Setting up a turbo trainer has been on my mind for awhile, but I’ve not been able to justify the purchase. It wasn’t just the cost, in a large part it was concern around a largeish bit of kit knocking about that might end up not being used.
But I’m not always able to commute and weekend rides can be difficult to fit in, so I managed to compromise by borrowing a trainer from a friend.
I had a spare wheel and my friend lent me a spare tyre. I brought a cheap Shimano cassette and a tacx trainer skewer. The skewer was needed as the regular ones I have don’t have any space on the end for the trainer clamp. That all allows me to swap wheels over quickly, avoiding turbo trainer wear on my regular road tyre.
I setup the trainer in my garage amongst the normal garage miscellany. A spare table acts as the laptop stand. It actually all sat together quiet nicely. The title states this is ‘Mk1’ as we are hopefully converting our garage to a proper room sometime this year, so I should have a ‘Mk2’ setup once that is done later in the year.
I wanted to use the trainer with Zwift, so I needed an ANT+ USB stick for my laptop. I avoided the Garmin official one and picked up a third party stick off of Amazon for about £5. That worked fine and picked up my Garmin Speed, Cadence and HR sensors, so I was all set. And that’s where the ‘fun’ began…
I picked a half hour workout to test things and struggled straightaway, even with the warmup. I persevered for about 20 minutes, repeated having to get off as the bike and trainer kept gradually sliding forwards into the table where my laptop sat. At one point I had used some fire wood as wedges but still it kept moving forward. I was struggling to hit above 200 watts in Zwift, way off the 600 the workout called for in some of the shorter intervals. It seemed like not purchasing my own trainer has been a wise decision.
As I had been doing this first ‘torture test’ I was getting more familiar with the Zwift user interface. I was now watching my pathetically low cadence whilst struggle to get any power, even with changing the gearing. Before giving it all up, I tried adjusting the tightness of the turbo to my rear wheel.
That made a huge difference and suddenly it started to click. The 10 minute 190w final stint was actually achievable rather than seeming the turbo trainer equivalent of scaling Everest.
So I can see now the advantage of having a smart trainer that can measure your power and feed that back to Zwift. With an unsupported trainer and just a speed sensor, I could have a to high resistance (as I did have for the first 2/3 of my workout). That completely ruins the experience and makes it very hard to follow any workout. Equally thought I could set the resistance too low and easily hit the required power numbers, thereby not getting an effective workout and potentially cheating other riders.
I’ll definitely be doing more sessions, and if, as hoped, it turns in to something regular then I’ll invest in a good value smart trainer. See you out on the roads in Zwift!