Five space-saving tips for indoor cycling setups
How to get the most out of a tight training area
With a big house and plenty of space, setting up an indoor cycling space is simple: just pick a room and begin building your pain cave. But for those of us that don’t have that luxury (and extra square footage), we’re often forced to squeeze our training space next to the coffee table, under the desk, or somewhere in the bedroom. I’ve even heard of riders setting up their trainers in the kitchen or in the bathroom to save space.
Setting up an indoor training space can feel like a three-dimensional game of Tetris – you have to fit this under there, with enough room to hang this over there, and for this to fit under there and… oh, I forgot to leave space for me.
In light of the winter weather upon us, we’re going to give you five tips for making the most out of your indoor training space. These tips will help you organise your indoor cycling setup with plenty of room to keep it fun and enjoyable. Let’s start with the space itself.
Dedicated indoor cycling space
Claiming your own indoor cycling space is one of the most underrated aspects of a great pain cave. While it may seem clever to share a workspace with your training space (“look at all the room I’m saving by having them both here!”), the novelty will quickly wear off as the annoyances creep in.
If you have to set up your trainer, attach your bike, and move all of your equipment to your training space for every single indoor ride, you will soon find yourself coming up with excuses not to ride. Like laying out your work clothes before you go to bed, it is so much easier to get through your day when your equipment is already set up and ready to go. When your bike is sitting there, ready to be ridden, you are going to be much more excited to kit up and jump on, and your hour-long ride won't be bookended by 20 minutes of pre-ride preparation and post-ride tidying.
No matter how small or cramped your indoor cycling space is, if you can make it work, it is better to leave it intact than to take it down and set it up every time you ride. Dedicate a corner to your indoor trainer and you will enjoy your indoor cycling so much more.
Don’t be afraid to go outside (in a way)
The term “indoor cycling setup” is a bit misleading because you don’t actually need to ride your trainer indoors. Some trainers don’t need to be plugged into a power source either, which means that you can basically ride them anywhere. Hotel, parking lot, garage, patio, or up on the rooftop.
Some of the best “indoor” cycling setups I’ve seen use an indoor/outdoor combination by placing the trainer in a garage or on a covered patio. These setups protect you from the elements, while still freeing up space in the house, and exposing you to the fresh outdoor air.
Confining yourself to the indoors severely limits your training space, while going outside opens up so many more options. Depending on the weather, you can set up your trainer outside as long as you can find a level area of the floor. Most modern trainers have adjustable feet too, which will allow you to balance your trainer on slightly uneven surfaces.
Riding a trainer outdoors might not be the best setup for some, but it has a number of unique benefits. Outdoors is likely to be cooler than indoors, and even when you do start to sweat, you don’t need to worry about ruining the carpet or hardwood. The noise of the trainer won’t be enough to disturb any outdoor neighbours either, plus the house will remain quieter with you outside. And of course, you will get to enjoy the fresh air, natural breeze, and the sounds and views of nature from the comfort of the indoor trainer.
Use a desk, but it doesn’t have to be fancy
A trainer desk is another game-changing piece of equipment for your indoor cycling setup. Desks give you somewhere to store your phone, laptop, monitors, water bottles, remotes, and other devices, all within arm’s reach of the trainer. Without a desk, you would have to keep your things on the floor or in your jersey pockets, neither of which are ideal.
Trainer desks from Wahoo and Tacx are purpose-built for indoor cycling, which means that they will be height-adjustable, have an anti-slip surface, and have integrated grooves and holders for remotes and water bottles. These desks are the best in the business, but it also means they cost a premium.
For simpler solutions, look for a basic table-like option online. High tables, ironing boards, TV trays, and barstools will all work. Anything that puts your devices, bottles, and towels within arm’s reach is a great investment towards your indoor cycling setup.
If you're extremely tight for space, you can even use surfaces that already exist in your home, such as shelves, kitchen worktops or dining tables.
Not all of your tables, devices, trays, and accessories have to be planted on the floor. When your floor space is limited, there are only so many feet that you can have crossing over each other before your floor becomes an entangled mess.
Instead, start mounting things on the wall. Your TV or entertainment device is one of the biggest – and I say one of the most important – aspects of your indoor cycling setup. Mounting your TV to the wall saves a huge amount of space, and it looks great too.
We’ve all heard that fans are another crucial aspect of our indoor training setup, but they take up lots of space. They will either have wide feet or take up space on your desk, but you can mount those on the wall too.
Having fans mounted on the wall is a game-changer in terms of both comfort and saving space. Fans – especially the bulky ones that you can (and should) use for indoor cycling – can take up a lot of space, but having them mounted to the wall means they are closer to your body, easier to reach, and save space in the process.
Hooks, pulleys, shelves, and winches
Our final suggestion is a pro tip from serious indoor cyclists. For those with a dedicated indoor training space, wall mounts can be extended far past the television alone. Hooks and shelves can be put into the wall to hold more of the essentials. You can hang your shoes, kit and towels from hooks on the wall, which are great for storage in a tight indoor training space.
If you are able to drill into the wall next to your indoor trainer, the possibilities are even greater. With just a few screws, you can mount shelves and fans right next to your training space. Like a trainer desk, you can store anything that you need within arm’s reach on a shelf, from the TV remote to your phone and spare water bottles.
Our final pro tip is to use pulleys and winches to hang things from your ceiling (if it's high enough). Some of you may have your indoor cycling space set up in a basement, or somewhere with exposed beams in the ceiling. They may be an eyesore to some, but these strong and reinforced slabs of wood are perfect for hanging extra tools and kit from your ceiling. The biggest limiter to your indoor cycling area is floor space – your bike and trainer take up the majority of the room, and after that, there’s nowhere to go but up.
Mounting as much as you can on the walls is a great start, but hanging things from the ceiling will take it to a whole new level. Use pulleys and winches to raise extra bags, kits, and towels into the ceiling, ready to be lowered in a matter of seconds.
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Zach is a freelance writer, the head of ZNehr Coaching, and an elite-level rider in road, track, and e-racing. He writes about everything cycling-related, from buyer's guides to product reviews and feature articles to power analyses. After earning a Bachelor’s Degree in Exercise Science at Marian University-Indianapolis, Zach discovered a passion for writing that soon turned into a full-fledged career. In between articles, Zach spends his time working with endurance athletes of all abilities and ages at ZNehr Coaching. After entering the sport at age 17, Zach went on to have a wonderful road racing career that included winning the 2017 Collegiate National Time Trial Championships and a 9th place finish at the 2019 US Pro National Time Trial Championships. Nowadays, Zach spends most of his ride time indoors with NeXT eSport.