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Alex Wise's Coaching Column – February 2015


Do Turbo trainers and Rollers have a place in training plans? Our in-house coach Alex Wise looks at the pros and cons.

It was a recent comment by Magnus Backstead on Facebook that prompted this Blog:


What is your opinion then? Mine is that they have a pivotal role in training and should not be used just for the wintery or wet day. The other point I want to discuss beyond why static training has a role in training is what training it should have a role in.

Unlike Magnus, it would seem, I have literally spent thousands of hours on the turbo and rollers. Training, warming up, cooling down and on occasions racing  (A great sport btw). There are times when I have trained so hard on the turbo that I have literally unclipped and flopped over the handlebars and stared with distant eyes at a bucket by the front wheel. Clearly I couldn’t have gone this deep on the road; I would have crashed either into a hedge or worse into a car.

The rollers are becoming massively popular among cyclists of all abilities. The challenge of staying upright and the ever constant fear of riding off them and spectacularly crashing in your own garage keeps away the loneliness and monotony of Turbo training. Until recently rollers had a low fixed resistance, great for over speed training, warming up and cooling down but much less useful for hard efforts, the sort you need to do to get your ‘track legs’.

Recently there some rollers released onto the market which have a variable resistance, I haven’t ridden them, perhaps someone who has can drop me a review at @wisecycle let me know how you find them. This certainly will help when you have road intervals to do but the weather or the light before/after work is too poor. But the omnipresent danger of ending up on You’ve Been Framed would, like the road, in my eyes prevent you digging as deep, which on occasions in the build up to your track season you need to do.

In the same discussions about rollers vs turbo where I read about the variable resistance rollers I discovered that some riders were sitting on their static trainers for two hours of more; many complaining that it was too boring, others using films to kill the monotony. I can’t understand this; static training should not be seen as an alternative to going out on the road but instead an addition.

Never complete a road ride on the turbo; instead look for turbo specific alternatives. The aim of going out on the bike for a long steady ride is to improve your Lactate Threshold, endurance and to burn fat. Look for turbo sessions that address these (I have added some at the end of this blog post for you) shorter, more involved sessions will inevitably be more enjoyable and far better for your sanity.

On the turbo trainer, without wind resistance, surface changes, bends, hills and traffic, you can be far more specific with your training. Heart rate or power zones can be more accurately trained in and you can go harder and deeper in the safe knowledge even if you do fall off you’re going to be a lot better off than if you did that out on the road. This is what the turbo should be used for hard, specific interval sessions that you can’t do on the road. Some examples are below. Give them a go and tell me what you think.

As always keep cycling if you have any questions you want my opinion on then contact me and I’ll do my best to answer you next month.


Appendix One:

Turbo sessions:

20 Min warm up: This is 5 mins easy just getting settled on the bike comfortable. Then progressively ramping up your power or heart rate over the next 10mins from your easy speed up to your time trial heart rate zone (roughly 90% of your max heart rate (MHR) or 90-100% of your maximum aerobic power (MAP) Then ride for a further 5mins at your easy pace again with 2 X 20sec sprints at roughly 120% of MAP or 95% MHR.

This is the standard warm up that I would prescribe before undergoing a hard training session on the turbo.

Session 1 TT intervals:

Standard Warm up


5mins riding at your TT pace at about 90-100 RPM (revolutions per minute)


20sec sprint flat out in the same gear try and keep your sprint power going for the full 20 seconds

Going straight into the second interval back at TT pace repeat 5 mins at TT pace 20sec sprint a further 3 times.


Cool down for 10mins.

Cooling down is often neglected by riders who pedal slowly for 5 mins and get off. I always recommend riders change the music they might be listening too, something calmer relaxing, keep your cadence up for the first half of the cool down then slowly wind down your cadence to the end. Focus on slowing your heart rate and breathing. Always leave the turbo with a good positive frame of mind. Psychology is very important in training and a good warm down is a time for you to reflect on your session and pick some good points to feel positive about. This will help prevent the turbo becoming something of loathing.

Turbo Session two 20:40’s: Do this enough and you’ll come to both love and loath this session. It is a very hard session but it is a great multi beneficial session: boosting endurance, fatigue resistance and power. To do this session well you need to attack the 20 second sprints as hard as you can, forget how many more sprints you have to go, try and better the previous interval and always give it your all.

Start with a standard warm up


Sprint for 20sec

Spend the next 40secs recovering


Sprint again

Repeat this 7 more times so you have completed 8 sprints in total.


10mins easy

Repeat the 8 X 20 sec sprint 40 sec rest


Cool down for 10mins.

Turbo session 3 Fartlek: This is a popular training method used in running and is great for compacting endurance training into small time efficient sessions. Basically you mix maximal efforts with a high, medium and low efforts. Restricting your recovery by putting together a medium effort with a maximum followed immediately with a high. Then recover with a period of low intensity. You can mix up the duration of each section. This gives you a real ability to mix up your training whilst safe in the knowledge that you are still doing good. This session can even be done on your commute to work if you wanted. Using traffic lights, lamp posts and other markings to gauge your efforts mixing up your riding tempo will really help. An example session might look like this:

Standard warm up


3mins at 85% of MHR (95-100% of MAP)

1min at 95% of MHR  (120% of MAP)

5mins at 70% of MHR (70% of MAP)

40sec at 100% of MHR (150% of MAP)

5mins at 80% of MHR (90% of MAP)

30sec at 100% of MHR (150% of MAP)

90sec at 90% of MHR (105% of MAP)

5mins at 70% of MHR (70% of MAP)

3mins at 85% of MHR (95-100% of MAP)

1min at 95% of MHR  (120% of MAP)

40sec at 100% of MHR (150% of MAP


10min cool down


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