One of the major benefits of indoor riding is that an hour of training time equals an hour of ride time because you cut down on all the prep that an outdoor ride requires. But without a dedicated pain cave, you could waste enough time on setup and takedown to defeat the purpose of your time-efficient trainer workout. Consider these various indoor options:
Road bike on any trainer
If you have two bikes and a trainer, the easiest option is to leave your road bike indoors. This does lead to the question, “Is it OK to ride my road bike instead of my TT bike for training?”
The answer: There is nothing wrong with mixing it up on different bikes year-round, but when you get close to your race (8–10 weeks out) and you plan to do quality race-specific intervals indoors, it is worth setting up your TT bike so you can learn to hold race pace in the aero position.
Pro: No setup time
Con: Need to readjust to race position
Generally gym bikes do not mimic the demands of real riding enough that they would be equivalent to just riding your race bike. Some spin bikes now have power meters so you can at least gauge your effort, but this should be a last resort. The occasional spin class can be a good way to get your heart rate up if you have no other option, but if triathlon (versus straight fitness) is your main focus, specificity trumps the fun factor.
Pros: Availability, included in gym membership
Con: Lack of specificity
If you’re training with power outdoors, it’s hard to not want to dial in that same level of preciseness indoors. Using a trainer with a built-in power measurement, such as a Computrainer (starts around $1,600, Racermateinc.com) or Wahoo Kickr (starts around $1,000, Wahoofitness.com), can be a nice complement so you can get data from your indoor efforts and have a dedicated indoor setup.
Pro: Precise workout with file generated for later analysis
If you have a power meter on your race bike, you can use that bike with a dedicated “dumb” trainer (trainer without controlled resistance) for a consistent reading on your efforts.
Pro: Low-cost trainers can be purchased for less than $300, which is a good solution for those with crank-based (Quarq, Pioneer) power meters or a Garmin Vector.
Cons Necessitates using nice wheels on a trainer if you have a hub-based meter (PowerTap), negates original goal of having dedicated setup sans race bike
With a bike like the CycleOps Phantom (around $2,500, Powertap.com), you can set up similar to the fit on your own bike and have a built-in power meter. This option is pricy but is a good solution to save time if you have the budget and space. If you only have an indoor bike that is nothing like an actual bike, you won’t quite get the same training benefits.
Pros: Can mimic race position, no setup time, power data, no change to training wheels necessary
Con: Cost (as much as another bike)