CAPE EPIC 2023 | Training Log 3 - the dreaded indoor trainer

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The road bike is part of your winter Cape Epic training solution. Limiting mountain bike component wear, due to mud. (Photo: Ride24)
The road bike is part of your winter Cape Epic training solution. Limiting mountain bike component wear, due to mud. (Photo: Ride24)
  • Indoor training is a reality for South African winters. And with the latest generation of indoor trainers, there’s no excuse.
  • The training commitment for a Cape Epic, will require you to use indoor training resources. And it is all about managing expectations – and home relations.
  • In theory, indoor training can be tedious, but there you can perfect pedal stroke technique and generate very accurate data. Helping you shape that ideal Cape Epic training programme.

Winter can be a time of discontent for many riders. Although South African winters are comparatively warm compared to Europe, the temptation to stay warm by the indoor heater remains strong. It has more appeal than performing the arduous wardrobe change to embark on an outdoor ride in single-digit Celsius temps.

Western Cape winters add the excitement of wet weather, making mountain bike riding an expensive affair if your Winguru/YR.no/Windy report delivers an imperfect forecast. 

We all know that mud and grime are the primary enemies of drivetrain longevity, and at current costs, the 12-speed cassette needs to last 10 000km for it to be deemed good value.

As a result, I have concluded that the indoor trainer has its place in my training regime. Actually, the indoor trainer has become a must-have tool for those serious about getting the most bang for buck out of any training session. 

Cape Epic
This is the dream indoor training set-up. With a fully functional counter-balancing trainer, you can lean through corners. (Photo: Ride24)

Training without killing your drivetrain 

Riding huge mileages in a Cape winter, costs a lot of money. You are going to grind expensive cassettes and other drivetrain components to ruin. There’s no avoiding that if you venture onto the trails. 

The smarter alternative is distributing most of your training load to the road. Or better yet – an indoor trainer. 

I started riding indoors on a borrowed set of rollers during hard lockdown. With my previous hub power meter connected to Zwift, I could complete my prescribed training sessions with great efficiency. 

As a side note, if you want to test marriage tolerance, put a mountain bike on a set of metallic rollers indoors for an hour and a half, three or four times a week, while it whirs up to 90 decibels.

I have no idea how I’m still married after all the noise, but it was also a pretty good way to get permission to spend R15 000 to transition to a direct drive indoor trainer (which is about 60 decibels quieter).

Cape Epic
Of course there is a virtual Cape Epic. With the event and Zwift, sharing a partnership. (Photo: Cape-Epic)

The art of training indoors

I won’t tell you that you’re going to enjoy riding indoors. It develops a unique sense of self, to put yourself in the pain cave, in the comfort of your living room.  

Albert Einstein may have come up with a formula that would allow us to travel back in time, but the inventor of the indoor trainer came up with a way to slow down time. Your zone training sessions will feel tediously long indoors. 

I jest, but those simple rides where all you have to do is pedal at one intensity are the hardest to complete, but are also some of the most efficient rides you can do. There is zero downtime during an indoor ride; you are constantly pedalling without the opportunity to freewheel, which is core to building up endurance.

I struggle to get my mind to push through these rides, no matter how much YouTube I watch concurrently or top-100-songs-of-all-time playlists I listen to. 

Intervals are ideal for your living room

How to manage the monotony? I have found better use in performing my midweek interval sessions indoors. That is 90- to 100-minutes on the indoor trainer with prescribed intervals. These are much easier to execute indoors, and you can knock them out perfectly.

With the indoor trainer, there are no traffic lights, traffic, punctures or changes in gradient to deal with, which allows for more consistency in your efforts. Repeatable efforts are something a coach wants to see to assess your progress over a specific interval or effort. And indoor training delivers this. 

For Cape Epic newbies, the subconscious pressure of training for the event can be enough of a challenge. And there’s a sense of inadequacy if you aren’t out riding frequently.  

The indoor trainer gives you a consistent and terrifically convenient failsafe riding option to keep up to date with your Cape Epic training at home.  

Cape Epic
Indoor training can be challenging, mentally, but virtual riding worlds are much better than five years ago. With deeply immersive graphics. (Photo: Cape-Epic)

No sneaky riding guilt 

A secondary benefit of the workday week indoor session is the convenience. You save time getting ready and don’t have to ride in the dark pre-dawn or after sunset. 

With the indoor trainer, you can hop on at lunchtime if you work from home, or after work, without feeling guilty about cutting a few minutes off your workday to get a ride in.

That said, I still prefer an outdoor ride on weekends when I can put in the longer hours, hook onto a group ride, and enjoy some of the social aspects of cycling.

Staying fit and enjoying my training is still the key focus for Cape Epic 2023. But for now, there’s no need just yet to shift into Epic training. Mountain bike season in the Western Cape starts around mid-September, with many opportunities to increase training and test my riding progress at events. 

The current focus is to build fitness after May and June’s horrid health adventure. July was somewhat better as I booked close to 50-hours of training, grinding my way back to fitness. 

I scouted quite a delightful base loop that I will be using for some of my Cape Epic training later this year. It allows for a little downtime and a lot of ‘on pedals’ riding. The route even crosses a working railway line - not something you often experience in South Africa, anymore. 

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