Back in December 2021, a video came across my feed that I could not stop watching. In it, you can see Brian Duffy, Jr. preparing for the sprint at the end of a Zwift race.
The bottom left-hand corner of the screen shows Brian in real life as he locks his hands onto the hoods and waits until 1000 feet to go before unleashing his finishing kick. And then, slowly but surely, he begins exiting the screen. I'm not talking about the Zwift screen, or his avatar in Zwift; I'm talking about Brian in real life, moving pedal stroke by pedal stroke, out of the camera frame, whilst riding a bike that's supposed to be stationary. You can watch it here (opens in new tab).
Duffy, Jr. was sprinting so hard that he was lifting his indoor trainer off the ground with each and every pedal stroke, bouncing it forward until it crashed into the desk in front of him. Needless to say, some changes needed to be made; and a few months later, Duffy, Jr. showed off his custom trainer platform in a video posted by his Zwift racing team, NeXT eSport pb Enshored.
Duffy, Jr. and his team are leading the Zwift Racing League Premier Division heading into the season's final round on Monday, which will be broadcast live on GCN, whilst Duffy Jr. is also preparing for the 2022 UCI Cycling eSport World Championships on 26 February where he will be representing Team USA.
These quick videos posted to Instagram only scratched the surface of the genius and clever ingenuity behind Duffy, Jr.'s pain cave in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. In this article, we're going to take a much closer look at his pain cave, from the custom trainer platform, to the crash-saving straps, and the clean livestream set-up.
The pièce de résistance of Duffy, Jr.'s pain cave is the custom trainer platform that he built with his father. This platform is quite the engineering feat, as it completely anchors down each end of the trainer, keeping it steady as he wrenches on the handlebars.
You can also spot the Elgato Collapsible green screen housed just behind the rear of the trainer, which Duffy, Jr. uses for livestreaming to create a more immersive view of him riding in Zwift.
Duffy, Jr. and his father sketched out the custom trainer platform beforehand, making sure to be very precise in their measurements and using premium wood from Home Depot. They even tested out different bracket options specifically designed for the Saris H3 smart trainer. It all began with a drawing and a few planks of wood.
In the next two weeks, Duffy, Jr. will be altering his set-up to accommodate the Wahoo Kickr V5 which Zwift has supplied for the UCI Cycling eSport World Championships. His current set-up is custom built and cut to fit a Saris H3, so he'll have to use a temporary solution for the World Championships. That temporary solution, he tells us, is a few 50-pound sandbags draped over each leg of the Wahoo Kickr which (hopefully) will keep it from moving during a sprint.
Even the front wheel holder is bolted into the trainer platform, ensuring that Duffy, Jr. won't be going anywhere, no matter how hard he pulls on the handlebars of his Canyon Ultimate Disc.
I bet you've never thought of what tyre pressure you run on the trainer, but Duffy, Jr. runs an extremely low pressure that allows him to slightly bounce and flex the front wheel when he sprints. Just that little bit of leverage could be the difference at the end of a Zwift race, when the margin between first and second is often less than one-tenth of a second.
A Wahoo Kickr desk provides the platform for food, water, remotes, and anything else that Duffy, Jr. needs in arm's reach while on the bike. The adjustable platform can be moved, raised, or lowered, which comes in handy when Duffy, Jr. switches smart trainers to try out a new set-up.
The NeXT eSport pb Enshored wallpaper and banners are from 4imprint, and cover the entire front wall of the pain cave.
In front of his bike, Duffy, Jr. has a TV set up at the perfect height so that he doesn't have to crane or strain his neck while watching for 200m to go. He even has a ring light for improved lighting when streaming his races online, and a few different extension cords so that he can capture his riding from multiple angles.
Duffy, Jr. uses Logitech HD webcams for live streaming on his YouTube channel, as well as connecting to the GCN broadcast during Zwift Racing League races.
A Dell gaming laptop powers Zwift and OBS, the livestreaming platform used by Duffy, Jr. and many of his NeXT eSport pb Enshored teammates. A second laptop is used for multiple streams, such as in the case of Zwift Premier League races when Duffy, Jr. streams to his own YouTube channel as well as streaming to the Zoom call broadcast by GCN.
To further improve lighting, Duffy, Jr. uses three-panel LED Garage Lights from Costco. He even custom configured a Cat 6 Ethernet cord to run through the walls so that he can connect it directly to his laptop, forgoing Wi-Fi for a stronger internet connection.
Anyone who has ever ridden an indoor trainer before knows how important it is to have a fan for cooling purposes, and Duffy, Jr. has a Lasko 20-inch High Velocity fan that works as both a wall-mounted fan or a simple floor fan.
Duffy, Jr.'s pain cave is built for more than just bikes and next to his indoor trainer is a yoga mat, padded flooring, exercise balls and a variety of other strength training and exercise equipment. What began as an unfinished basement has now been transformed into a clean, and professional-looking pain cave fit for an elite indoor cyclist.
The custom trainer platform and heavy-duty straps are unlike anything we have ever seen, but it gets the job done and keeps Duffy, Jr. in one place when he hits 1,200 watts. As Duffy, Jr. continues his preparation for the UCI Cycling eSport World Championships in less than three weeks time, he can sprint with confidence that his indoor trainer isn't going anywhere.
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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.