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Thread: Trainer vs Road

  1. #1
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    Trainer vs Road

    This might be a question which is impossible to answer for certain.

    Basically, my story is I'm a tubby guy who has taken up riding in the last few months.
    Because of where I live (the only roads leading away from my house are highways where people drive pretty fast) and because I was/am out of shape i decided to ride on a trainer rather on the road until I got into better shape and lost a lot of weight.

    I read in a Chris Carmichael book recently that a very simple way to very roughly gauge one's fitness is to ride 3 miles and see how long it takes you to do it. 12 minutes up and you're in terrible shape, 8-12 and you're in moderate shape and under 8 you're in pretty good shape.

    On the trainer I have ridden it in 7:40. But I know that even on a flat surface there must be a difference between the trainer and the road because on the trainer i don't have to haul my considerable bulk around.

    Does anyone know if there's a formula which says that for every X pound over some set weight you need to add X seconds to the ride to translate from trainer to road? Obviously, this would not be exact.

    Failing that, how fast do people who are in good shape ride 3 miles on a trainer?

    As I said up front, I'm new to cycling, so if this is a moronic question, sorry.

    I'm 50, also, if that makes any difference.

    Thanks

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    On Your Right ZackJones's Avatar
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    First off congrats for getting on the bike and pedaling the pounds off. You can't compare your time on a trainer to your time on the road because there are too many variables involved. For example, on the trainer you do not have to overcome wind resistance and you're always riding on a perfectly flat surface, etc. It is possible to simulate road-like conditions using a computrainer but those are expensive. About the only comparison I have heard regarding a trainer vs road time is that 3 hours on a trainer is equal to 4 hours on the road.

    If you want something to keep your trainer time interesting take a look at the Spinervals AeroBase builder workouts. These are designed specifically to have you working in what Coach Troy refers to as the blue or fat burning zone. Each one is over an hour in length and the hour seems to fly by.

    Your best bet is to try to find a lightly traveled section of road or perhaps a park where you could go out and do the 3 mile time trial test. Good luck and when you get out and do the test let us know how you did.
    "You never fail, you simply produce results. Learn from these" - Anonymous

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    The Cycling Photographer SipperPhoto's Avatar
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    What Zack said up there... If you have a trainer setup with about the same tension you would have on the road, you can get close... on my trainer the tension lever has to be about 1/2 way between the easiest and hardest. That will get you close.

    But like Zack said, you have no wind resistance, and the ground is always level.

    Congrats on getting out there and getting in shape... I've been back riding for about 3 years now, and I still have little improvements from time to time.. it just takes awhile... a trainer is a good, safe way to get back on the bike.

    I'd do what Zack says and try to find a quiet stretch of road and try and do the test there. You will get a more accurate result for sure.

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    First, a little about trainers. The power curves are very different depending on what type of trainer you have. Mag trainers have a different power curve than fluid trainers. Same is true of wind trainers. Fluid and wind have the most realistic "J" power curves. Mag trainers have a linear curve.

    I find my CycleOps Fluid 2 trainer to be a little harder than riding outdoors on a flat smooth surface with very little wind. Last September I did a solo 50 miler with no stops on a slightly windy day with an average speed of 17 MPH when I weighed about 243 lbs. So far this year on the trainer I've only managed 16.7 for a 1 hour Time Trial effort and 17.4 for a 30 min TT effort.

    A poster on another thread stated that he can average 20 MPH for 3 1/2 hours in real riding conditions but can only sustain 20 MPH for an hour on his CycleOps Fluid 2. Another guy on this forum, Skydive69, finds his Fluid 2 much harder than real road conditions.

    You can probably do a search on this forum and dig up some of those older threads.
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    Thanks everyone. I really appreciate you taking the time to respond with advice and suggestions. I'm looking forward to riding on the road once I feel certain I'll be able to get back home when I'm 10 miles away.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Doctor Morbius
    First, a little about trainers. The power curves are very different depending on what type of trainer you have. Mag trainers have a different power curve than fluid trainers. Same is true of wind trainers. Fluid and wind have the most realistic "J" power curves. Mag trainers have a linear curve.

    I find my CycleOps Fluid 2 trainer to be a little harder than riding outdoors on a flat smooth surface with very little wind. Last September I did a solo 50 miler with no stops on a slightly windy day with an average speed of 17 MPH when I weighed about 243 lbs. So far this year on the trainer I've only managed 16.7 for a 1 hour Time Trial effort and 17.4 for a 30 min TT effort.

