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I started in the garage with an ipad on a handlebar bracket with a basic smart trainer, and over the past few years have learned a few tricks by helping people setup their own "pain cave" as well as learning a few tricks on my own. Here's most of what I've learned that can help you navigate the process of putting together your own indoor trainer setup.
1. A good setup. Realize that the more engaging and convenient your setup is, the more you can just ride. When you are engaged properly, you can ride harder and longer than you ever thought possible in your spare room. Having your phone handy, earbuds that stay in place when they're sweaty, a bigger screen to fill more of your frame of view, a fan that keeps you cool, a full water bottle... These all play a role in keeping you focused and motivated, less distracted.
2. Are you a solo or group rider? Some people prefer the singular course video app like Fulgaz to ride by, others prefer riding with friends, or hopping on someone's tail in Zwift. Before you subscribe to one, try them both out (they both offer free tryouts). There are others, but these two are my favorites.
3. The Trainer. Direct drive trainers are quieter, easier to setup, and more realistic in their resistance. Highly recommended. If you're on a budget, the Vortex from Tacx is a good traditional smart trainer at $549AU. Direct drives start at the Tacx Flux S - $1049 - and go all the way up to the top level Neo 2 at $1899.
4. Your screen. An ipad handlebar bracket is NOT the answer. It shakes back & forth as you ride & gave me a 2-day headache from trying to stabilize the screen with my eyeballs. Ugh. A stable ipad floor bracket is a solid setup, but a TV is more engaging. A old 55" plasma from Gumtree is even better. Laptops on a table in front of you can work, but they;re not easy to get to if you want to pause, or change functions during the ride. I use an Apple TV ($209) hooked up to a TV, and my phone companion app. Works great.
5. Peripherals.These are the icing on the cake.
- Quadlock. I use a Quadlock phone case on a handlebar mount so I can use the in-app Zwift Companion app that allows me to do a lot of things like text nearby riders and zoom in on my map to see where I am going. I plug my earbuds in for some tunes as well.
- Spotify. I run the Spotify music app to some dance tunes to give me some extra base "oomph" when i need it.
- Sweat net. This handly piece saves your bike from buckets of nasty sweat. Murray in the workshop can tell you some stories about bikes we've cracked open after a mysterious squeak.
- Towel. Keep dry during the ride, you'll use it.
- Rubber mat. This keeps the trainer more quiet, allows you to clean up the sweat afterwards, and makes it safer to climb on & off the trainer.
- A Fan. You will overheat in a still room with no circulation, so you NEED a good fan. Turn it on higher than you think you need it when you get on to save yourself from getting off to turn it up during the ride. I recommend Vornado - look them up.
- Food and water. Water bottle and a banana or Clif bloks handy for 45min or longer rides.