Etiquette of the turbo cave

I think yesterday, the day of the apocalyptic rain, was the most turbo rides I’ve seen pop up on my strava feed for a long time.

Although it’s horrible, I’m a strong advocate of training on the turbo, and use mine all year long. For doing focussed and controlled efforts, it can’t be beaten; and, in an hour, you certainly get bang for your buck.

The cave

Here’s the etiquette to be followed to survive a trip to the turbo cave.


Have a plan

If you’re going to put yourself through a turbo session, make sure it’s not aimless. Have a workout planned, and stick to it. And make sure you’ve got something to gauge your effort; ideally a powermeter, or something like the virtual power that software like trainerroad provides. This will make sure that you aren’t just aimlessly spinning, fooling yourself that you’ve been putting out 350W for the last hour.

Basically, if you’re going to enter the cave, you want to make sure you come back out of it and have actually achieved something.

Have a lot of bidons

You will sweat. A lot.

Have a fan / window

I only have the latter unfortunately. This is thrown wide open for the duration of the workout. I like to think that the feel of catching the occasional splatters of rain or draft of wind simulates the outdoors more effectively (nothing to do with me constantly forgetting to buy a fan).

Have a towel

No matter how good your fan or no matter how big your window, you will be sweating. A lot. I heard Sean Kelly say on a Eurosport commentary (that I was watching on the turbo, ironically enough), that having cool wrists and ankles really helps cool you off – he’s right. I’ve heard he knows a thing or two about cycling. A wipe of your sodden wrists makes a surprising difference.

Have multiple sources of entertainment

As the cave’s pain takes its grip on the legs and head, I find that I need different sources of stimuli to keep my mind off it. My choices seem to follow a pattern:

  • The early stages – Whilst I’m feeling strong and mentally fresh, TV re-runs are good. They must be mindless. The Simpsons is a good’n. I lack the concentration for the latest episode of Newsnight or The Marr Show, my usual kinds of viewing (honest), so something punchy and amusing wins.
  • Midway – When the suffering is starting to set in, the recordings of old races on my sky box are wheeled out. Identifying with the pain of the pros makes it a little easier, and can be inspiring. The closing stages of classics are good. As are, for me at least, climbs on grand tours, especially ones where it’s kicking off. DO NOT EVER watch a sprint stage on the turbo (and to be honest, any other time).
  • The home straight – When in the true depths of torture, music is required. This tends to come for me towards the end of the session or when doing shorter more intense efforts. Aggressive and energetic tunes required here. This is not a time for Isis or Cult of Luna.
It’s ok, Homer has been to the pain cave too

Be prepared to be dissapointed

Most riders I’ve spoken to who frequently enter the cave note that they can’t put out the same kind of power on the turbo as they can outdoors, and I find this to be true. I reckon there’s around a 5% difference for me.

So, when you go to look at your power towards the end of an interval (particularly a longer one), be prepared to experience that little crushing feeling that you get when you feel like you’ve been putting the hammer down like Team Sky pacing back the breakaway, but in actuality you’re just the lantern rouge.

There’s a really good article exploring the whys and wherefores of the power differenetials here:

(Sorry to pick on you Johan)
(Sorry to pick on you Johan)

Ride in a position you ride in outdoors

Riding on a turbo doesn’t always feel that natural, and it’s tempting to sit on the tops in a more relaxed position that offers a better viewing of your recording of the latest Great British Bake Off (you know it’’s true). It you ride mostly on the hoods when outdoors, try to mimic this when in the cave.


Have a visible timer

Time is your enemy when in the cave. Don’t humour her. Turn off any timers or clocks on your garmin, and ensure that any clocks in the room are hidden. The more often you check the time, the more it will slow down.

Eat / use energy drink on the turbo

We all know that you’re not allowed to eat of use carb drinks for rides less than two hours. That would be silly. If you do turbo sessions longer than two hours, you have earnt the right to do whatever you want, whenever you want as you’re probably a lunatic.

Have anyone else in the flat

Although you think you look like an image of discipline and power, with the aero position of sir Brad Wiggins, and hollow tortured look of a Rapha model, you’re actually just a very sweaty man in bib shorts grunting and rocking away in front of a TV. This is not something that should be casually observed by a housemate.

Furthermore, solitude prevents someone wondering in demanding that you go and get some milk because you drank all theirs last night when you’re in the darkest recesses of the cave.


2014 Vulta a España: Stage 14


Which of Fabio’s masterful gurns is most similar to your turbo face?

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