Question: I’ll be riding my Kurt Kinetic Road Machine indoor trainer for several months this winter and I wondered how I can tell if I’m improving over the course of the workouts?
Coach Fred Matheny Replies: The best way to gauge improvement is to ride your trainer with a power meter on your bike. Then you can do various tests – for instance, how much wattage can you generate for 5 minutes – to track your progress. Kurt Kinetic offers the inRide Watt Meter for wattage measurement on your unit.
If you don’t have a power meter, it’s still possible to get a fairly accurate picture of your riding intensity with any indoor trainer equipped with a cycle computer that reads off the rear wheel. Simply use miles per hour.
I like a ramped test because it’s simple, fast and can be done about once a week without taking too much time. It’s a great mini-workout too. Here’s how to do it:
- Warm up for 15 to 20 minutes until you’re sweating lightly. Include 3 short efforts of 30 seconds each at a fast cadence of 100-110 rpm to get your engine ready for a hard effort.
- Then start in a gear that requires only moderate effort and pedal for one minute at a cadence of about 90 rpm.
- Shift to the next higher gear for another minute and continue down the cassette until you can’t complete a minute at a cadence of at least 90 rpm.
- Note your average speed for the last segment.
This test doesn’t take much time – 6-10 minutes, depending on your fitness. It also depends on the size of the jumps from one cog to the next. Close spacing (one or two teeth) means you can go longer, while big jumps of 3 teeth will get you to your max quicker.
Each time you do the test, aim for a slightly higher speed in the last segment. Or try for a higher gear than the last time you did the test, still keeping your cadence above 90 rpm. Your results are a good approximation of your current fitness.
You mentioned that you have a Kinetic trainer. They have a power curve chart that equates speed with wattage. For instance, 20 mph equals 240 watts, 23 mph is equivalent to 340 watts. While this is an approximation, it’s pretty close to the reading you’d get on a power meter so you can convert your average speed over the last minute to wattage.
Coach Fred Matheny is an RBR co-founder who has four decades of road cycling and coaching experience. He has written 14 eBooks and eArticles on cycling training, available in RBR’s eBookstore at Coach Fred Matheny, including the classic Complete Book of Road Bike Training, which includes 4 eBooks comprising 250 pages of timeless, detailed advice and training plans. The Complete Book is one of the many perks of an RBR Premium Membership. Click to read Fred’s full bio.