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CycleOps Mag Trainer, one of our winter (best) friends

So, the clocks have just gone back, winter is coming and although the sun now rises earlier it will also set earlier, and earlier and earlier…

It’s also becoming grey, wet, windy and gloomy, I don’t know about anyone else, but I don’t feel safe riding on roads in winter, in particular on the narrow lanes in the Gower peninsula. Of course there is mountain biking, and I’ll sure be doing plenty of this but sometimes getting dressed in onion layers to go out in the wet, chill and mud then spending hours cleaning and drying just doesn’t appeal. Oh, and it’s not on the mountain bike that you’ll be practising the old aero position…

Two winters ago we made a big investment that changed our lives. My awsome other half spent quite a lot of time researching the pros and cons of different home trainers and rollers. Having watched countless entertaining youtube videos of people falling or jumping off rollers, in the end, we decided to go for a brand new CycleOps Mag trainer. The choice possibly encouraged by Bike Radar’s review and the obviously very competitive value for money offered.

P1040056When it arrived, we liked the sexy box and logo, which looks a bit like a zen enso. We wondered whether it’s supposed to be a reminder that you need to be a zen master of sorts to spend hours on the home trainer.


Like birds taking turns to sit on their precious eggs, we’ve been on it ever since and although we haven’t yet reached (Tacx) Satori, it’s been a very good winter training friend. Thanks to it we got ready for two full Ironman, four half Ironman, one crazy iron distance road sportive and the Alpe d’Huez long distance triathlon. Without a doubt, it’s also allowed us to retain our fitness goals so that we could enjoy our winter mountain biking!

P1060491

Cold day in the pain cave

It’s main drawback? It’s alone! So when training loads became more intense we evolved our own internal booking system where we both had to take turns for some sweaty hours in the pain cave. Why isn’t there a tandem version?

It’s hidden advantage? You wouldn’t believe how much good a home trainer can do to one’s general culture. While training for the Alpe d’Huez, I found the time to finally watch some amazing – but long – films that I’d not got round to discovering such as Mission, the Hobbit trilogy and other Hollywood classics. I also managed to brush-up on:

  • history, ancient Greece, the Ottoman empire, Vlad the Impaler and I’ve even become an expert of all past Ironman world championships
  • the natural world as I managed to catch up on the latest prehistorical and evolutionary discoveries and enjoy all of Spineless Si’s ups and down’s as BBC’s spring watch broadcast his struggle to pass on his genes…
  • learn a lot about various essentials of life through countless TEDtalks

Mr Tiger also likes to add “sent from my home-trainers” to emails sent while in the pain cave…

But what about the machine itself? I discovered at the end of my second winter using it that it’s actually got 5 different levels of resistance on it, which are adjusted via a dial near the rolling part, my sneaky other half had put it on the hardest setting from the start and I never knew better, so the first 3 or 4 levels must be pretty easy. We did buy a remote shifter that enables you to shift the resistance from the handlebars rather than at the knob but still, it would be nice to have the option of going harder for some sessions. Incidentally, CycleOps sells the Mag trainer bundled with the remote shifter under the name Mag+ but you can always by the standard Mag trainer and upgrade later as we did.

Of course you can always increase resistance by having the (rear) brake on all the time, as recommended by Brett Sutton. Simple and efficient, I like it! Only I don’t have too many wheels to play with so decided not to “kill” my rims by doing this, one day maybe.

We didn’t buy any other extras than the remote shifter, yes there are some mats to absorb sweat and movements and yes there are some front wheel blocks. We went for the recycling option and here is a list of our tried and tested budget home trainer kit:

  • old spare metal skewer to fix the rear wheel, as an extra to the one that was already included in the box so that we can have “his” and “her” skewer
  • stack of old magasines instead of purpose-built riser block (magasines – 220 triathlon – still going strong after two years)
  • old piece of carpet under the unit to stop it rattling and moving too much, we’ve since replaced it with thick cardboard as the carpet started smelling, really bad (note: after a few hours we noticed that the bike and unit will move forward a bit, trying to escape maybe)
  • old tyres to use on the trainer in conjunction with either an old slightly warped Easton wheel or a commuting wheel

Upgrades I’d like to implement quickly:

  • a home-trainer specific rear wheel to save the hassle of switching wheels and skewers every time I commute then jump on the home-trainer (daily)
  • a home-trainer specific tyre on that wheel because, yes, it’s possible to get a fla
    t on a home-trainer, it’s happened to us a few times!
  • a home-trainer specific crankset (not using the tri bike in winter anyway so might as well change it all) to increase resistance as I’ve found my road set up doesn’t translate as well
    o static riding
  • possibly a second trainer, to save queuing, in that case we’d be looking at a fluid rather than magnetic resistance
P1040460

The view from my desk…

And what about the noise? It’s never been an issue: we always have headphones on and have no neighbours…

Our conclusion: the name home trainer says it all, it is not the same as outdoor training. Although being static will easily enable you to tweak your position, which is a valuable side, there is no way you can replicate going up a hill or handling your bike on this machine, so if you’re going to race outdoor, make sure that you also train outside sometimes…

P1070744

This is why we do it!

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This entry was posted on November 4, 2015 by in TWEx Toys and tagged , , .

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