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Old 03-16-09, 08:46 AM   #1
ravenmore
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Using stationary exercise bikes for serious training?

Ok, so I joined a gym (Pure here in Austin – really sweet facility), and was browsing through the exercise bikes. They have some nice spin bikes and I did a spin class, but my impression of that was that it was more geared to people who just want to lose weight than someone who is training for racing. Plus there’s no way to really gauge effort. Then I discovered some exercise bikes that gave you all kinds of output, including watts and heart rate. Hello! One was kind of cool in that it ran you through a virtual course with a pacer (I think the machine was called Expresso or something like that?). The strongest pacer was set to average 200 watts though. F that. I went ahead and did a course that took me about 40 minutes and I averaged 260 watts. I was completely wiped out. I had to go sit down for a sec afterwards actually. I was bummed about my ‘numbers’ though. I was hoping they’d be a bit higher than that (although this bike has flat pedals so I was in sneakers). Also, there is NO coasting on this thing. You are producing effort constantly.

Anyway, wanted to see what you guys thought about:

a.) Using this as a serious training tool.
b.) Tips and suggestions about how to plan workouts. I’m trying to figure out some kind of interval structure actually.

Oh, and since I haven't trained with power much please explain any acronyms, you guys completely lose me when you start throwing the power lingo around.
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Old 03-16-09, 08:53 AM   #2
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I used the gym exercise bikes from about December to beginning of March every Monday and Wednesday and sometimes Saturday.
Did my first race yesterday with a mixed cat4/cat5 group and I was able to hang and actually get 3rd place in my category. So compared to last year my fitness level is much better and I've done only 4 or 5 rides outside during the time I was on the exercise bike.

I also used a bike that has a color LCD screen and shows you all kind of crap like Watts, pace, HR, distance, cadence etc etc. And it lets you select intervals, hill repeats, random hill, fitness test and you can download the workout data to your USB stick and the data is also being sent to a central computer where you can look at your stats on the web.

The only thing I didn't like, the pedals started to slip once you applied more than 500W. So no good for sprint training at all as the crank would just slip through every push of the pedal.

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Old 03-16-09, 08:58 AM   #3
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i have used the expresso machine before. there is a bit of an online following where you can see how your time compares to others. i don't really care for it that much, as the geometry is way off. plus, at least on the machines that i have used, the power calibration didn't seem accurate. on one of the bikes i could put out 10 minute intervals over 300 watts, and the other i could barely put out 200 watts for 10 minutes (it seemed to lose power readings at higher rpms, so it may just be that machine was acting up). spin machines (the ones without any electronics) actually seem to be better in my opinion. i just take the hrm off of my bike, and keep it on the handlebars of the spin machine. i get the geometry much closer to my actual geometry. good for winter days in the gym.
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Old 03-16-09, 09:06 AM   #4
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I hear you about the geometry thing. I like being able to work with power though. I tried several different bikes at this gym and they seemed in line with each other as far as heart rate vs. power output. I just don't think working with heart rate alone is as effective.
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Old 03-16-09, 09:10 AM   #5
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sounds like it'll give you a good workout. doesn't really matter if it's accurate or not, as long as it's consistent... then you can ramp your effort up in a systematic way.

my only issue with those machines are the pedals and the geometry, as said above.
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Old 03-16-09, 01:27 PM   #6
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If you can get the set up close to your road bike you should be OK. You can bring in your own pedals, shoes and a pedal wrench and swap the pedals in a couple minutes - I've done this in a lot of hotel exercise rooms. It is better than nothing but won't ever be as good as riding your own bike outside.
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Old 03-16-09, 02:05 PM   #7
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One thing to note:

power on a stationary trainer vs. power on the road are two different monsters (calibration issues aside). I have found that I cannot match my outdoor power numbers on my trainer. Mostly due to overheating very quickly with the lack of free flowing air, plus the mental fatigue of just sitting on a trainer. My best trainer workouts came when it was near freezing outside and I wore only bibs and knee warmers. Higher temps + higher humidity and I go downhill quickly. Trapped in an enclosed gym with no temperature control - no hope.
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Old 03-16-09, 02:12 PM   #8
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I go to the Y to do spin class about once a week. My daughter does gymnastics there, so it is convenient to do the class while I'm waiting for her gym session to end.

I bring my regular road shoes so I can clip in, and have been able to dial in a fit on the that works pretty well on the Revmaster. In general, I really don't go along with the regimen that the session leader shouts out. I just go with the heart-rate/time combos I need for that day's training plan.

