The Art of Cycling: A Six-Step MasterClass

Part One: The Importance of Indoor Training and Mental Toughness

I’ll be sharing insights from my CIS Training Systems program “The Art of Cycling: A Six-Step MasterClass.” My goal is to help you train like the pros and do so properly – unlearning bad habits, breaking down mental barriers and practicing patience as your body strengthens. 

Today, I’ll cover two topics: indoor training and mental toughness. These are two “must do’s” prior to establishing a road map for success. 

The Importance of Indoor Training

Many cyclists say training indoors (riding on a trainer or rollers) is boring. They would rather ride outdoors all season. I can understand that. The feeling of slicing through the wind and soaking in fresh air is intoxicating! 

If I had $100 for every time someone complained to me that indoor training is boring, I could buy a private island in the South Pacific. OK, maybe not! 

Seriously, the benefits of indoor training far exceed the drawbacks. Indoor training can develop a myriad of cycling skills, not just on the bike. Here are some benefits to indoor cycling year-round, not just during the winter months or off-season.


I agree that riding in place for any length of time can become incredibly monotonous. But it forces you to focus on the task at hand. Focused intention on a trainer or rollers compels you to think about your pedal stroke and breathing patterns. You can listen to your breathing patterns and work to control them in an effort to reduce early fatigue – a technique that comes in handy during group rides, races or events when extreme focus and endurance are required for optimal performance.

Controlled Environment

You can control your effort and surroundings without the distractions of inclement weather, the traffic, flat tires and stop lights that can get in the way of a workout. It’s difficult, and often impossible for many, to perform a structured workout outdoors in constantly changing terrain and conditions.

Time Management

Given the huge demands on us from work, family and other responsibilities, indoor training ensures that you get the best workout in a limited amount of time. Unlike outdoors, you pedal on a trainer or rollers continuously, which optimizes efficiency over the duration of a workout. It’s just you and your bike, applying undivided attention to your heart rate, pedaling efficiency, power production (if you have a power meter) and exertion levels.

Quality vs. Quantity

A structured workout, with nonstop pedaling and no environmental distractions, allows for greater focus on your workout goals. You’re likely to gain more from a structured, precisely executed 60 minutes on a trainer or rollers than from an unstructured 60 minutes riding outside. As with most other things, quality is better than quantity!

Measurable Improvements

Since your indoor environment is always the same, it’s easy to track your workouts every week and see if you are improving, and if so, in what areas. 

Essential Items for Indoor Training: 

  • Cycling Kit: I can’t stress the importance of purchasing a comfortable, properly fitting and quality cycling bib, jersey and socks. Your cycling bib must be able to withstand the repetitive friction against the saddle. And because you’ll sweat A LOT, your gear should be made of quality moisture-wicking materials. 
  • Towel: Drape it over the frame (from the handlebars to the top tube) to protect it from sweat, which contains salt that can corrode bike components.
  • Fuel: Hydration is a MUST. Expect to drink more than you would outside.
  • Air: You will need to cool your body, in the front and back. Use fans (position one to blow against your face and chest, another to blow against your back). Also consider setting up near an open window.
  • Rubber mat: Important for catching the dripping sweat and reducing trainer or roller vibration (so you won’t wake your sleeping family members!).
  • Music: An absolute essential to keep your rhythm and motivation going.

Mental Toughness

Western philosophy typically addresses the mind and body as being separate from each other. I see the mind and body as interdependent parts of a whole. I believe all our attributes arise in the mind and manifest in the body. 

Achieving fitness and physical health come as a desire or need originating in the mind. We achieve our fitness or health goals through physical means. Peak performance and physical endurance, I believe, is the outcome of a mindset and then physical devotion to training regimes and protocols.

Your mind is your most powerful weapon in cycling, and it must be strengthened along with your body. Mental toughness can be improved by adopting a habitual belief in your abilities – on and off the bike. In cycling, developing the habit of mental toughness is critically important to overcoming physical discomfort. At work, it could be applied to a high-pressure assignment or delivering a keynote speech. The habit of mental toughness can help in any circumstance that pulls you outside your comfort zone. 

The mind finds the true limits of one’s body, and mental toughness enables one to push through the barriers that the body creates.

Positive Self-Image 

It’s a scientifically proven fact that a strong mental game produces self-confidence. When we hear that little voice in our heads say, “Stop! You can’t do this!” that is self-doubt. We must train ourselves to overcome it. Every time we push the pedals beyond self-doubt, we win! The more we win these incremental inner challenges, the more confidence we gain on the bike. 

Join me here when we explore Part Two: The Basics of Training with Heart Rate. In the meantime, in the words of the German cyclist Jens Voigt, “When my legs hurt, I say: ‘Shut up legs! Do what I tell you to do!”’

Coach David 

“The People’s Coach” 

Bicycling Magazine Membership Coach