Help Smart trainers, training plans, winter season

Thien Che

Cruising
Sep 14, 2020
28
28
13
Hi there,

Looking for some tips on training setups here in Tokyo. Currently, I'm attempting to decide between the following for outdoor vs indoor:
  1. One-sided power meter + bike computer (+ winter kit?)
  2. Direct drive smart trainer + training plan (e.g. Trainerroad, Sufferfest + Zwift) (+ mat + fan?)
Is it even necessary to have an indoor trainer?

I hear that winter is a wonderful cycling season in Japan, although my current issues regardless of season are with traffic, stoplights, and poor-ish infrastructure around my neighborhood as frequent interruptions to very simple interval and/or endurance ride training plans. I've also tried doing laps around Komazawa Park and the Imperial Palace, but it's not as flexible as one would believe. My hope is that it's a significant investment, but the convenience and availability will make it easier to stick to a rigid training regimen despite work and other responsibilities. At the same time, I'm wondering if I would be better off using that money for a bike computer and power meter for more general use, and supplementing cycling training with bodyweight training/yoga/weightlifting/etc. during bad weather or limited time days.

If it's a game-changer to have a smart trainer, are there any recommendations for where to find affordable options in Japan? The secondhand market doesn't seem to be that accessible and prices vary quite greatly with what I can find on sites in America, Europe, etc. My budget is ~150,000 for the entire initial setup (trainer + accessories), and I've found the following options to be most highly reviewed:
  • Elite Suito (~90,000 JPY)
  • Wahoo Kickr Core (~125,000 JPY, almost twice the price compared to overseas...)
  • TacX Neo 2T (~130,000 JPY, but have heard of many defects since being acquired by Garmin)
  • Someday, perhaps the Wahoo Kickr + Climb (~220,000 JPY)
I'm currently leaning toward the Elite Suito in terms of convenience and cost, although have heard really good things about the TacX. Am I missing any other big players or models? Lastly, if anyone has an opinion on Trainerroad vs Sufferfest subscriptions, it would be greatly appreciated :).

Thank you in advance!

Cheers,
Thien
 

OreoCookie

Maximum Pace
Dec 2, 2017
1,372
1,096
143
43
As far as trainers go, yes, they are game changers, provided you follow a structured plan of workouts. I use TrainerRoad for that and my FTP has increased from 277 W to 323 W within one-and-a-half to two years.

You listed all the good options IMHO apart from the Saris H3. The budget option is definitely the Elite. Note that for all other trainers you have to buy a cassette (another 5,000-7,000 ¥).

But there is also a third option: you go for a one-sided power meter and a dumb, direct drive trainer like the Elite Volano. I got mine from Yahoo Auctions for 21,000 ¥. My power meter (4iiii one-sided) cost me 35,000 ¥. So you could buy a cycling computer and some winter gear, although you'd probably want a trainer mat (about 3,000 ¥) and some carpet tiles (maybe 1,000 ¥ at a 100 ¥ shop). Plus, you'd want two, three bottles (another 5,000 ¥).

With the leftover money you can buy some winter gear. For milder temperatures, arm and leg warmers, overshoes and a warm base layer may be enough.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Thien Che

Thien Che

Cruising
Sep 14, 2020
28
28
13
Thanks @OreoCookie! You're right, nothing beats targeted training.

Regarding the power meter + dumb trainer, it would definitely give flexiblity of use for outdoors as well as being cheaper, although I will say that I don't race and the group rides I do tend to be fairly casual. However, I suppose that the benefits of a power meter could also come in handy in maintaining pace during long touring and bikepacking trips, or if I stumble across good outdoor training areas sometime.

One tradeoff I've heard of is that the automatic resistance changes in response to simulated grade and ERG mode in smart trainers offer for more realistic and/or effective training as opposed to dumb trainers. On the other hand, I've also heard that this isn't too much of a detractor if you are disciplined enough to not get distracted by proactively shifting into the right power output.

Do you think ERG mode + automatic resistance changes are worth the bump in price?
 

OreoCookie

Maximum Pace
Dec 2, 2017
1,372
1,096
143
43
Regarding the power meter + dumb trainer, it would definitely give flexiblity of use for outdoors as well as being cheaper, although I will say that I don't race and the group rides I do tend to be fairly casual.
You'd still benefit from increases in fitness.
One tradeoff I've heard of is that the automatic resistance changes in response to simulated grade and ERG mode in smart trainers offer for more realistic and/or effective training as opposed to dumb trainers.
You have to separate different things. “Realistic” usually refers to how well the trainer imitates “road feel”, and dumb trainers can be as good as or better than smart trainers. My Elite Volano is a fluid trainer, and these are said to have a good and realistic feel since resistance increases in the same way as outdoors. That is unlike magnetic trainers.

