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TrainerRoad: your ultimate guide

(Image credit: TrainerRoad)

What is TrainerRoad and how does it work?

TrainerRoad is an app and online training tool, focussed on workouts, results and performance designed primarily for indoor cycling. It differs from the likes of Zwift in that it's purely focussed on those fitness gains rather than having a big social or racing component.

TrainerRoad as a brand provides an ecosystem of training tools focussed on the idea that training without structure isn't training at all, and that indoor training helps provide that structure without distraction - although workouts can be pushed to the majority of the best cycling computers

There is an app for smartphones, tablets and desktops, as well as a website based account which provides the planning and analysis features. On the free side of the paywall, there is a highly active forum and a weekly podcast in which coach Chad takes a deep dive into the science to answer the cycling community's training questions. 

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Recently, TrainerRoad introduced a new feature in response to the COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic and subsequent self-isolation measures.

TrainerRoad's Group Workout feature allows groups of up to 11 (recently increased from five) riders take on the same workout concurrently, with a group video chat added to the mix.

The feature was initially launched on the 30th March, before a ramp test was added to the fold, resulting in the to option to tackle the fitness test with the extra motivation that riding with friends will provide.   

On the TrainerRoad website, there's an array of additional features that should make TrainerRoad a one-stop-shop for athletes chasing performance. It was the first of the indoor cycling apps to offer FTP training and features over 2,000 workouts in its catalogue.

A custom Plan Builder allows you to plan your season as a whole, taking into account the time you have until your 'A' event, and the type of event you're training for. It can incorporate pre-planned time off the bike such as work trips or holidays and is adaptive to interruptions such as illnesses.

The workout analysis feature offers a compare tool, to see how your latest workout's numbers stack up against your personal records (from a chosen season or all-time), and there's also an interval search function, which allows you to easily analyse your ride even if you forgot to lap your intervals correctly (or for fun, see how many times you hit 700 watts in your latest criterium). 

How much is TrainerRoad?

TrainerRoad is currently $189 (£153.70) for a 12-month subscription, or $19.95 (£16.22) if you want to go month-by-month.

There's no free trial, but there is a certain amount you can do before you hit the paywall - such as create your training plan - and the 100 per cent satisfaction guarantee means that you can claim your money back in the first 30 days if the app isn't for you.

How to get started

TrainerRoad probably isn't the indoor cycling app for you if you want to quickly plug and play on intermittent occasions, as it has a strong focus on planning and building for the longer term with consistency being the key. The TrainerRoad desktop app is easy to get to grips with, though.

After linking up with your turbo trainer or power meter, you'll undergo a ramp test, and after that, you can get stuck into intervals, which will be tailored to your level of fitness. 

There are pre-set workouts which can help you get up and running in no time, or you can spend plenty of time tinkering with plans and workouts in order to find - or create - the perfect plan for you. 

What equipment do I need?

As with most other indoor cycling apps, you'll need a Mac, Windows, iOS, Android or Apple TV device for use as a screen.

You can use TrainerRoad with any of our best turbo trainers, best power meters or even just a simple trainer with a heart rate monitor. With the first two, you'll obviously be able to use the integrated power meters, but with a non-smart trainer, you'll be using estimations instead. 

You can even follow a session based on RPE (Rate of Perceived Exertion), which allows you the structure of a specified training plan without the expense of the hardware. 

TrainerRoad uses Bluetooth and ANT+ to connect everything up via intermediate receiver. The app supports more than 200 devices, so there's certain to be something for you.

You can also link TrainerRoad with your Strava, Garmin Connect or TrainingPeaks accounts, so you can pool all of your rides and workouts in one place, keeping track of all your sessions and data.

All the courses and rides

This is where TrainerRoad differs from various other training apps, such as Rouvy or Zwift. There's no virtual worlds or videos of real-life courses and mountains to work your way through.

Instead, the training is more analytical and goal-based, via interval or base sessions and the like. When you factor in the possibility to customise your own training plans, then there's pretty much an unlimited range of kilometres to put in.

That's not to say that you're just stuck looking at graphs and numbers though – you can minimise all the data to the periphery while you watch your own movie or switch on Netflix instead. Whereas many competitors cease to operate once the app is minimised, TrainerRoad will continue to control your trainer (in erg mode) while you lose yourself in Toy Story 4 on Disney+

And finally, while it may not be relevant at the moment, there's also the option to convert your TrainerRoad session to an outside workout and sync it with your head unit when you get out in the great outdoors. If you have a Garmin or Wahoo cycling computer then you can follow your pre-planned workout as you ride. Something to look forward to for the end of lockdown, then.