    A poster on another thread stated that he can average 20 MPH for 3 1/2 hours in real riding conditions but can only sustain 20 MPH for an hour on his CycleOps Fluid 2. Another guy on this forum, Skydive69, finds his Fluid 2 much harder than real road conditions.

    You can probably do a search on this forum and dig up some of those older threads.
    I'm new to cycling and the trainer too, but I find the same results: the Fluid 2 has a tougher ride. I average 16 MPH on the flat roads. On the Fluid I get an average of 12-13 MPH. On the road I comfortably ride at 20 MPH for a fairly long time. But on the Fluid 2 I'm working harder get to 18 MPH. I'm not sure if the tension of the crank has much to do with the difficulty or not.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Craig Thomas
    I'm new to cycling and the trainer too, but I find the same results: the Fluid 2 has a tougher ride. I average 16 MPH on the flat roads. On the Fluid I get an average of 12-13 MPH. On the road I comfortably ride at 20 MPH for a fairly long time. But on the Fluid 2 I'm working harder get to 18 MPH. I'm not sure if the tension of the crank has much to do with the difficulty or not.
    When the weather finally gets nice enough and I get over my current case of bronchitis , I'm going to do several efforts on the trainer and on the road in order to compare the two. There's a good park not too far from where I live that has a somewhat closed circle. There I will be able to ride without the distractions of regular road riding. Then perhaps I'll have a better idea of how the two compare.

    30 min TT
    60 min TT
    50 miler
    I did not achieve this position in life by having some snot-nosed punk leave my cheese out in the wind. - Ed Rooney


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    problem with us big guys is...we're not accustomed to pushing the weight regular guys are. I'm used to pushing 450lb while riding while on a trainer the workout appears to be easier...I got on a cycleops magnetic one I think? It was at a LBS and it was a crap ton easier to spin....If you're going to ride on a trainer...I'd go by time...20 minutes, 30 minutes, however you want to do it...but do it like you would any other aerobic workout
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    PWRDbyTRD are you losing any weight at all? Right now my weight is stable but my legs keep getting bigger. When I first got on a trainer I slowly built up enough stamina to get on my Malvern and go around the block just once. The other day I did a 10k ride, about 6.5 miles and it took ages cause it was mostly uphill. I find that whilst the weight isn't tearing off at the moment, my gut is disappearing, my legs are getting bigger but the big suck the air in episodes are diminishing.
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    Quote Originally Posted by PWRDbyTRD
    problem with us big guys is...we're not accustomed to pushing the weight regular guys are. I'm used to pushing 450lb while riding while on a trainer the workout appears to be easier...I got on a cycleops magnetic one I think? It was at a LBS and it was a crap ton easier to spin....If you're going to ride on a trainer...I'd go by time...20 minutes, 30 minutes, however you want to do it...but do it like you would any other aerobic workout
    That's on a MAG trainer. Like I stated above somewhere, the mags have a different power curve than the fluid trainers. Give a fluid trainer a go and see if you feel the same way. I'm pretty much in the clydesdale league at 250 lbs and I still find the road more forgiving than the fluid trainer.
    I did not achieve this position in life by having some snot-nosed punk leave my cheese out in the wind. - Ed Rooney


    It's not that I'm lazy. I'm just highly motivated to RELAX!!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Doctor Morbius
    That's on a MAG trainer. Like I stated above somewhere, the mags have a different power curve than the fluid trainers. Give a fluid trainer a go and see if you feel the same way.
    I am gonna head to the bikeshop this weekend, I know of them has a cycleops fluid 2...I'll report back.
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    I haven't found a scale to weigh myself...but I know I"m getting better at riding...and I can feel my pants fitting looser...so we're in good shape. I don't know how much I have or haven't lost...kinda a good thing...slow weight loss tends to discourage alot of people...I'd rather not know an actual #
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    Quote Originally Posted by PWRDbyTRD
    I haven't found a scale to weigh myself...but I know I"m getting better at riding...and I can feel my pants fitting looser...so we're in good shape. I don't know how much I have or haven't lost...kinda a good thing...slow weight loss tends to discourage alot of people...I'd rather not know an actual #
    Slow weight loss is much healthier than fast weight loss anyway. Losing the poundage too quickly can wreak havoc on one's endocrine system and it also is more likely to be gained back.

