2016 Winter Indoor Cycling Training On a Budget

Hello everyone,screenshot-2016-09-26-21-20-46Those that know me, know that I know work for a company that has a fantastic indoor training app.  My job is mostly helping those individuals work through the mess of technology that can be indoor cycling training.  I also get many, many requests for advice on how to start training indoors and which equipment a person would need.  My first reply to that question is “How much money do you want to spend?”  You see, cycling can be an expensive hobby, and indoor cycling is no different.  You can literally spend thousands of dollars setting up your indoor cycling cave.  What we will talk about today, is how to do it as cheaply yet effectively as possible.  If you want to skip all of the reading, take a look at my youtube video below.  I will cover all of these topics in my video.

screenshot-2016-09-26-21-28-20Before we begin, let’s get some assumptions out of the way first.  I am going to assume that you have some gear already sitting around your house.  This is what will save us money.  If you are starting with absolutely nothing; I mean no bicycle and no computing device of any kind, then this will be expensive.  However, most cyclist that turn to indoor cycling have already been cycling already.  Nobody just thinks one day, “Hey, I want to ride my bike in my basement!”  No, it’s the regular cyclists that already have some of these things that turn over to the dark side of indoor training in the winter.  We are the ones who tire of the weather, tire of the time commitment, and tire of cars trying to run us over. We want efficient workouts, efficient use of our time, and we no longer feel excited figuring out how to ride our bikes in freezing weather.

Okay, enough of the chit chat.  Let’s get down to the brass tax.  What do you have, and what do you need.  Here is a list that will get you started.

Bicycle or Spin Bicycle:  No money, since you already own this. 

Yes, I will write a future article on how to hack your spin bike to connect to indoor cycling apps.  However, I’m assuming everyone already has a bicycle.

screenshot-2016-09-26-21-29-49Technology:  iPhone, iPad, Mac, Windows Laptop.  

Again, I am assuming everyone already has one of these things.  The only thing you need to check is that your device is Bluetooth 4.0 (Bluetooth Low Energy).  This would be an iPad 3rd generation which you can buy used on Ebay for 100 to 150 dollars.  The iPhone 4 or higher will also have BLE standard.  The Mac comes with it around 2012 and you will need to check your windows laptop.

Indoor Cycling Non-Smart Trainer: Some of us already have these. 
screenshot-2016-09-26-21-31-50If you don’t have one of these, I would recommend a used Kurt Kinetic Trainer or used Jet Black trainer.  Those trainers have very reliable and consistent power curves across all apps.  Plus, Kurt Kinetic trainers are built rock solid and I hear that some of their 10+ year old trainers are still working as good as new.  Buy a used one to save money.

Speed Sensor:  A lot of people have ANT+ speed and cadence sensors laying in a box somewhere in their cycling parts bin. 

screenshot-2016-09-26-21-33-17That old Garmin GSC-10 that came with your Garmin device 5 years ago and is now laying in a box; I bet it still works and you can use it with your non-smart trainer.  Todays Apps have virtual power or virtual watts built for the most common trainer.  Now, if you own some random trainer sold by REI 10 years ago, I don’t know that anyone has a virtual power curve for that trainer.  However, most apps can estimate virtual power for you off of a virtual power curve.  This is good enough when you are just starting out.

ANT+ Receiver:  You will have to buy this most likely.

screenshot-2016-09-26-21-34-26If you have never done indoor training, then this is what you will most likely need to purchase.  The Mac and Windows machines can use an ANT+ USB Dongle or the Mini USB Dongle from Garmin or Suunto.  Furthermore, if you are using an Apple device you will need to buy the Wahoo 30 pin adapter.  To complicate things further, you will also need to purchase the 30 pin to lightning adapter for the newer iDevices.  For some strange reason, Wahoo has the only working ANT+ connector for iDevices.  Using a lightning to USB adapter will not work for an iDevice.  Only the Wahoo key will.  I’m still surprised that they are the only game in town.  I wonder if they have a patent on it?

Fan:  You may or may not have this. 

A fan is needed just to keep you cool.  That is the one thing you will notice about riding indoors.  When riding a bicycle you have air moving around you helping to keep you cool.  Without a fan, you will be sweating buckets and start overheating.  The larger the fan, the better.

Additional things you can use to enhance your indoor training experience is a TV, Apple TV to stream, HDMI connectors to connect to a TV, bluetooth speakers to project sound, a sweat net to protect your bike, and matting to place on the floor to protect your carpet for the flow of sweat that makes it onto the floor.  All of those things are nice to have items and not truly necessary for your setup.

So, that is it folks.  Here is the list below:

  1. Bicycle: Probably have one already
  2. Technology: Cheapest option is a used iPad 3rd generation $150.
  3. Indoor Trainer: Used Kurt Kinetic $150 to$200.
  4. Speed Sensor: Used $10 to $15.
  5. Wahoo Key: $60…. Very expensive when you are the only game in town.
  6. Lightning to 30 pin adapter: $29 from Apple
  7. Fan:  Your choice.

The grand total for getting into the indoor cycling scene is $400 to 500 dollars.  That may seem like a lot, but the cost for something super high tech like the TACX Neo runs about $1300 alone.

There you go folks, that’s the cheapest way I can see getting into the indoor cycling scene. Now, you can drop that initial investment price in half if you have a buddy that isn’t using his Kurt Kinetic anymore or strike a deal at a yard sale.  Other indoor trainers work too, but their power curves may not be as reliable across multiple training apps.

Aaron Johnson

Aaron Johnson

Aaron served in the military for 20 years. Multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. He retired from the military after 20 years of service to take care of our three small children in 2013 as a Stay At Home Dad.

athletictechreview has 55 posts and counting.See all posts by athletictechreview

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