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23-09-2023 | Frank Jansen

Crafting the ultimate indoor cycling setup: A guide

Indoor cycling has experienced significant growth in recent years. However, there will always be a substantial group of individuals who lag behind, resist change, or have been waiting for the right moment to start. If you find yourself in this group, wanting to start but unsure of how or where to begin, this article is tailored specifically for you. What essentials do you need to create the perfect indoor cycling setup?

1. A Smart trainer

To begin, you'll require a trainer to secure your bike. While complete indoor bikes are available, they can be quite expensive. It's crucial that the trainer is "smart," allowing for automatic resistance adjustments. We highly recommend opting for a "direct drive" model, where the rear wheel is removed from your bike, and a cassette is mounted onto the trainer. This setup offers superior ride quality, reduced noise, power measurement capabilities, greater accuracy, and added convenience.

In the mid-range category, there are several reasonably priced options. The Wahoo Kickr Core has been a perennial favorite and remains incredibly popular. Elite's Suito is also a solid choice in this segment. Additionally, a new entrant emerged in October 2022: Zwift Hub, which is essentially a rebranded JetBlack Volt, offered at an attractive price of €599.

If you're seeking the absolute best, options like the Tacx Neo 2T or a standard Wahoo Kickr are top-tier choices.

2. A bike

Surprisingly, your trusty carbon road bike may serve as your indoor cycling companion. However, a budget-friendly bike will work just as effectively. We recommend using a bike that doesn't require constant attachment and removal from the trainer. Frequent mounting and dismounting can be discouraging. Understandably, this may not be feasible for everyone due to space limitations or a lack of multiple bikes. In such cases, using a single bike for both indoor and outdoor rides is a viable, albeit slightly more cumbersome, option.

3. Cassette

Most "direct drive" trainers do not come equipped with a cassette (the rear sprockets). Therefore, you'll need to purchase one separately. Please note that some trainers may include a cassette, so carefully review the product description. If you're not comfortable installing it yourself, consider asking the seller to do so. Opt for a mountain cassette, as indoor cycling often simulates uphill riding. An 11-28 cassette is the minimum recommendation, but a lighter one can provide a smoother experience. Ensure the cassette matches the number of cogs on your bike's drivetrain to avoid compatibility issues with bikes having one gear more or less.

4. Training mat

To minimize vibrations and absorb sweat, place your trainer and bike on a yoga mat. These mats are affordable and readily available at drug stores or online for a few euros. The good news is that modern "direct drive" trainers in 2022 are generally quiet on their own.

5. Ventilator(s)

Even with a window open, indoor cycling generates significant heat and sweat. A fan is essential! It doesn't need to be expensive; a second-hand fan will suffice. If you're willing to invest a bit more, the Honeywell HT-900 (pictured) is a popular model in the mid-range segment, costing around 40 euros. Having two fans is not excessive, especially if you tend to sweat profusely.

6. A device for trainer control

Smart trainers don't come with built-in displays, so you'll need a separate device to control them. Depending on your preferred software, this could be a computer, tablet, or even Apple TV for certain apps. Using a phone is not recommended due to its small screen and limited multitasking capabilities. A larger screen significantly enhances the indoor cycling experience, and you can consider upgrading to one later.

7. Software

While Zwift is the most well-known indoor cycling software, it may not suit everyone's preferences. Fortunately, there are numerous alternatives. These include real-life video platforms like Fulgaz, Rouvy, Tacx Videos, and BigRingVR, as well as interval training apps like The Sufferfest and TrainerRoad. Most platforms offer free trial periods, allowing you to explore and choose the one that aligns with your goals and preferences.

8. Headphones

A bit of music can be highly motivating during long indoor rides. We recommend wireless Bluetooth headphones to minimize distractions. You don't need to splurge on expensive options like Apple Airpods; there are good-quality choices available in various price ranges. Ensure they offer some level of water resistance to withstand sweat.

If you don't have neighbors to consider, you can opt for a speaker instead!

9. Optional: table

In an ideal setup, your equipment is positioned facing a window, providing a spot for your laptop and phone. However, this isn't always feasible. In such cases, you'll need a table to hold your devices. Options range from the pricey Wahoo Fitness Desk to more affordable alternatives like the RAD Cycling Trainer Desk, the KOM Cycling Media Display (pictured), or even a makeshift solution like a lectern or plant stool. The key is to ensure the table is at an appropriate height.

10. Optional: ANT+ dongle

Smart trainers communicate with your controlling device using either ANT+ or Bluetooth protocols. While most trainers support both, using an ANT+ dongle is highly recommended if you're using a PC or laptop. ANT+ tends to provide more stable connections and allows you to use an ANT+ heart rate monitor. These dongles are available on eBay or AliExpress for around $15; consider purchasing a USB extension cable for added convenience.

11. Optional: power strip

With a computer, one or two fans, a smart trainer, and perhaps a phone charger, you'll quickly need multiple power outlets. Therefore, it's advisable to use a power strip with an on/off switch. This allows you to turn off all your devices simultaneously, simplifying your setup.

12. Optional: front wheel rest

To ensure your bike remains level and prevents handlebar wobbling, consider using a front wheel mount. Surprisingly, not all trainers include one. If you're not brand-conscious, affordable options are available, such as those from Decathlon for around €10. For a more premium solution, Wahoo's Kickr Climb automatically adjusts the front wheel's height based on terrain changes but comes at a higher price point (€499). Please note that the Kickr Climb is only compatible with Wahoo trainers.

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