    I'm probably the only person in the world that has gained 25 lbs through endurance exercise. Honestly, I don't care if I weigh 250 provided it's lean bodyweight. Unfortunately, not all of that 25 has been lean. I'm just going to have to learn to pile my plate high with green beans and cabbage instead of meatloaf! My doctor stated that she wants to run thyroid and blood sugar tests on me when I get insurance. Diabetes runs in my family.
    I did not achieve this position in life by having some snot-nosed punk leave my cheese out in the wind. - Ed Rooney


    It's not that I'm lazy. I'm just highly motivated to RELAX!!

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    Hi Rlodewell,
    I am 53. I have a trainer and a bike. I would suggest you get a bike too. Being outside riding is a powerful motivator. You can get a bike rack, drive out to the country, and go for a ride. I actually have much of my weekends for the summer already planned out. Gonna ride the Lighthouse Loop, The Ferry Fling, etc, etc.

    I don't have an answer to your question. The ideal thing would be to measure your actual power output. For example, you can get a Kurt Kinetics computer for their trainer that estimates watts. They say it's accurate, but that isn't actually important. It will tell you how you are progressing.

    Now, if you want to use a real training program that works extremely well, I suggest you call Bicycling Magazine and ask for a reprint of the Feb 1994 article "The best training plan....period".

    It's kind of boring (watch TV, rent a movie, something) but it's the best basic training program I have ever seen. Do that for a few months, and there won't be any stopping you. You'll want to burn up some asphalt.

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    After riding a computrainer I can say it is as close as you are going to get on an indoor trainer (and it is fun)...

    On my blackburn fluid a good comparison is sprinting. One the road I can hit 32 MPH in an all out sprint in the drops in a 53-12. On the trainer with the same percieved effort I am only push a 53-14 with the same percieved effort. That means that the road allows you to ride 3 gears higher on the road which translated to about 4 MPH.

    I did a LT threshold test (30 min TT) and pushed 18.9 MPH on the trainer at 166 BPM (my LT). On a flat track, simular conditions, no wind I pushed 22.5 MPH at 166 BPM. That means the trainer is 3.5 approx MPH slower than the road. This is all relative to lat riding though. On a trainer you can push 17 MPH in a particular gear but on a hill try that with the same HR and see what happens... does not work. The computrainer works better by adding resistance relative to the incline so it does a good job of simulating hills.

    I do not even have a comp on the trainer. I train by time in HR zones. I do not care about speed or milage. I estimate the milage and put it in the log but it does not get added to total milage. To guage my fitness I look at HR and the gear I can push at that HR. This is directly related to LT also, the higher gear I can turn at the same HR the stonger I get....

    Use a trainer for what it is usuful for... LT intervals, pyramid intervals, aerobic base, etc, not for actual milage or speed...
    Just your average club rider... :)

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    I am a little naive when it comes to trainers having never used one. While riding a bike, doesn't a heavy person expend more energy then a lighter person to achieve a certain speed. My question is, how do you account for the weight of the rider on a trainer since the trainer is stationary and the rider doesn't need to push their mass?

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    Name's Ash ...housewares Doctor Morbius's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TomM
    I am a little naive when it comes to trainers having never used one. While riding a bike, doesn't a heavy person expend more energy then a lighter person to achieve a certain speed?
    Yes they do. They certainly expend more calories cycling just as a large block V8 engine will burn more gas than a 2 liter 4 cylinder. Larger people also expend more calories when at rest too.

    Heavier riders typically can produce more power than their lighter weight counterparts. This tends to favor a larger rider on the flats but kills them on the hills where power to weight ratio is what it's all about.


    My question is, how do you account for the weight of the rider on a trainer since the trainer is stationary and the rider doesn't need to push their mass?
    You don't. It can't be figured into the equation. That's why it's best to use heart rate or better yet wattage as your comparator.
    Last edited by Doctor Morbius; 03-22-05 at 09:08 PM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by my58vw
    After riding a computrainer I can say it is as close as you are going to get on an indoor trainer (and it is fun)...

    On my blackburn fluid a good comparison is sprinting. One the road I can hit 32 MPH in an all out sprint in the drops in a 53-12. On the trainer with the same percieved effort I am only push a 53-14 with the same percieved effort. That means that the road allows you to ride 3 gears higher on the road which translated to about 4 MPH.