Personally, I don't know what people mean by road feel: I am not fooled for a second that I am indoors, me staring at my iPad and/or wall makes sure of that. But the trainer I have has a smooth resistance and it works very well.

Dumb trainers do not have erg mode, but for things like interval training, you don't need erg mode. Don't get me wrong, it is a nice to have, but not a must have IMHO. Having a power meter for your outdoor rides gives you a larger net utility IMHO.

The third thing is simulated gradients. These are only important when you do Zwift or something similar. The trainer will compute the resistance from your (claimed) weight and the slope. That means that the flywheel is able to spin at different speeds even though you pick the same resistance. When the flywheel spins more slowly, this feels more like pedaling uphill, when the flywheel spins faster, this feels more akin to pedaling on the flats. I have no interest in Zwift and I haven't tried it, so I can't tell you what Zwift on a dumb trainer is like.
On the other hand, I've also heard that this isn't too much of a detractor if you are disciplined enough to not get distracted by proactively shifting into the right power output.
I don't quite understand what you mean here. Do you mean changing the resistance? Depending on the dumb trainer type, you can or cannot change the resistance. On fluid trainers, which are generally regarded as the best type of dumb trainer, you cannot change the resistance. That happens just with speed.
Do you think ERG mode + automatic resistance changes are worth the bump in price?
As far as I could tell this was not your question. Your question was: you have a fixed budget, and you can either buy a smart trainer or winter clothes and a power meter. I gave you a third option, which I think given your budget, is better than either. A power meter will be very useful for your outdoor rides. And you still have a trainer for indoor rides.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Thien Che

Thien Che

Cruising
Sep 14, 2020
28
28
13
You have to separate different things. “Realistic” usually refers to how well the trainer imitates “road feel”, and dumb trainers can be as good as or better than smart trainers. My Elite Volano is a fluid trainer, and these are said to have a good and realistic feel since resistance increases in the same way as outdoors. That is unlike magnetic trainers.

[...]

I don't quite understand what you mean here. Do you mean changing the resistance? Depending on the dumb trainer type, you can or cannot change the resistance. On fluid trainers, which are generally regarded as the best type of dumb trainer, you cannot change the resistance. That happens just with speed.
To clarify, what I'm referring to is automatic resistance changes vs. proactive manual shifting to modify cadence, speed to thus modify power output at fixed trainer resistance. It seems counterintuitive to hit a simulated hill while on a dumb trainer and then upshift in order to match the increased power you'd need to climb. I haven't had a chance to test drive any trainers, smart or dumb, so I'm simply trying to gauge whether these differences meaningful to the training experience or simply nitpicky.

Realism with regards to road feel is fairly subjective and polarizing so I'm inclined to agree with you that I'd rather just admit and commit that I'm working out indoors as opposed to simulating a normal outside ride.

Dumb trainers do not have erg mode, but for things like interval training, you don't need erg mode. Don't get me wrong, it is a nice to have, but not a must have IMHO. Having a power meter for your outdoor rides gives you a larger net utility IMHO.
Glad to have this perspective and agreed on the utility of a power meter. The only counterargument I've heard in favor of ERG mode is reducing mental load on maintaining a specific power on longer intervals, although I can't see why this would be beneficial since it seems to require equivalent or greater concentration to maintain power with a meter and/or perceived effort while riding outdoors.

As far as I could tell this was not your question. Your question was: you have a fixed budget, and you can either buy a smart trainer or winter clothes and a power meter. I gave you a third option, which I think given your budget, is better than either. A power meter will be very useful for your outdoor rides. And you still have a trainer for indoor rides.
All of these options these would fall in my budget. However, I would have more leftover with your new suggestion, thus I asked for your perspective on if you believe automatic resistance + ERG mode to be a meaningful price differentiator between smart and dumb trainers. I guess I should have clarified that the budget does not need to be completely saturated ;).
 

bloaker

Sincerely A Dick
Nov 14, 2011
2,618
3,484
433
Miura, Japan
I have the kickr core. Biggest benefit is how quiet it is. My drivetrain is louder than the trainer.
I am usually on it at 0430 and I have yet to wake up my Wife or 2 kids.

When I used to live in Chinatown - my old Trainer was way too loud to use ever and my rollers I would only use during the middle of the day to ensure I did not upset neighbors. I could have gotten away with myKickr in that scenario I believe.

