What I learnt in 2,000km on a Wattbike?

12 learnings for Wattbike Training

Today was a big milestone in my time with the Wattbike as I passed the 2,000km milestone on it. Coincidentally it was also the first ride of a new 16 week programme for winter training.

I’ve been seeing my mileage on the Wattbike ticking up over the last month or so and I’d been pondering what it’s taught me so far and what I think there might be to come from it.

In fairness, most of the time I’ve spent on it was between February and July. In that time I learnt:

1) Indoor training IS an effective way to improve your riding.    

Until this year, my riding had always plateaued around the same average speed – 29kmh. No matter how fit I felt I’d got riding and riding in the spring and summer I never went faster. In fact over the rolling countryside where I live I’d never manage to push past this average on a 50-100km ride in 5 years of trying. After 3 months training using a Wattbike Sportive Plan, I’ve managed to bang out 3 or 4 rides averaging over 30kmh this summer. This has been a big moment. Life, work, family etc got in the way in the summer and I couldn’t keep the momentum or training going and I’ve fallen backwards but I’m still riding pretty well so hopefully I’m well placed for a sensible winter training plan. I’m someone who’s always considered indoor training as an absolute last resort – for when it was snowing or had rained solidly for a fortnight. Now it’s my first choice.

2) Training with Power AND Heart Rate indoors delivers results. 

This is the key thing about the Wattbike – training with heart rate and power zones at the same time. At first it was incredibly frustrating. I could get my heart rate to sit in say Zone 2 but if I did, my power was in Zone 1. If my power was in Zone 2, my heart rate popped up into zone 3. They were supposed to be in the same zone. It took about 6 weeks for them to “equalize”. Sticking to the programme saw me continue to improve as long as I kept up the work.

 3) It’s not all about intensity and interval training

This has been a big surprise to me, as I had thought that riding indoors on a Turbo or on a Wattbike would be mostly about smashing intervals and this couldn’t have been further from the truth. A great deal of the training has been low intensity to strengthen the training base. I’ve spoken with another sports scientist who agreed that this gives an athlete a strong platform to build from. Getting faster has involved surprisingly little interval training. So far.

 4) It’s not just about the speed – stamina improves too

After a couple of months of the training I noticed that my ability to hold efforts longer had markedly improved. Where I ride it’s unusual to need to ride hard for more than 10 minutes at a time and training on the Wattbike has definitely helped me ride stronger over a longer duration. Throughout the course of the year and it still is now.

5) It’s very time effective

A couple of years ago I spoke to a coach who said he could get me results if I committed to training for 9 hours a week. I knew I couldn’t find this much time, so I didn’t pursue the coaching. I’ve got faster than ever before on the Wattbike with only 4-6hours a week of training and that’s invaluable for anyone with a busy life.

6) It only works if you do

During the summer I’ve been very busy with family, life, work and stuff that’s just got in the way and so my time on a bike or the Wattbike dropped significantly (by over half). And guess what, I’ve got less fit and slower. You’ve still got to do the work. I do believe that the quality base building I did on the Wattbike earlier in the year “stuck around” better but I still went backwards. I hope to focus over the winter and do a 16 week plan and keep at it as it’s not going to require a huge amount of time investment each week. I hope I can manage to do it as I want the results in the spring.

 7) You’ve got to have a plan …. But if you don’t….

The Wattbike website has a range of free training plans, so there’s really no reason not to follow a structured plan. Sometimes though for whatever reason that’s not possible and I’ve found that even simply doing 2-4 one hour Zone 2 sessions a week is a good way of augmenting your fitness.

8) Trust the free Wattbike training plans … or

If you follow the free Wattbike training plans, you will get results as I’ve proved. So you can easily start with them and work your way through them. Depending on what level you’re beginning at that could take you a good way through a year. If you don’t want to use the Wattbike plans (or have finished them) there are sites like TrainerRoad or even the Sufferfest that you can access plans for and use the Wattbike as your tool for power and heart rate training. If I’m lucky enough to still have the Wattbike in the Spring, I hope to give TrainerRoad a go.

 9) Or find a coach who can work with the data the Wattbike produces

The Wattbike produces a large amount of detailed data from every ride, whether you use it or not. It records something like 36 parameters, 100 times a second while you’re using it – including your power and pedalling technique. I have to admit I don’t use that data and simply rely on my Garmin, Strava and the pedalling efficiency graphic. However if you can find a coach who can work with the data, it could provide for a very successful training programme.

 10) Sod the weather

I have always been a fair weather cyclist. I hate riding in the rain. I’m not British and I don’t get the whole – just ride anyway thing. Now I feel the urge even less – if it’s raining – great, I’ll Wattbike. Job done, in an hour, regardless of how rainy it is. I’ve moved and have gone from a very nice spot in a conservatory to being in the garage – but that’s fine and I can still get the job done.

11) Get to just enjoy your weekend rides

When you’re using a training plan,  you get your training done before the weekend, so you can just enjoy each weekend ride. Have fun with your friends, ride as hard or as slow as you feel and just have enjoy. By this point in the week, you’ve done all the actual training you need. Weekends are the fun bit and the reward for your training during the course of the week.

12) What are the downsides?

a) There’s no getting around it, the biggest challenge for many of us is the sticker price of just over £2k. Sure the 0% finance is going to help most people and that’s a good thing. I think of it more as a great second bike as I’m lucky enough to have a great bike already. I guess we each need to decide what could make us faster, a nice second bike or a Wattbike and that’s something each of us needs to work out for ourselves. After 2,000km I’m convinced it can make me faster and if it can make me faster, I’m confident it can make you faster

b) The downside of the Wattbike training plans is having to print out all of the pages and write your particular heart rates and training zones on it. I usually have at least one piece of paper with me when I get on the Wattbike and right now I have all of the pages of the Winter Triathlon Training Plan printed out so I can recalculate all of the different sessions for my own heart rate and training zone data. It seems incongruous with the sophistication at the heart of the machine …. But it’s far from a deal breaker, especially when it’s ultimately all done with software and could all be automated. 2015 …. Maybe?

You can find out more at the Wattbike site here: http://wattbike.com/uk/

If you’d like to read more about my journey so far on the Wattbike, this link will take you to all of my posts tagged with Wattbike: http://girodilento.com/tag/wattbike/

Thanks for reading