The rise of indoor cycling is irrefutable. As the saying goes, there is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing. While by definition, riding inside insulates you from the elements, you will still be finding the limit moisture and heat management of whatever you choose to wear logging virtual miles.
Over the past year, riders worldwide have put in more miles on the best turbo trainers than at any other time in history. This has spawned forth a whole new category of indoor-specific kit and paraphernalia to help you get the most out of your Zwift workouts or trips up Alpe Du Zwift.
Luckily, there are entire product ranges designed to keep you cool and limit the amount of sweat that drips off the tip of your nose as you pedal nowhere.
Made entirely of 3D mesh the Le Col X Wahoo jersey is tight-fitting and svelte in form. It’s made entirely of an open mesh, that efficiently wicks moisture off your skin to spread it over a wider surface area to speed evaporation — and in our experience, it works as advertised.
With a full front zipper and rear pockets, you might be tempted to don this one on a hot summer rider, but it’s not SPF rated, so you will get burned to a crisp. Given how it’s almost entirely see through, it’s probably one to keep just for the pain cave.
Madison says they took a standard road jersey and stripped all the bulk and unneeded features out to maximise comfort while you ascend virtual mountains. Gone are the rear pockets because your snacks can sit on a trainer desk or chair right next to you, but it retains a full zipper to add cooling when you need, with zipper guards to prevent irritation.
The open-mesh fabric was chosen for its wicking and cooling properties, but Madison also decided to avoid external prints so it can be washed on a hot cycle (60C/140F) to prevent the jersey from adopting a permanent stink. Madison has doubled up on its war against funk as the jersey as the brand has applied an antibacterial coating, too.
Castelli designed the Insider Jersey specifically to meet the conditions found in the pain cave. Constructed of a 3D-mesh fabric that lets air flow freely, the materials wick better than a traditional cycling jersey.
Where the Insider jersey excels is that it’s not transparent, so when you head to the fridge for a snack, house guests won’t be met with the sight of a sweaty you wearing what appears to be a skin-tight fishnet top as you stuff a slice of pie in your face. The jersey also has a full zip and two rear pockets, so while you may be tempted to wear this top for an outdoor ride, be warned it’s not SPF rated, so you’ll need to slip, slop, slap before you head out the door.
Comprising highly-breathable ultralight fabric, the jersey incorporates perforated ‘punch holes’ that aid in the cooling process. This attribute also imparts a semi-transparent effect to the jersey. The design is simple-yet-elegant and stays true to the company’s sartorial ethos and minimalist approach plus it doesn’t look so kinky that it can double as hot weather outside wear as well.
The La Passione wordmark logo is emblazoned on the upper right shoulder alongside the low collar line and on the lower flanks of each leg. There is a full length Cam Lock zip down the front and a bonded hem replete with silicon gripper bands hold the jersey firmly in place and nullifies any unwanted pulling.
For those that prefer something a bit more free-flowing, the Rapha Indoor Trainer shirt is a loose-fitting muscle-tee made from a technical fabric that’s designed specifically for the rigours of your Zwift, TrainerRoad, or Sufferfest session. Before you turn up your nose at what may appear on the surface as an expensive tank top, look a little closer, and you’ll see there is quite a bit more to it.
First and foremost, the Indoor Trainer-T is sleeveless, not so that you can put on a gun show but for temperature management, and the armholes are cut to facilitate your position on the bike, so no chafed armpits. Rapha has chosen a gradient knit fabric that sucks the moisture off your skin quickly to keep you cool and dry. It’s also cut slim and slightly articulated to prevent pinching or binding as you reach for bars.
Polartec’s Delta fabric sees hydrophilic yarns intricately knitted into what the textile experts call radiating structures to take full advantage of the body’s cooling mechanisms to keep you comfortable. The idea is fabric quickly pulls the moisture off your skin to maintain airflow and prevent irritation, and holds it away from your skin and drying at a slower rate to maximize cooling.
This is the same fabric you’ll find in base layers from Castelli and Santini but the dhb version is half the price. The Aero Lab Poartech Sleeveless base layer is lightweight and body-mapped to fit perfectly on the bike without pinching or bunching. The seams have all been offset as not to irritate, and there is a dropped hem, so there are no gaper gaps when you reach for the bars.
For those who take virtual racing and indoor training seriously, there is always a hunt for that extra advantage over your opponents or additional gain that help you perform at your best. Nopinz addresses the omnipresent issue of overheating with it’s SubZero Race suit, which uses frozen freezer packs to help regulate temperatures when racing is heating up.
The sleeveless race suit uses a very light perforated material for ultimate ventilation and breathability. Nopinz has used an indoor-specific chamois as well, compliments of Dolomiti Pads, for greater comfort and support, given the demanding nature of e-racing and the efforts required to put in top results.
The stand out feature is the addition of the FreezePockets which store the optional extra frozen gel packs. Positioned just below the neck and on the lower back, the gel packs provide around 20 to 30 minutes of cooling in these key areas. The race suit can be supplemented by two sweatbands on the wrist/lower forearm which also make use of pockets for smaller gel packs or even energy gels.
If you’re anything like this writer, quite often, I will ride the trainer with my bib straps down to expose as much skin as humanly possible to the fans pointed at my front and back. Because you’re plonked down on the saddle, not really moving around much, you’re shorts more or less stay put and so bibs aren’t really all that necessary.