I have owned several trainers with good intentions over the years.... I have never stuck to them longer than a few months.
My Kickr Core I have put thousands of kilometers on it this summer and while I have been tired of riding indoor lately, I still hop on when the weather is bad or I just need a good workout.
 

Elzico2012

Maximum Pace
Jan 29, 2014
105
131
73
47
An experience.

Nearly the same as @bloaker
Changed from rollers to the Tacx Neo 2 (not 2T, the difference being a small upgrade) last winter. The drive train of the bike makes far more noise than the rotation of the trainer. The noise was my main concern as I live in a flat and got complains from neighbors (it was in fact not related with training on rollers, and came from another neighbor). The use is twice a week afterwork plus occasionally on the weekends when bad weather. As it gives power data, that suits my need and gives a good reference. Otherwise, outdoor rides are more based on feeling, with an alternance of short/ long, flat/hilly rides and intervals. I was considering buying a power meter. The price saved on it went into the smart trainer.

It is quite an initial budget for sure but worth the price in my opnion. At that time, it was sold on Wiggle, 50 to 60000 yens cheaper than here. It was just after the 2T came on sale. The weak point, it is heavy , over 20kg, so moving it is not an option. With the rollers, I used to fold them after each training ride to regain space in the flat
 

bloaker

Sincerely A Dick
Nov 14, 2011
2,618
3,484
433
Miura, Japan
I have the kickr core. Biggest benefit is how quiet it is. My drivetrain is louder than the trainer.
I am usually on it at 0430 and I have yet to wake up my Wife or 2 kids.

When I used to live in Chinatown - my old Trainer was way too loud to use ever and my rollers I would only use during the middle of the day to ensure I did not upset neighbors. I could have gotten away with myKickr in that scenario I believe.

I have owned several trainers with good intentions over the years.... I have never stuck to them longer than a few months.
My Kickr Core I have put thousands of kilometers on it this summer and while I have been tired of riding indoor lately, I still hop on when the weather is bad or I just need a good workout.
And on top of that... I also have a power meter on one of my road bikes and it is paired to an Edge 830.
It is nice info to have for pacing myself. I have far too often hit mental blocks on the road and the mind can play games with perceived effort.
Having actual power numbers in front of me can help me power through these mental lulls - however I don't use it as a training tool, but rather just another metric like cadence/HR/speed... When climbing it is nice to have so I can balance effort and output.
 

OreoCookie

Maximum Pace
Dec 2, 2017
1,372
1,096
143
43
To clarify, what I'm referring to is automatic resistance changes vs. proactive manual shifting to modify cadence, speed to thus modify power output at fixed trainer resistance.
Sure, but when you read reviews, “realistic” is usually reserved for other things.
It seems counterintuitive to hit a simulated hill while on a dumb trainer and then upshift in order to match the increased power you'd need to climb.
This only applies to simulated gradients. In erg mode, the trainer will force you to hold a prescribed wattage no matter what gear you are in. So you can ask the trainer to do 200 W in your 50:12 or in your 34:32.
I haven't had a chance to test drive any trainers, smart or dumb, so I'm simply trying to gauge whether these differences meaningful to the training experience or simply nitpicky.
It depends on what you mean by training. Even though I haven't had experience with Zwift, I think there you can benefit from a trainer. But Zwift is not what I'd consider training, because for most people Zwift = Zwift racing.

For me training means structured workouts, and there you don't need a smart trainer. A smart trainer may make it harder for you, because it'll be relentless. On a dumb trainer I can just drop my power on that last interval. A smart trainer wouldn't let me do that. Don't get me wrong, if back then I had the money for a smart trainer, I would have gotten one, they're nicer. But for this type of training absolutely not necessary.

So to modify my recommendation: to get the full Zwift experience a smart trainer is probably a must. But if you want to use one of the other apps, a dumb trainer is a good choice to begin with.
Glad to have this perspective and agreed on the utility of a power meter. The only counterargument I've heard in favor of ERG mode is reducing mental load on maintaining a specific power on longer intervals, although I can't see why this would be beneficial since it seems to require equivalent or greater concentration to maintain power with a meter and/or perceived effort while riding outdoors.
That's correct, and for sure a disadvantage. On balance, I preferred and still prefer having a power meter for my outdoor rides, though.
All of these options these would fall in my budget. However, I would have more leftover with your new suggestion, thus I asked for your perspective on if you believe automatic resistance + ERG mode to be a meaningful price differentiator between smart and dumb trainers. I guess I should have clarified that the budget does not need to be completely saturated ;).
To dip your toes into training, I'd recommend starting small. With the option I recommend, you will be able to re-use most of the stuff and re-sell the dumb trainer at no or minimal loss. The advantage is that they are very robust, they have no electronics that may suffer the effects of Japan's humidity. A cycling computer will be eminently useful, e. g. for navigation and the like. A power meter can be useful, but isn't a game changer for everyone. To me getting my first power meter was a game changer. I can pace with very good precision and try new pacing strategies.