I've explained to the leader what I'm doing and she didn't take any offense. There's always nice eye-candy in the sessions, so that keeps me coming back too.
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Old 03-16-09, 02:15 PM   #9
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One thing to note:

power on a stationary trainer vs. power on the road are two different monsters (calibration issues aside). I have found that I cannot match my outdoor power numbers on my trainer. Mostly due to overheating very quickly with the lack of free flowing air, plus the mental fatigue of just sitting on a trainer. My best trainer workouts came when it was near freezing outside and I wore only bibs and knee warmers. Higher temps + higher humidity and I go downhill quickly. Trapped in an enclosed gym with no temperature control - no hope.
I hear ya - the workouts I've so far have just killed me and I was completely soaked afterwards.
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Old 03-16-09, 02:28 PM   #10
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Ok, so I joined a gym (Pure here in Austin – really sweet facility), and was browsing through the exercise bikes. They have some nice spin bikes and I did a spin class, but my impression of that was that it was more geared to people who just want to lose weight than someone who is training for racing. Plus there’s no way to really gauge effort. Then I discovered some exercise bikes that gave you all kinds of output, including watts and heart rate. Hello! One was kind of cool in that it ran you through a virtual course with a pacer (I think the machine was called Expresso or something like that?). The strongest pacer was set to average 200 watts though. F that. I went ahead and did a course that took me about 40 minutes and I averaged 260 watts. I was completely wiped out. I had to go sit down for a sec afterwards actually. I was bummed about my ‘numbers’ though. I was hoping they’d be a bit higher than that (although this bike has flat pedals so I was in sneakers). Also, there is NO coasting on this thing. You are producing effort constantly.

Anyway, wanted to see what you guys thought about:

a.) Using this as a serious training tool.
b.) Tips and suggestions about how to plan workouts. I’m trying to figure out some kind of interval structure actually.

Oh, and since I haven't trained with power much please explain any acronyms, you guys completely lose me when you start throwing the power lingo around.
why would you want to?

maybe you answered this question in all those words up there, but I fail to see a reason to ride a stationary bike at the gym as a training preference over riding an actual bicycle on the road, you know, where you actually race, on the road, outdoors.
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Old 03-16-09, 02:39 PM   #11
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why would you want to?

maybe you answered this question in all those words up there, but I fail to see a reason to ride a stationary bike at the gym as a training preference over riding an actual bicycle on the road, you know, where you actually race, on the road, outdoors.
because I do not have a power meter and really can't afford one, and I want to work with power. all of which was in 'all those words up there' in the original post.
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Old 03-16-09, 02:52 PM   #12
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For threshold work you could do 2x20's. Done at 95-105% of your functional threshold power, or FTP.

For vo2 work 5x5's would be a great workout. Do these at 110-115% of your FTP.

Try getting your pedals on the bike so you can clip in.

To determine your FTP, do a 20 minute 'time trial' effort, take the average watts, multiply by .95. Base the 2x20's and 5x5's wattages on that number.

You could try 45-60 minutes worth of SST (sweet spot training) done around 80-90% of your FTP. It gets boring quick though, so be warned. It does however help increase your FTP, so it's a great workout to do.
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Old 03-16-09, 02:58 PM   #13
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I hear you about the geometry thing. I like being able to work with power though. I tried several different bikes at this gym and they seemed in line with each other as far as heart rate vs. power output. I just don't think working with heart rate alone is as effective.
It's more than just geometry. It's about having the same fit and position you are used to. Over time on gym bikes, many people start to develop aches and pains as well as injuries. You get used to a certain road setup and the more you ride for both time and intensity, the greater chance you'll feel it.
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Old 03-16-09, 03:06 PM   #14
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because I do not have a power meter and really can't afford one, and I want to work with power. all of which was in 'all those words up there' in the original post.
I think you'd be much better served by going out and making your bike go fast using good training practices than by measuring power output on a stationary bicycle. also, it's my understanding that stationary bicycles power thingies are notoriously unreliable, especially from machine to machine, so if you're not on the same bike time after time, then your #s are apples to pears.

just my $0.02.
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Old 03-16-09, 03:28 PM   #15
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My brother in law (BF:Houston_Biker) takes spin classes during the week, and long rides on the weekends. The last time you rode with him (Hugel 07), he needed a hip replacement, and that held him back a lot. In general, he can out-TT me, consistently. We'll see how my gains this season offset his bionic hip, but he'll come back stronger for sure (still spinning).

I think the exercise bike sounds like an SST workout (not being able to coast). I don't think there's anything wrong with riding those for training if you stay properly motivate. Nothing to prevent you from doing VO2Max and threshold intervals on them. Just shut it down for recovery.

Pay no attention to the absolute Wattage. Most of the ones I've tried read pretty low, actually.
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Old 03-16-09, 06:53 PM   #16
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It's more than just geometry. It's about having the same fit and position you are used to. Over time on gym bikes, many people start to develop aches and pains as well as injuries. You get used to a certain road setup and the more you ride for both time and intensity, the greater chance you'll feel it.
I'm not talking about quiting riding or training on my bike, I'm talking about supplementing my training with power interval training on the gym bikes.
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Old 03-16-09, 10:39 PM   #17
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I am in a spin class twice a week. I basically stick the head phones in and do an hour of hard intervals. My advice with stationary bikes is intervals intervals intervals.
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