Winter bike training has a bit of a poor reputation. Hours of spinning on the trainer don’t tend to be particularly enjoyable. However, with the advent of Netflix, smart trainers, and now Zwift, the experience has certainly improved significantly. Add to this various spin studios and triathlon-specific group spinning and winters can be a great opportunity to see gains on the bike, rather than just trying to maintain fitness.
In addition to gaining strength and endurance, the indoor spin is a great opportunity to work on your bike position. Because it’s a controlled environment, it’s easy to hop on and off to try different adjustments rather than being 40km from home when you decide your saddle position is all wrong. Whether you ride a triathlon specific bike or a road bike, there are a lot of adjustments to make around you feet (cleat position, crank length), seat (height, angle, fore/aft position), and bars (stem length, bar height, angle, aero bar position in every dimension).
There are three goals for bike position: comfort, power, and aerodynamics. When it comes to aerodynamics, more important than any bike design of fancy equipment is your riding position. In the image below you can see the difference between being on the tops, on the hoods, in a simulated time trial position, and in the drops. The biggest force you must overcome with the power of your legs is your body hitting air resistance, and you can see how position can drastically alter the amount of air resistance encountered.
However, a relatively extreme position like the bottom right in the drops is only going to be effective if it is also well dialed in for comfort. For me, this included a change to the stem, saddle, seat height, and seat fore/aft position. That’s a lot of finessing and the trainer is the perfect way to do this. Living in a northern region, I still have another 1.5 months of indoor riding to finalize this position, get used to it, and make any tweaks before hitting the road.
For many who purchase a new tri bike, your fitter (if a fit comes with the sale of the bike, which these days it should) will likely start you in a relatively relaxed position. Talk to your fitter about how to start making this position more aerodynamic bit-by-bit, and now is the time to do so. Take advantage of hours on the trainer to make your race-day position as powerful, comfortable, and aerodynamic as possible. This is a great investment of off-season time.