TrainerRoad.com is quite possibly the best cycling training website on the planet. I know…sounds a little over the top? I don’t think so. Their service is off the chart COOL.
I use Strava and the freebie version of Training Peaks to analyze and organize training data – and they are very good at what they do. Strava’s strong suit is tracking rides, performance data and the ability to create ride segments you can repeat. [Not to mention the ability to saturate the social media galaxy with gallons of your virtual sweat…] The free version of Training Peaks makes an excellent training log, and helps with tracking diet. TrainerRoad has it’s own unique spot in the online cycling universe: indoor rides and training plans.
Using a USB receiver for either Bluetooth or ANT+ connects your heart rate monitor, cadence and speed sensors to the TrainerRoad server. Since I ride a Trek and use their sensors and have a Garmin computer, I purchased a $29 ANT+ receiver for my laptop. Pairing HRM and cadence-speed sensors took only a few seconds. After downloading their free software, you can choose a ride or training plan from a comprehensive list and watch your live data real-time on your laptop. Below is a screen shot of a training plan available as part of the $10 a month user fee. The training metric is your choice of either heart rate or power. If you look closely at each ride profile you can see the kinds of intervals you’ll be doing.
It gets better. Since we ride indoors on a stationary trainer, the folks at TrainerRoad decided to study the power output of a long list of trainers in all their various resistance settings. They used the data to plot consistent power curves. TRANSLATION: the power readings are a solid point of reference for indoor training. Before your first workout you select your brand and model of trainer, and then which resistance setting you are using. As you start to peddle, your calculated power output appears on the screen – along with cadence and heart rate. The other choice is to spend somewhere between 800 and 2000 fazoli’s for a crank arm or hub based power meter. Below is what it looks like real time: yellow is power output in watts, red is heart rate, white is cadence.
Though I’m not going to get into a lengthy discussion on why power is a really helpful metric for training, I will explain the basic concept. Watts produced by pedaling is an objective measurement of how much work a rider can do, or may be capable of doing. As we get stronger, power output goes up and becomes more consistent over longer periods of time. IOW, we get faster, and have an increased capacity to sustain that speed. If you add cadence and heart rate, you have a comprehensive picture of fitness. For example, if I can sustain 240 watts for 30 minutes with a heart rate of 130 and a cadence of 92 – that’s better aerobic and strength fitness than pushing 240 watts while gasping for air with a HR of 160 and cadence of 67 [and then upchucking on your tablet].
TrainerRoad is a great tool that reflects some of the best contemporary thinking on cycling training and fitness. I’ll be using this for my base miles before the glaciers recede and we hit the road in Northern MN sometime in April. For a characteristically detailed review by DC Rainmaker, click here.