Covid_19 has changed the way many of us train. We have had to embrace a variety of different ways of training to adhere to social distancing. I’m a keen cyclist, both road and mountain biking, but in the current extended Level 3 lockdown, we are not allowed to train in big groups as we used to.
So, at the end of last year I purchased a smart indoor trainer so I could continue cycling indoors. Little did I know I would get addicted. At the start of lockdown in March last year, I set up my road bike on my normal A-frame Giant Magnetic indoor trainer. We went from Level 5 to 1 without me getting on it. I wasn’t interested at all. The thought of jumping on this static bike and cycling by myself wasn’t appealing. So I resorted to running in my complex and functional training on the verandah.
Fast forward to four months ago when a friend told me about an app called Zwift and how one can ride at home with the virtual company of cyclists around the world. One can even set up “meetups” and ride together in groups. In the Zwift app one is allocated an avatar that cycles on the screen as the pedals move. The avatar’s cycling kit can be changed and one can also cycle in different parts of the world. On a daily basis there is access to three parts of the world to cycle in. For example there are routes in New York, France, London etc. The experience is is even better on a smart trainer because they simulate the route for one’s personal strength. When the route hits a hill, the resistance increases to simulate the climb and resistance reduces going downhill.
Before upgrading to a smart trainer, I used my magnetic indoor trainer and purchased speed and cadence sensors to connect to Zwift. I fast became too strong for my magnetic trainer so I moved up to the smart trainer which has internal sensors and can add more resistance. There are so many different kinds of trainers on the market and you need to know what is available.
Fluid trainers: These use a hydraulic substance to modulate resistance. Pedal faster and the fluid and internal flat blades increase resistance.
Wind trainers: Resistance is determined by how hard one pedals the fan from the bike’s back wheel. These are cheaper, but there are a lot of drawbacks: they can be noisy, have little resistance customization, and peak resistance is reached fast.
Magnetic trainers: An internal “flywheel” filled with magnets gets closer together, attracts and causes greater resistance for the rider. The price of magnetic-based machines depends on how the trainer adjusts resistance. Certain lower-cost models require the rider to manually change the resistance off the machine. The more expensive options have a lever that adjusts the resistance.
Roller trainers: The bikes sit freely on three rollers which turn as one pedals and create resistance, but the resistance range isn’t close to other types of trainers. Also, it takes some practice to keep steady so one doesn’t fall off.
Flywheel trainers: These unquestionably provide the best training experience. They offer almost unlimited resistance options.
Smart trainers: These can connect and communicate with third-party software to provide data feedback and management. The trainer can modulate resistance automatically. On Zwift there are over 50 each with points and rewards. There are also 50 levels and each has different rewards. So one is constantly chasing route badges, points and levels. It’s a different world to get stuck into while we navigate Covid-19.
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About the Author:
Letshego Zulu takes part in the 94.7 Cycle Challenge. Picture: Supplied
Zulu is a qualified biokineticist and cofounder of PopUpGym. An avid runner and cyclist who has conquered numerous racing events such as the Two Oceans Ultra Marathon, Cape Argus Cycle Tour, 94.7 Cycle Challenge.