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Pro Pain Cave: Kristen Kulchinsky and her portable indoor set-up

Kristen Kulchinsky's pain cave set-up
(Image credit: Kristen Kulchinsky)

Kristen Kulchinsky is a special type of rider. The American has been the number one ranked rider on ZwiftPower, won a stage in the Zwift Racing League - Women's Premier Division, and done a virtual Everesting on Zwift. She also once rode 100 miles on Zwift every day for the entire Christmas week. 

Kulchinsky is one of the favourites heading into this weekend's UCI Cycling eSports World Championships on Zwift, which finishes on a steep climb that will suit the lightweight American who finished the last race of this season's ZRL a close second behind current World Champion Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio on Watopia's steep Reverse Epic KOM. 

She has come along way since starting cycling just a few years ago. The COVID-19 pandemic kickstarted her Zwift racing career, and soon an opportunity came with Virginia's Blue Ridge Twenty 24 team. This new team helped Kulchinsky get acquainted with the strict rules of eRacing, while also giving her opportunities to race in the Women's Premier Division. 

According to the New York native, "that’s where my pain cave started to take shape, making sure I had all the proper equipment for the upcoming Premier Division which included dual recording, Zoom calls, OBS streaming, performance verification by ZADA {Zwift's own anti-doping agency}, weigh-ins, and height videos!”

Though Kulchinsky claims to have a simple set-up, it is a lot more interesting than it first seems. In the last two years she has had five different pain cave set-ups, and now has both a pain cave and a 'Zwift house' - in two different cities. 

Kulchinsky currently lives in Montauk, New York, a village situated at the far east end of the Long Island peninsula. In short, the internet there is terrible. For casual weekday races, Kulchinsky actually uses cellular data in Montauk. She even tried hard wiring her computer, connecting the Wi-Fi to the computer, but even that didn't work. 

“Due to the internet being so unreliable in Montauk, I actually 'travel' to my big races where my sister has so generously allowed me the use of her house in East Hampton {New York} where the internet is more reliable,” said Kulchinsky. 

That's why Kulchinsky's set-up is completely portable. Set it up of pack it down, the entire process takes a matter of minutes. 

(Image credit: Kristen Kulchinsky)

Kulchinsky rides her Twenty 24 team bike, a Felt FR Disc, with SRAM components, and a Quarq crank-based power meter which she uses for dual recording. The American usually rides a Wahoo Kickr direct drive smart trainer, and right now she is on the Wahoo Kickr V5 supplied for the UCI Cycling eSports World Championships.

To stay cool during races, Kulchinsky uses at leats one powerful fan, though often adds more depending on the conditions. In this set-up, she has a Wahoo Kickr Headwind situated on the floor just behind her (does that make it a Wahoo Tailwind?).

(Image credit: Kristen Kulchinsky )

Kulchinsky doesn't have a fancy, purpose-built trainer desk, and instead uses a high desk from around the house. She also uses a Wahoo Elemnt Roam head unit to track her cadence, heart rate, and power data, connecting it to her Quarq for those all-important dual recordings.

Kulchinsky uses Apple noise-cancelling wireless AirPods, and is on Discord each race talking with her teammates. Sometimes, she has a UE boom portable speaker to listen to music during training, and for her “pre-race dance pump up" which also includes a leg-lathering of Amp Human PR Lotion.

With all the travel, changes, and moves for races, it can be hard for Kulchinsky to maintain a perfect and comfortable setup. And that’s why she says that the most important constant between all the moves is her number one fan, Moscow, her 14 and a half year-old Shiba Inu.

(Image credit: Kristen Kulchinsky)

Kulchinsky runs Zwift on an Apple MacBook Pro, and uses an iPad for the Zoom calls which stream to GCN during Premier Division races. 

On the desk to her right is extra shoes, Skratch Labs nutrition, a Hyperice Hypervolt massage gun, and a ring light which she also uses for streaming. Kulchinsky said, “My sister told me I needed a ring light, so that’s a new addition to the pain cave, although I keep it off most times because it distracts me. But it’s great for post-race interviews!”

To Kulchinsky's left is a barstool where she keeps her drinks and nutrition; on this day, a tall glass bottle of San Pellegrino. 

Kulchinsky's entire set-up is easy and portable, which makes it much more appealing to the average Zwifter who doesn't have an entire room to dedicate to their pain cave. As she readies for the UCI eSports World Championships this Saturday, Kulchinsky reflected on her journey in Zwift:

“I’ve always been very into Zwift. I was introduced to it four years ago, but it was during the height of the pandemic that I was told by my best friend to start racing because so many elite and pro women were now on the platform. It was honestly one of the best things to come into my life.”

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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.