And just to try Zwift, I think a dumb trainer will suffice. If it turns out you love Zwifting, then you'll need a smart trainer for sure. But you could do that a little later after saving up some more money. I'd also recommend skipping wheel-on trainers for the reason others have mentioned: noise. Fluid trainers are quiet, as are essentially all direct drive smart trainers.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Thien Che

Thien Che

Cruising
Sep 14, 2020
28
28
13
Thanks for all the great answers and shared experiences :). My takeaway is that there's a lot of utility in each item and feature per dollar, compared to other things like frames and components.

I feel pretty committed and invested in my cycling fitness, so I'll save up for a Wahoo Kickr Core/Elite Suito and Roam bundle (cadence, speed, heart sensors), and will look to purchase a power meter and cold weather kit in a few months after rebuilding my base fitness. If smart training feels revolutionary, may consider upgrading to the premium options at some point!

Aside: do any of these types of items go on sale for Black Friday? I've found availability at bike24 for lowest advertised prices (compared to JP markup), but may wait to pull the trigger if so.

Thanks again!
 

OreoCookie

Maximum Pace
Dec 2, 2017
1,372
1,096
143
43
Aside: do any of these types of items go on sale for Black Friday? I've found availability at bike24 for lowest advertised prices (compared to JP markup), but may wait to pull the trigger if so.
AFAIK supply is low everywhere. At least that was the case a few months ago, a combination of increased demand and the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on production. So I don't know if there are too many sales. Keep an eye on dcrainmaker.com or his twitter account.
My Kickr Core I have put thousands of kilometers on it this summer and while I have been tired of riding indoor lately, I still hop on when the weather is bad or I just need a good workout.
If you ever get tired of it or you want to finance the purchase of your (N+7)th bike, let me know. ;)
 

Thien Che

Cruising
Sep 14, 2020
28
28
13
Sure, but when you read reviews, “realistic” is usually reserved for other things.

This only applies to simulated gradients. In erg mode, the trainer will force you to hold a prescribed wattage no matter what gear you are in. So you can ask the trainer to do 200 W in your 50:12 or in your 34:32.

It depends on what you mean by training. Even though I haven't had experience with Zwift, I think there you can benefit from a trainer. But Zwift is not what I'd consider training, because for most people Zwift = Zwift racing.

For me training means structured workouts, and there you don't need a smart trainer. A smart trainer may make it harder for you, because it'll be relentless. On a dumb trainer I can just drop my power on that last interval. A smart trainer wouldn't let me do that. Don't get me wrong, if back then I had the money for a smart trainer, I would have gotten one, they're nicer. But for this type of training absolutely not necessary.

So to modify my recommendation: to get the full Zwift experience a smart trainer is probably a must. But if you want to use one of the other apps, a dumb trainer is a good choice to begin with.

That's correct, and for sure a disadvantage. On balance, I preferred and still prefer having a power meter for my outdoor rides, though.

To dip your toes into training, I'd recommend starting small. With the option I recommend, you will be able to re-use most of the stuff and re-sell the dumb trainer at no or minimal loss. The advantage is that they are very robust, they have no electronics that may suffer the effects of Japan's humidity. A cycling computer will be eminently useful, e. g. for navigation and the like. A power meter can be useful, but isn't a game changer for everyone. To me getting my first power meter was a game changer. I can pace with very good precision and try new pacing strategies.

And just to try Zwift, I think a dumb trainer will suffice. If it turns out you love Zwifting, then you'll need a smart trainer for sure. But you could do that a little later after saving up some more money. I'd also recommend skipping wheel-on trainers for the reason others have mentioned: noise. Fluid trainers are quiet, as are essentially all direct drive smart trainers.
Thanks again for the detailed response, I appreciate it. Lots of difficult decision making to do but the experiences and opinions really helps to bring color to each choice!
 

Thien Che

Cruising
Sep 14, 2020
28
28
13
I've just gotten my first ride in on an Elite Suito yesterday and not surprisingly, there's quite a lot of noise coming from chain rub on the trainer cassette and difficulties with clean shifting.

Do most people with trainers have to re-index their gears every time the swap their bike back and forth between the trainer and rear tire?
 

speedwobble

Scorpions - I can't get enough!
Jun 26, 2017
152
218
63
52
I'm still riding outside but was thinking of doing that program Dan Lloyd did on GCN over this coming winter. Has anyone tried it?


