The Slowtwitch Indoor Guide

Winter is coming.

We know this because, well, our annual winter running challenge, the 100/100, is now underway. We’ve passed through the end of daylight savings time and are almost the sixty days of darkness. It’s an easy time to lose motivation, de-train, and then force yourself back to routine after the holidays.

That all being said, it’s also a bunch easier to keep going if you have the right indoor training set-up. Let’s face it -- you save a bunch of time riding or running indoors versus the gearing up in order to brave the elements. It’s also a lot easier with the lack of light, particularly for those of us north of the Mason-Dixon line. It’s hard finding a decent workout window when there is light outside, given that it’s barely light during the working day here.

We’ve put together our list of our preferred indoor training set-up. It isn’t going to have every bell and whistle available to you -- nor should it. We’re looking for efficiency here: if it doesn’t dramatically improve the user experience for the cost, it isn’t here. Let’s dive into it.

Cycling Trainer: Wahoo KICKR Core


The KICKR Core is the unloved child of the Wahoo line-up. It’s a direct-drive trainer, which makes it far more expensive than the KICKR Snap. And it’s not quite a match for the flagship KICKR model in terms of noise or features.

What it does do, though, is provide rock solid reliable broadcasting to your training application of choice. It’s scarily accurate -- through my own testing, it’s been right within driveline losses for my crank-based powermeter. And yes, you can even replace the drivebelt with something from Amazon if it ever comes to that, if you are even marginally mechanically inclined.

Put it all together and you have a really smart $900 option. At Wahoo, you can even add 11-speed cassette at checkout for $49.99, which for my money is worth every penny. Match it with what you ride outdoors and voila! No cassette swapping necessary.

Honorable Mention: Elite Suito. For the same price of the Wahoo option alone, you get your cassette already. It’s not quite as accurate, and it gets a little wonky with changing resistance before it displays on screen, but it’s another great direct-drive option at a relatively friendly price point.

Sweat Protection: Thong and Towels


No, not THAT thong. (And all of my fellow elder millennials now have Sisqo stuck in their head).

Your sweat is corrosive. Not quite Gatorade Endurance left to sit in a bottle for months on end corrosive, but it is close. Want to accelerate the wear of every non-carbon item on your bike? Just go ahead and ride without a bike thong or a towel.

There are two areas that you really want to make sure that you protect: the cockpit, and the seatpost/bottom bracket. For the former, it’s no question -- just toss a decent towel over the bars. Target makes an excellent set of towels at $4 per, and you don’t feel so bad getting bike grease all over it when wiping up afterwards. The thong, of course, takes care of the rest of the bike. Just be sure it hits the laundry, OK?

Flooring


Some of your sweat is going to miss the towel and hit the floor. Protect it. Remember that part above about trying to keep this to a budget? These interlocking floor tiles from Home Depot give you everything you’d want out of a branded trainer mat at 25% of the cost. For the vast majority of us, our bike trainer stays out -- we’re not moving it. Throw this flooring down, put your trainer on top of it, and away you go. I put these tiles down when I moved my bike to its current spot two years ago, and they have reliably protected the linoleum underneath from my sweat. And trust me, it needs protecting -- I’ve rusted out a bottom bracket or two in my time.

Table


You need a place to put your computer running the training application of choice. And for our purposes here, that will include the display. Ideally, that means putting the screen to as similar of a position as where your eyes would be out on the road. A TV stand just about works perfectly for a 700c wheel with a screen titled backwards. This one is sturdy enough to handle you getting out of the saddle to sprint or climb while being right at the right eye level. Win win.

Computer: iPad Pro


This is the place, in my opinion, to splurge a little bit. Why? Because M1-chipped computers make such a discernible difference in the quality of the training application of choice, it’s worth every penny. It’s also because, for the majority of users out there, you don’t need a proper desktop. If your computer only needs to power the occasional document but otherwise is used for training and Netflix, there isn’t really a need for a proper computer. An iPad will be more than enough.

Admittedly, there’s some bias to this choice. I vastly prefer Apple Operating Systems to that of either Microsoft, Android, etc. I have also had astoundingly good luck with my Mac products; hell, my white MacBook from law school still powers up if I want to take a trip down memory lane. In our household, the only time we have run into issues with our training software was when I used a Windows computer. That tells me everything I need to know.

Also, well, an iPad is just easier for a treadmill. Let’s be honest.

Training Platform: Zwift


I’m a creature of habit. If I’m on an indoor training platform, I want one subscription; I want one program that can power both running and cycling; I want a single user experience so that when I am bleary-eyed at 4 AM powering up my devices, it’s as easy as possible.

That leads you to one place: Zwift. Structured workouts? Check. Public group events and races? Check. Cycling and running? Check. It can give me everything that I want in a single package, all at an incredibly low subscription rate, and has not failed me in more than 24 months. That reliability is a massive plus.

Treadmill: Sole F63


Confession time: I used to hate the treadmill. I thought it was the soft runner’s excuse. I’ll always run outside! I love winter running -- the layers, the warmth that only comes after a couple of miles, the sound of snow beneath my feet, ticking off miles.

Then life happened. I had kids. And suddenly your training time window has been thrown for a loop. As mentioned in the last section, I’m often up at 4:30 or 5 AM to get my training done. Let’s me get done just as Ivy is waking up and to start the day.

I also moved to very rural New Hampshire, and live on a dirt road, where deer hunting is very popular. I may or may not need to invest in more orange in order to ensure I’m not mistaken for tonight’s dinner. So from a safety perspective, it’s just easier on a treadmill. And, as it turns out, you can actually like it. Zwift running helps a bit, too. This Sole model gets the nod for a wide deck, plenty of elevation adjustment, and a strong enough motor for my lack of sprinting ability. Oh, and yes, it broadcasts directly to Zwift without any additional accessories.

Heart Rate Monitor: Wahoo TICKR


The advantage of the TICKR, as opposed to a lot of other options on the market, is that it can speak both Bluetooth and ANT+. It also has an easier closing mechanism than most, quality rubber to keep it in place, and crucially is $20-$50 versus some of the Garmin ones on the market and speaks to Garmin watches just fine.

Fan: Lasko 20” Floor Fan with Remote Control


Unless you’re doing a final bit of heat acclimation, or you otherwise desire to limit your workout, you need a fan. Just 10 minutes of work riding or running will put you in a cloud of over 100 degree temperatures without a fan on you. Fans also will help with the whole “sweat destroying everything on your bike that your towels miss” problem.

This is one of the more powerful floor models out there today. It also comes with a convenient remote control. I have had many poor Zwift race experiences that were a result of me forgetting to turn a fan that is out of reach up to its highest setting before the race began, including but not limited to exploding halfway up Alp d’Zwift during an attempt to go under 55 minutes. Don’t be like me. Have a fan with a remote control and instead just get shot out the back of the rolling Zwift peloton due to power and not your own silliness.

Anti-Stink: Kanberra Gel


Most of us put our indoor training units in hidden places: garages, basements, spare bedrooms. These otherwise underutilized spaces often have the dirtiest air in your house. Whether it’s dust, allergens, moisture -- you name it, it could be there. Add on top of that any sweat you miss during the course of cleaning and there can be some serious funk downstairs.

Kanberra Gel takes tea tree oil and manages to aerate it, allowing it to capture airborne odors. It leaves rooms smelling fresh without covering it up with scent. We use the 8 oz gel here in our basement space, and it manages to keep the air fresh around our two workout bikes, my home office, and our two rabbits.