    I did a LT threshold test (30 min TT) and pushed 18.9 MPH on the trainer at 166 BPM (my LT). On a flat track, simular conditions, no wind I pushed 22.5 MPH at 166 BPM. That means the trainer is 3.5 approx MPH slower than the road. This is all relative to lat riding though. On a trainer you can push 17 MPH in a particular gear but on a hill try that with the same HR and see what happens... does not work. The computrainer works better by adding resistance relative to the incline so it does a good job of simulating hills.

    I do not even have a comp on the trainer. I train by time in HR zones. I do not care about speed or milage. I estimate the milage and put it in the log but it does not get added to total milage. To guage my fitness I look at HR and the gear I can push at that HR. This is directly related to LT also, the higher gear I can turn at the same HR the stonger I get....

    Use a trainer for what it is usuful for... LT intervals, pyramid intervals, aerobic base, etc, not for actual milage or speed...
    Last August I was doing some test rides to see how efficient I was on the flats. The conditions were sunny, hot and very little wind.

    On August 6th I was able to ride for an hour with an average MPH of 14.23 with an average heart rate of 116 BPM (or 60.73% of my known MaxHR of 191).

    On The 8th I rode 14.8 miles in an hour with an average HR of 115 BPM (or 60.21% of known MaxHR). This is my personal best for that HR.

    On the 9th I rode 15.19 miles for an hour with an average heart rate of 125 BPM (or 65.44% of MaxHR). This is my PB for this HR.

    This year on my trainer I've done 14.4 MPH for an hour with an average HR of 121 BPM (or 63.35% of Max).

    Also on the trainer I've done 15.6 MPH for an hour with an AvgHR of 135 BPM (or 70.68% of known max).

    I don't think my fitness levels are quite what they were last August/September though. These are all at pretty comfortable effort levels. Going from the 14.5 to 15 MPH range to the 17 to 18 MPH range is really difficult for me. It's like night and day. 20 MPH just seems so far out of reach but that's my goal. 20 MPH for 50 miles on the road not the trainer.
    I did not achieve this position in life by having some snot-nosed punk leave my cheese out in the wind. - Ed Rooney


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    even if there is no wind...you still have wind resistance to account for.
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    Quote Originally Posted by PWRDbyTRD
    even if there is no wind...you still have wind resistance to account for.
    Sure do. At 20 MPH the typical cyclist (not clydesdales!) use 80% of their energy to combat wind resistance! That's a huge amount of energy that is wasted. For larger riders it will be even more!

    Crosswinds can kill my average speeds as bad as anything. Sometimes it seems like I'm riding into the wind no matter which direction I ride or even if I do a loop!
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    Winds absolutely screw me silly...I hate winds.
    Linkage...My 2004 Kona Hoss Dee-Lux My Mindless Banter
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    I did my PW going home yesterday. Uphill with a screaming cyclonic wind blowing down the road.
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    Sure do. At 20 MPH the typical cyclist (not clydesdales!) use 80% of their energy to combat wind resistance! That's a huge amount of energy that is wasted. For larger riders it will be even more!

    Crosswinds can kill my average speeds as bad as anything. Sometimes it seems like I'm riding into the wind no matter which direction I ride or even if I do a loop!
    That is why fluid trainers get so progressivly hard at higher speeds.

    I would not call it easy to ride at threshold for 30 minutes etc straight. I find the best way to test my abilities are at threshold because that is what you are trying to build...
    Just your average club rider... :)

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    Quote Originally Posted by my58vw
    That is why fluid trainers get so progressivly hard at higher speeds.

    I would not call it easy to ride at threshold for 30 minutes etc straight. I find the best way to test my abilities are at threshold because that is what you are trying to build...
    Do you have a coach at present?
    I did not achieve this position in life by having some snot-nosed punk leave my cheese out in the wind. - Ed Rooney


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    I suppose what might be heartening to some.. maybe depressing to others. In the one and only bicycling mag I've ever bought, this guy wrote a letter to the editor quoting that he'd lost 51 kg in 7 months.

    Either way you slice it, this guy has gotten fitter.
    School years were the best days of my life. I used to get caned by middle aged women wearing high heels, stocking and glasses. Now I have to pay for it.

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