I coach a four month long winter training camp that offers 14 indoor cycles and 6 bicycle trainers. This allows participants to bring their own bikes, mount them on the trainers and ride alongside the stationary bikes. Everyone gets a fantastic experience with this mix. But there are a few things to know about mixing trainers and spinners.
Why offer Road Bike Trainers? Having bike trainers as part of your program will expand your market, increase your class capacity with a small budget, and give new interest and challenge for instructors and riders alike.
There are three important things to consider if you are mixing spinners and trainers in the same room: Why BYOBike, Location/Set-Up/Noise, and Cueing for Instruction.
1.) Why BYOBike?
Why would someone want to bring their own bike in the first place? For a number of reasons, using your bike on a trainer is a more realistic experience.
It’s About Fit.
The fit is just better on a “real” bike. Owners of bikes have the seat/handle bar location adjusted, a saddle that they are accustomed to, and crank positions that fit their body. If not, this is a great opportunity to help your riders with a proper bike fit.
Vital to fit is that the spread of the pedals on your own bike is the right width. I find that on some brands of spinners, the pedals are set much wider apart than you’d find on a road bike. This can cause knee pain. We tested the Kaiser M3 bikes at my Club and several riders (me included) experienced knee pain. While I like many features on the Keiser M3, I discovered that the pedals are set 1” wider than the Lemond Revmaster. This can be a make or break in comfort and dissuaded us from purchasing the bikes.
Practice with Changing Gears
While it is not quite like riding outside, riding your own bike on a trainer does give you practice in shifting gears and learning your own gear ratios related to work effort. We’ve had many riders who bring in a new bike and want to try it out to “learn the bike” before taking it outside.
It’s a Harder Ride
On your own bike, there is no help from a weighted flywheel. If you are not pedaling on a bike, the wheel stops going around. That means every pedal stroke counts a little bit more. It is 100% your own effort.
Spinning bikes are a “fixed gear” with a weighted fly wheel that retains energy which means you are getting assistance with every pedal stroke from the momentum of the flywheel, especially at high RPM.
Trainers are 20% the Price
Bicycle trainers are about $350 compared to a spinning bike at $1800 (of course, prices vary wildly for both of these options). If you want to add more bikes to a room, you could add 5 trainers for the price of one Spinning® bike.
I use Kurt Kinetic Fluid trainers because they are fairly indestructible and give a very smooth, quiet ride. All you need is the trainer, a mat, and the front wheel cup. When you mount a bike to a trainer, the rear wheel has now been lifted off the floor by several inches. To avoid feeling like you are riding “downhill” (since the front wheel is lower than the back), you need to raise the front wheel. Most brands of trainers come with a front wheel support. I like the supports that offer a variety of tire sizes and heights – sometimes you may want to even raise the front tire higher than the rear if you are going to focus on a hill climbing workout. This will help to put the rider’s body in a more realistic climbing position.
In a pinch, if I don’t have a front wheel support, I’ll use a riser from a step aerobics bench. They are about the right height to level the bike.
Who you Attract
You want your program to meet the needs of a variety of participants. With trainers, you will attract riders who may otherwise never consider a “spinning” class. The cyclists who want to go through the trouble of bringing their own bikes to a class are usually the ones who are avid outdoor riders. This will expand your market – with a low cost – to a whole new group of cycling enthusiasts. Of course it will be up to you, as an instructor, to make it worth their while. And your spinning participants may see the bikes on trainers and develop the interest to take up biking outdoors. This makes your members much more likely to continue with bike related fitness programs.
2.) Location, Set-up, and Noise
OK, let’s say you are going for the mix of indoor cycles and trainers in you class. What can you expect?
Where, oh where, do you put the BYOBers? Near the entry door.
With years of experimentation on where to physically put them in the room, I have found that it is simplest to group them nearest to the entry door. This makes it easier for navigating the bikes in and out of the room. Plus you want all the trainers in one area. Close proximity makes it easier to give specific cues to the trainers vs. the others. I can look at the group on trainers, give the cue, and know they are staying on track with the rest of the group.
Bikes can be dirty. We require that the riders bring clean bikes and clean shoes to class. Plus we always have them wipe down their mats after class. This helps everything stay clean. If you can set up a bike cleaning station outside of your facility, you will win the hearts and admiration of cyclists.
We provide the trainer, on a mat, with a front wheel cup. A bike on a trainer takes up about 30% more length than the foot print of a spinning bike. I usually set the trainer off the back of a typical bike mat with the front wheel cup at the front of the mat. This way the sweat from the rider still falls on the mat.
As an instructor, you need to know how to attach the bike to the trainer. There are several steps to be aware of. I usually let the rider set up their own bike, but if they haven’t done it before, you’ll need to give them help. We always have a floor tire pump on hand because tires should be filled to the correct pressure to have the best ride on a trainer.
1. Rear Skewer
Most trainers have some sort of screw on cup that attaches to the rear wheel skewer on the bike. Some bikes have skewers that will not fit in these attachment points. It is a good idea to have loaner skewers on hand (Kurt Kinetic Trainers come with a skewer that will fit the trainer) and you can swap it out for the rider. It is simple to do, but you should be confident in what you are doing. If you have any questions about how to swap out a skewer, go to your local bike shop and have them show you how before you do it on someone else’s bike. Chances are that your rider will know how to do this.
2. Jiggle Test
Once the bike is mounted to the trainer and before you add the tension to the rear wheel, make sure the bike is stable. I simply grab the frame and give it a jiggle. If the bike seems a little wiggly, increase the tension on the axel mount. If the bike is stable, you are good to go.
3. Skid Test
After adding tension with the resistance roller to the rear wheel, grab the wheel and give it a tug to spin the wheel. Does it skid on the resistance roller? If it does, then apply more resistance to the rear tire. Tug it again. When there is no skidding or squealing, you are ready.
Before class starts, it is a good idea as an instructor to give each bike the jiggle and skid test.
Yes, bikes on trainers are louder than the stationary bikes. That sound, the revving of the bike tires on the trainers, gives added “feel and fuel” for everyone as you increase/decrease speeds through your workout. If you aren’t used to wearing a microphone when you teach, you may want to start.
The noise level of the trainer will depend on two things: the trainer model and the tread on the bike wheel. Some models of trainers are simply noisier. That is why I like the fluid trainers – they tend to be quieter.
More tread (and wider tire) = more friction = more noise. A smooth tire will be much quieter than a knobby one. If you notice a rider with a noisy tire, suggest for the purposes of the class that they switch out their tire to a narrow smooth one. This will also reduce the wear and tear on their regular tire.
I'll follow up next week with how I actually teach one of my BYOB (Bring your Own Bike) Indoor Cycling Classes.
John's note: We're excited to have Coach Robin (AKA CycleMole) on the ICI/PRO Team and I can't wait for her to share her story about where the name CycleMole came from and I'm super interested in learning exactly what it takes to ride around the world on a bicycle!
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