get harder as you progress. You have been warned!
5. Smart trainers are reasonably priced
Think of your smart trainer as a workout machine, rather than a “bicycle trainer.” If you’ve been to the gym and ridden a recumbent or upright bicycle, you know how a bicycle workout machine works. You pedal to get the machine started, and then specify a workout. Workouts vary machine to machine, but most offer some kind of interval or a long and steady workout. Those machines start at over a thousand dollars to purchase. The beauty of your smart trainer is it costs only a fraction of the gym bike, offers all the features plus more, and is conveniently located at home. You also get to use the same bike you ride outdoors in a dialed in position. Consider the Tacx Vortex or the Wahoo KICKR SNAP as some reasonably priced alternatives for your pain cave.
There are a variety of the smart trainers to meet your specific needs and desired functions. Ultimately, a smart trainer is an investment, a tool to improve technique and deliver custom training. Become a stronger cyclist by incorporating a smart trainer into your training. Prepare for your upcoming season with a smart trainer today and reap the rewards for a faster bike tomorrow!