Coach, how should I transition training from indoor to outdoor riding?

Swen wrote to me on ICU and said

Speech BalloonI am a big fan of you and your experience and research in cycling. I have been riding structured training with polarised model indoors for a few months. My progress is good but after the winter training on the smart trainer I am struggling to ride and train outside. Any advice?”

So today let’s look at transitioning outdoors after a long winter! Begin by asking what is different about outside? Well it’s a chaotic environment open to the traffic, weather and terrain. Essentially going outdoors means you need to ride with higher variability (high VI) than you are used to indoors, and outdoors has natural starts/stops/interruptions which means effectively outdoors you are riding a form of intervals all the time. This is why it’s best not to ride indoors all the time when training for an outdoor event, even though zwift and RGT have done an excellent job of translating some courses into indoors. Ultimately the way the smart trainer applies the resistance is different to the real world, close, but not the same (see

Here then are my ten tips for going outside

1 Start gradually

Pick up outdoors gradually, pick a short ride, maybe with friends, on a nice day, close to home. That way outdoors will seem less daunting

2 Get Kitted Up

In early spring, dress for the occasion, I would advise on bib tights, long sleeve jersey, gloves and helmet liner. Actually this is what I wear all year around 😉

3 Check Your Bike

Make sure it is in good condition especially the chain and tires! Go with slightly lower/softer tires to make things more comfortable

4 Safety First

Take your mobile, a repair kit and daytime running lights. Ride at a quite time, maybe on weekends on a quieter route

5 Think Position

Another tip is to get stricter on your position indoors because watts/cda is very important outdoors and position can get a little casual indoors

6 Put away the power meter

At first, just ride for fun, then on distance, and lastly on power. Don’t worry about power or KoMs for a while, after all it still a bit cold out!

7 Transition Training Indoors

Keep riding indoors, but slowly prepare yourself for outdoors by doing more simulation efforts. When indoors one thing you can do to train ready for outdoors is to do variety of above threshold (z5) intervals and then fall back to z3 tempo…..effectively mimicking outdoor requirements.

8 Weight Watchers

Remember to watch your weight indoors at the end of the off season, because w/kg is also important outdoors!

9 Continue to Ride Base or Polarized Outdoors

If you have been riding polarized then continue. Initially ride polarized intensity or base intensity on shorter outdoor training rides (eg 30,45 mins) and then add longer rides and then add climbs and then HIT efforts outdoors. After a month outdoors will be warmer and easier

10 Hydration and Nutrition

Outdoors you need to pay more attention to nutrition, because your kitchen is not 10 steps away! So take a sensible snack and drink (or cash)

and 11 Continue your training plan

Outdoors can be a challenge in terms of following structured training, but it is not impossible. As long as the overall ride matches the intensity and duration prescribed that is probably good enough initially. Also you don’t need to dump indoors, you can continue with a mix throughout the year if you like

Toughening up for going outside?

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