It's 10 weeks, which is just about as long as the roads around me are out of action due to snow and ice. I do have a trainer, and found that about an hour is the most I can hack in a single session. I've never done any structured training before, but ride a lot of hills, use a power meter and HRM, sometimes go for it on uphill Strava segments, and keep an eye on those TR-type freshness/fitness/form numbers on Elevate/Stravistix.
 

OreoCookie

Maximum Pace
Dec 2, 2017
1,372
1,096
143
43
I've just gotten my first ride in on an Elite Suito yesterday and not surprisingly, there's quite a lot of noise coming from chain rub on the trainer cassette and difficulties with clean shifting.
If memory serves, you bought a used bike, correct? A few questions:
- Did you have the chain replaced?
- Did you have the inner cables replaced?

If not, either could be the culprit. If your chain and your cogs are worn, then it will fit poorly onto the new cassette that came with the Suito, the chain is just too long to properly fit into the grooves. The end result might be that you also need a new cassette on your rear wheel. A worn cassette with a worn chain might actually work very well. The downside is that this will accelerate wear of your chain rings, which is no bueno. And then if you e. g. replace the chain, you will suddenly have shifting problems in the front (= worn chain rings) and/or the rear (= worn cassette).

If your cables are worn, it can be hard to get consistent shifting. That happened to me a few weeks ago, I could not get my bike to shift properly on both, my trainer and my wheel. I could get it to shift well-ish on either one of them, just not both.

Moreover, these problems tend to be more pronounced on bikes with quick release skewers. (If memory serves, you bought a rim brake bike, so it will almost certainly have quick release skewers.) Through axles give you more consistent alignment.
 

wexford

Maximum Pace
Jul 3, 2012
1,310
1,117
133
Tokyo
Another "silly" reason is different speed cassette installed on the trainer; 10s vs 11s for example. Speaking from experience here...
 

Thien Che

Cruising
Sep 14, 2020
28
28
13
Hey @OreoCookie,

Thanks for the quick response and insights. I've actually purchased a new bike - 2021 Canyon Ultimate Disc, with a full 105 R7000 groupset and 142x12 mm thru axles. Maybe you're thinking of @Ratchet21 who recently got a used Specialized?

From what I can find in the spec sheet, the trainer cassette is also 105 R7000 (11-speed) and has adapters for 142x12 mm thru axles...so naturally I'm very confused here. There's at least two separate gears that get skipped altogether when rear shifting, with chain rub on the cassette at other spots. The Canyon was already well indexed when I received it, but I did my own indexing again anyways, so it seems to be a trainer specific issue. I feel as though it might just be "bad" tolerances in assembly of the cassette onto the trainer freehub, but the noise and issues seem a bit severe even for that.

Mildly tempted to get a pair of digital calipers and compare the on-bike cassette spacings vs. trainer casette, b/c indexing back and forth every day would be a PIA.
 
Last edited:
  • Haha
Reactions: Ratchet21

Thien Che

Cruising
Sep 14, 2020
28
28
13
I'm still riding outside but was thinking of doing that program Dan Lloyd did on GCN over this coming winter. Has anyone tried it?


It's 10 weeks, which is just about as long as the roads around me are out of action due to snow and ice. I do have a trainer, and found that about an hour is the most I can hack in a single session. I've never done any structured training before, but ride a lot of hills, use a power meter and HRM, sometimes go for it on uphill Strava segments, and keep an eye on those TR-type freshness/fitness/form numbers on Elevate/Stravistix.
I'll be kickstarting that program tomorrow actually! The session I did last night was the Sufferfest Full Frontal 4DP (their fancy wording for establishing a power curve for 5s, 1 min, 5 min, and 20 min "maximal" powers to give you a rider profile). From what I read online, it seems quite a few people aren't happy with how uncomprehensive and non-specific Sufferfest's offerings are compared to something like Trainerroad. Also, they seem to believe that the expected power targets tend to be quite high and workout intensities make overtraining quite easy, unless you keep your ERG mode at some % less than 100. I found to music, footage, and motivational coaching to be a bit cheesy, but helpful when I wanted to chop my legs off.

Have you tried Trainerroad or Zwift training plans yet?
 

Nuff

Warming-Up
Jul 28, 2020
11
13
3
42
My personal experience with direct drive trainers, in my case tacx neo2t with a 105 30-11 cassette. There's no reindexing needed. I've a trek with r8000 ultegra (rim discs, quick release) + my partner who has specialized tarmac r7000 105 with thru axle and I swap the bikes around once a day and so far I had to do zero reindexing for the trainer.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Thien Che