Stem adjustments can make a huge difference in comfort
Apps such as Zwift, RGT, and TrainerRoad have made it easier than ever to get excited about riding indoors. While these apps are great for providing motivation and accountability, one of the most common complaints is that riding on the trainer is significantly less comfortable than riding on the road.
In this post we’ll provide a brief explanation of why it is less comfortable to ride on the trainer versus the road, then give four tips to improve your comfort while riding indoors.
Why is riding the trainer less comfortable?
The main issue comes down to your position being significantly more static on the trainer as compared to riding outdoors. On a ride outside you are often in and out of the saddle, climbing, turning, stopping and starting on a bike that moves dynamically with you. These position changes are determined by the terrain you are riding on – that’s why on long flat straight roads you are more likely to have discomfort than on curvy roads with rolling hills. All these changes mean the forces applied to the body are less consistent and more distributed to various parts of the body. On the trainer you are mostly stuck in the saddle the whole time on a bike that is held static. No stopping, no turning, less standing. This means all the forces are applied to the same areas of your body for the entire ride, and this is where the discomfort originates from.
4 Tips for More Comfort
The 4 tips below assume you already have a good bike fit that you’re happy with out on the road. If you are unsure of your fit you can use our free dynamic bike fit tool to check your position. It’s also a good idea to record your position before you make any changes. We have a post on the four key measurements everybody should have from their bike here.
Always make sure you are starting with a bike that is level. To do that you can measure to the center of each wheel axle. Most trainers require some sort of wheel block to raise the front wheel.
#1 Adjust your fit
Assuming you have a good fit already, there are a few changes you can make to help your trainer rides be more comfortable. There are three minor changes that shouldn’t drastically affect your biomechanics on the bike but will go a long way to making it more comfortable.
Lower the seat slightly – ~2mm can be enough to change your comfort on the bike without drastically changing your overall position.
Raise the handlebars – assuming you have room, raise the handlebars by 5-10mm. This will shift the weight off your hands and the front of the saddle.
Shorten the stem – putting a shorter stem on your bike will put less strain on your neck and shoulders. Again assuming your fit is good to start with you should only need to go one size shorter to increase comfort on the trainer.
The above changes might make you less aerodynamic or change how your bike handles but that won’t matter on the trainer.
#2 Stand Up
Standing up while pedaling more frequently will take the pressure off your saddle and change the pressure on your hands and feet. It also keeps you used to riding out of the saddle, so when it is time to ride outside again your muscles are prepared. Try standing for one minute every ten to fifteen minutes.
#3 Raise the front wheel
Raising the front wheel slightly can help shift the weight off your hands and the front of the saddle. Try 3-5mm at first and go from there.
#4 Improve core strength and mobility
Having good core strength and mobility are key ways to improve your comfort on the bike, both outdoors and in. It can often be hard to find time to train on the bike and have a good mobility and core strength routine so we suggest adding a short mobility session immediately before or after your workout. If you need motivation for what work to do check out Dynamic Cyclists . MyVeloFit users can use the code MYVELOFIT for 15% off.
You can use some or all of these tips to improve your indoor riding experience. If you are extremely uncomfortable we’d suggest using all of them to give you the best chance at improving your comfort. If you are relatively comfortable and able to get through most rides you can try picking and choosing our tips for small comfort improvements.
Jesse's cycling journey was destined to end in bike fitting after first being sold a bike that was two sizes too big. The resulting chronic discomfort and related injuries transformed into a passion for finding the right riding position. The improvement he experienced after his first professional bike fit inspired a career change from economics to bikes, fuelling a quest to help others unlock the joy of cycling.