If you are a devoted cyclist, than there is a chance that you have been bitten by the racing bug at one time or another. It’s inevitable that you will want go further, go faster and for longer periods of time. Most of us know going into it that we will never raise our arms crossing the line of an alpine stage of the Tour de France. Heck, most of us won’t raise our arms in victory crossing the line of our local parking lot training series, but that doesn’t stop us from pursuing fitness like it’s our second job. I have to admit that I am a bit of a recovering race-a-holic, I struggle daily not to let it consume my life again but the feeling of being completely fit in the summertime can be tough to resist.
Living in the Mid-Atlantic area means dealing with harsh winter weather. Rain and cold, snow and cold, ice and cold, the list goes on but all of it makes riding outside not quite as enjoyable as it should be. If you want to be ready for when the weather finally flips from bad to good then you will likely find yourself pedaling indoors on some sort of stationary device. For a long time, I would spend winter nights after work pedaling away to nowhere, first on a magnetic trainer and then later on rollers. Over the last few years, I have all but sworn off riding trainers indoors. I have given up on trying to be the fastest I can be and have accepted that cycling alone is enjoyable enough. The past couple of winters I have found myself riding outside in the inclement conditions less and less, and being completely out of shape when the warm weather shows up more and more. Desperate to not feel like all of the oxygen is being stolen from my body after 3-minute efforts I reconsidered my current stance on indoor trainers.
I had been seeing the Feedback Sports Omnium Portable Trainer around race courses and popping up on ads on various cycling websites so when asked if I would like to test one out I quickly obliged. My desire to be less out of shape and my curiosity that there might just be a trainer out there that could make this motionless pursuit more enjoyable made the decision easy.
First thing I noticed about the Omnium was the design and the ease of portability. It comes in its own little carrying bag, a great feature if you are someone who likes to take a trainer to an event for warming up or taking it on the road to sneak in workouts at the hotel. It’s also easy to store and put away. If you are like me and you live with non-cyclists, nothing bums them out more than having all of your cycling-related things everywhere.
The Omnium is also quiet, you can ride without interrupting the rest of your house. Gone are the days of noisy wind and magnet trainers that sound like a helicopter is landing on the roof of your house. Setting the bike up on the trainer is also super easy. The fork mounted stand accommodates just about every skewer and axle size available and comes ready with adapters. This means that you can ride all of your bikes on it if you so desire, mountain, road, whatever.
The small rollers where the back wheel sits rolls with the smoothness of high-end rollers but also offers the Internal Progressive Resistance feature, which means the harder you pedal the stronger the resistance. Once the bike is set up on the Omnium, it feels nice and sturdy, while riding out of the saddle there is no fear of coming loose or toppling over.
For $429, it is on par with most of the stationary trainers on the market these days. Though not technically a smart trainer you are still able to use online programs like Zwift, sufferfest etc., when using your own ANT+ compatible devices. If you are someone that is a borderline pro Zwifter, you may want to look into one of the direct drive trainers with built-in power and transmitter options. However, direct drive smart trainers also cost almost three times as much than the Omnium Portable Trainer.
The Omnium is perfect for someone who enjoys spending most of their time outside riding but doesn’t want to go dormant when the weather gets bad. It’s smooth pedaling feel is a welcome change compared to my old magnetic trainer and having the fork locked down means I can watch endless hours of Netflix while pedaling without the fear of flying off the rollers. Although spring is just around the corner, the weather is still pretty unpleasant around these parts. I’ll be sneaking in some regular sessions on my Omnium hoping to not get left for dead on the first official group rides of the spring.
By Jeffrey Stern
There are places across the globe where riding outside during the colder, darker, damper winter months is really no big deal. Those lucky enough to live in Mediterranean climates are only slightly affected by the changing of seasons; add a vest, arm warmers, knee warmers, thicker wool socks, gloves and you’re all set for the pre-dawn commute. However, for the vast majority of people, old man winter can make things very difficult, if not downright impossible to keep up with your riding routine. If you don’t have all the necessary gear (think waterproof everything) lobster gloves for sub-zero snowy conditions and the likes, setting your bike up on a trainer in the coziness of your own home can be a great option.
The comfort of riding indoors is undeniable; you can wear less clothes, a pair of padded shorts/bibs will do because you can control the temperature. There is no wind chill factor, the chance of rain is zero and no lights, no problem. Heck, there isn’t even a chance of a flat tire. You might break your chain, but that won’t leave you stranded in the dark, cold night. Could a sport that jacks your heart rate into your throat be more comfortable?
How about the incredible convenience? You can watch the kids, dog, keep an eye on dinner in the oven and even pop off the trainer to swap loads of laundry. You can safely take or make an important phone call (just slow down a bit to eliminate the heavy breathing) catch up on your favorite Netflix series or NPR podcast. Send emails, take selfies, post to all your social media channels…the options from aboard your bike saddle when inside are endless. Riding the trainer must be multi-tasking at it’s finest.
Riding a trainer is also extremely time efficient. When can you ride your bike in 60 minutes and be absolutely dripping in sweat? Sometimes, I’m so out of shape in winter it only takes 45 minutes, but that’s only because my trainer was being borrowed by an injured friend and I didn’t ride for nearly two months. Pedaling a trainer in my basement is nearly as effective as getting my heart rate into that fat burning zone as running on a treadmill (which is something I would NEVER do).
Companies like Zwift have also turned trainer riding into a video game like experience. With a USB dongle and power meter, you can join virtual races or workouts with riders from around the world. Some cyclists love services like Zwift so much, they ride inside even when the weather is good. Preposterous, right? Well, give it a try and you might never see the light of day again. Safety and racing have never gone in the same sentence until Zwift came along.
If you live in a place that doesn’t prevent you from riding comfortably outside or if you already have all the necessary gear to battle the elements, riding outside is still the best option in my opinion. However, if you’re time-crunched, don’t have all the appropriate gear to stay warm/safe, picking up a trainer (we found some for as little as $50 on eBay) is a great option to stay fit without leaving the comfort of your own home this winter. Once the snow thaws and you’re back to riding in the spring with friends who haven’t pedaled a mile since October, they’ll wonder where all your fitness came from. Beware though, when you tell them your secret, they might ask to borrow your trainer next winter and you could fall into the same trap.