The Hardcore Cycling Trainer


We’re fond of hearing the tight hum of thin wheels on a remote mountain road, so the prospect of grinding out a ride under the glare of fluorescent lights on our gym’s stationary bike just doesn’t entice us. Still, most of us can’t simply mount up and roll out to take on the Tour of California route over a lunch break, much less get outside four seasons a year in many regions. Paincave, a new online video-based training program, takes the drudgery out of gym-locked cycling using a mix of hard-core intervals (emphasis on hard-core) with truly inspirational input from onscreen coaches who offer insider advice on gears and technique.

To get started, we created an account on the Paincave website, selected the Tour of California tab, loaded the first episode, and placed our laptop in front of our indoor cycle trainer (a stand that allows you to use your road bike as a stationary one). Within seconds, we were watching streaming video footage from the first leg of the Tour while being led simultaneously through a 30-minute training session that included one-legged pedal drills, RPM-based pacing, and full-out sprints. The session shots of the trainers digging in for the grueling intervals are intercut with footage of them riding on the road or highlights from their races. A voice-over makes sure you keep apace in terms of output, what gear you should be in, and so on. And during longer stretches, when you are just grinding it out rather than worrying about the quick changes in pace, the program will cut to shots of the instructors out on the road teaching you proper pedaling technique, or discussing the bike (and gear) they use and why.

We consider ourselves to be avid cyclists, yet one session of Paincave totally burned out our quads. It’s intense. And we liked the lessons in pedaling and pacing techniques, which we look forward to practicing during our next outdoor ride. Each of the 14 streaming episodes (more are planned, and you can re-ride them all to beat earlier times) ranges from 30 to 60 minutes and includes a written description of what each session will hold – from lactate threshold training to VO2 max exercises. 

Riding indoors while watching video of professional cyclists may sound hokey – we thought so, at first – but we got over any reservations quickly and found the experience enormously inspiring. Besides input from actual professionals, founder Mike Egan (who completed his 10th Ironman six months after starting Paincave and once completed Ironman Florida only three months after having tumors removed from his chest) holds a forum on the website where anything is up for discussion. Nothing beats the open road – certainly not even Paincave – but if we have to ride indoors, we know of no better way to keep us interested and challenged, and improve technically while we’re at it. [$10/month or $100/year;]

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