The Pros and Cons of Turbo Training

The turbo trainer can be a brilliant training tool. Let’s talk about how to make the most of indoor riding in preparation for the Haute Route.

Joe Staunton of Ceyreste Performance is a cycling coach and performance nutritionist and has put together his top advantages and disadvantages of turbo training when preparing for the worlds best amateur cycling race.

Advantages of turbo training:

1. Efficiency

One of the biggest benefits of having a home trainer set up is how time effective it makes riding, especially if you are time crunched. It is considerably quicker to prepare for an indoor ride than an outdoor one; sometimes it can feel like getting ready for a northern hemisphere winter ride takes longer than the ride itself! And they require less ride admin too. No deep bike cleaning and less kit washing. If you live in a busy area where you often need to ride some distance to get to suitable training roads, the turbo lets you focus on your session, potentially increasing training quality. Consider swapping some outdoor rides for indoor ones to increase the quality of your workouts if you find that it suffers as a result of location or ride admin.

2. Heat adaptation

A performance benefit that you can achieve very easily on the turbo, which may be very difficult if you live in a cold climate, is heat adaptation. Exposure to heat can enhance some of the endurance adaptations that you are looking to achieve from your training, like making more blood plasma to carry oxygenated red blood cells to your muscles (1). You can start to incorporate heat work into your training simply by turning off any fans you might usually use and progress to adding extra layers at the end of training sessions for 20 minutes when you have finished any intervals or intense riding for the session. Haute Route events take place in a wide variety of conditions, but if heat is one you may encounter, some specific preparation will make the day itself that little bit easier. Two or three hot easy 30/-45 minutes sessions a week, a couple of weeks out from your event will go a long way in preparing your body’s ability to cool whilst working at higher temperatures than normal (2).

3. Climb simulation

If you don’t live in a hilly or mountainous area the turbo can provide a great alternative for conditioning your climbing legs. When we climb, inertia is lower, gravity rather than wind resistance takes over as the main limiter on your speed, and we start to pedal the bike differently. If you don’t include any time riding (or simulating riding) up hills in training, you will likely find that it takes you a while to get used to the sensation when you head out for your events. A low-tech trick I have had my athletes do in the past is to replicate the gradient % of the climbs they are going to be tackling on the day by using a level app on their phone to bolster the front wheel up (with a cooking book or two…) which will replicate the gradient of climb they will be tackling on the day. If you have a fancy climb simulator as part of your trainer set up, you can leave the cooking books in the kitchen!

Disadvantages of turbo training

1. Duration

One of the potential setbacks for athletes that aim to achieve their training mostly on the turbo is the amount of volume you can accumulate. Some people are able to do long endurance rides indoors, but for many it can just be simply too boring, no matter how good the Netflix series is you are watching. There is no escaping the fact that for the Haute Route events, you are going to need to include some long rides of four, five, or more hours  within your training. These  are considerably easier mentally to do outside. If you are exclusively limited to the trainer, try mixing up your long indoor sessions into blocks with a focus in each (cadence, bike position etc) to help pass the time. And really double down on ensuring you are adequately cool and hydrated, as long indoor sessions have the potential to thoroughly dehydrate you.

2. Handling

The Haute Route events all take part on incredible roads. They are, however, all outside! It might seem obvious but in the current age of powerful data analytics, it can be easy to forget that riding a bike is a skill that needs refining. There is more to riding a bike fast than putting out a certain power output. Make sure you don’t ignore practising your cornering and group riding skills in your preparations.

3. Muscle recruitment

  • The static element of indoor riding can exacerbate cycling’s uni-directional nature. Outdoor riding activates slightly different muscle groups. Your body attempts to stabilise itself, account for varied road surfaces and terrains, and follow where you are looking. When training on the turbo remember to include periods of time in and out of the saddle. And position any screens at a level that keeps your head in a similar position to what it would be outside for looking ahead down the road.

Enjoyed these tips? Follow @ceyresteperformance for more training tips and tricks or get in touch with for training help.


1 – Hawley JA, Lundby C, Cotter JD, Burke LM. Maximizing Cellular Adaptation to Endurance Exercise in Skeletal Muscle. Cell Metab. 2018 May 1;27(5):962-976. doi: 10.1016/j.cmet.2018.04.014. PMID: 29719234.

2 – Guy JH, Pyne DB, Deakin GB, Miller CM, Edwards AM. Acclimation Training Improves Endurance Cycling Performance in the Heat without Inducing Endotoxemia. Front Physiol. 2016 Jul 29;7:318. doi: 10.3389/fphys.2016.00318. PMID: 27524970; PMCID: PMC4965461.