So dhb’s Aeron Turbo Shorts, which forgo the bib straps, actually make a bit of sense. They’re made from a super-light partially transparent fabric over the quads, and a marginally heavier gauge fabric in the middle and over your derriere to prevent the sun from shining where it shouldn’t.
The Elastic Interface NICE HD Super Air pad is exclusive to dhb and was developed specifically with indoor sessions in mind. With a more pronounced central panel for pressure relief, the top fabric has antistatic and bacteriostatic properties, making it quick-drying and eco-friendly.
Designed to be used in collaboration with the brand’s Insider Jersey, Castelli’s Insider bibs are well suited to long sessions in the pain cave. With an articulated fit, the Inferno fabric that makes up most of the shorts is 80 per cent polyester and helps to wick sweat without becoming a sopping mess, aided by the Giro Air elastic mesh leg bands.
Inside is the brand’s Kiss 2 Air seat pad, which gets rid of the modesty flap and shrinks the overall footprint; the focus again is pitched towards breathability. Castelli has also beefed up the area of shorts that come into contact with the saddle to improve durability and longevity.
As expected, the bib shorts are manufactured from premium Italian lycra with side perforated panels for air ventilation on the outside of the legs. The wide straps are also perforated to keep heat build-up to a minimum. They feature a low-cut waist for improved comfort but perhaps the most defining feature is the indoor-specific chamois pad.
Utilising what La Passione calls an ‘Elastic Interface’ pad, it combines a slim fit which aids in protection from hotspots, moisture build-up and numbness by using a breathable construction and channels across the pad to stop heat and sweat from getting trapped.
While mountain bike bib liners are not the first thing that may come to mind when shopping for kit to use on the turbo trainer, they are one of our go-to options. Because bib liners are designed to be worn underneath baggies, they are usually made of mesh or extremely lightweight materials to maximize breathability. While the waist liners may leave you wanting when it comes to the pad, bib liners typically have a high-quality chamois.
The Velocio Trail Mesh Bib Liners are made entirely of a wide knit mesh, and are cut identical to the brand’s Lux shorts. Because they are made entirely from mesh, they are also entirely see-through, so best not to answer the door wearing just these. Inside is Velcoio’s exclusive CyTech chamois that offers ample padding for extended periods of stationary pedalling. With bib straps that are just a simple piece of elastic microfibre that is comfortable on your shoulders and don’t cover too much skin.
Madison’s Turbo shorts are designed with the same ethos as its indoor jersey, get rid of everything you don’t need, to maximise wicking and breathability. While they’re not made of mesh, the polyester-lycra used throughout has an antibacterial treatment and can be washed on a hot cycle (60C/140F) to kill off any microbial hangers-on.
Madison collaborated with TMF to design a pad that will keep you sitting pretty on your second trip of Mount Ventop; the pre-curved fit and messy bib straps fit comfortable without pulling on your shoulders as you reach for the drops.
Lusso has given its Turbo shorts a facelift, putting comfort and breathability as its top priority. The side and back panels and the bib straps are all made from lightweight mesh that maximises air permeability while still maintaining opacity. The inside of the thighs and centre panel is lightweight lycra, again to promote cooling but without showing too much skin.
Lusso’s recently updated the Turbo bibs with a thicker chamois based on customer feedback. The new pad is from Elastic Interface with denser foam to relieve a bit of pressure on your sits bones throughout a long indoor season.
Along the same lines as the Velocio liner shorts, the Pactimo Tellus are technically MTB liners; however, they offer a greater level of modesty. The nylon stretch mesh used throughout still breathes considerably better than lycra but is not quite as transparent as some other options in this area,
Pactimo has also sewn in a top-shelf Elastic Interface Chamois that offers a smaller footprint but uses advanced foam to keep you comfortable while maintaining the overly static position that riding the smart trainer lends itself towards.
There is no such thing as indoor-specific socks, so rather than seeking out the lightest, most ventilated foot tubes that money can buy, we’ve instead picked the most comfortable socks we can find. At the top of that list sits the Swiftwick Aspire.
They are about as technical as socks come, using Olefin fibre and intricate knitting patterns that make the socks supportive, lightweight, and highly breathable.
Like the Switwicks, Shimano’s S-Phyre socks are completely over-engineered socks that sound like marketing fluff until you pull them on. With a tall cuff, they provide pleasant compression, mesh panels that extend around the bottom of the foot, and padding on top of the foot, which lines on with the top Boa on many shoes to provide a touch of additional comfort.
The DeFeet Aerator are the original socks, and there are quite a few brands that sell these socks with their logo stitched into them.
With most of the entire top section of the sock open mesh, they breathe well, and come in a variety of styles, and cuff length, so you really can’t go wrong.
A towel is a necessity for any trainer ride, and while you can use any old towel from the linen closet, we like microfibre camp stable towels. Not only do they dry faster than double struck lighting, but they are also super absorbent and can contend with even the sweatiest turbo session without being overcome.
Over the years, both on the trainer and camping, we’ve used all manner of camping towels, ranging from the various outdoor brands to the ‘5 packs’ you can buy on Amazon, and as far as we can tell, they are all basically the same. Some even come in multipacks with a range of sizes; you can drape one over your bars and one around your neck, tie another around your head, and still have a few spares.
While microfibre towels are absorbent and fast-drying, they aren’t great for the environment, and the ‘squeaky’ texture can be off-putting. As grabbing the nice towels from the linen closest for trainer use is generally frowned upon (speaking from experience), a set of cheap bath towels that won’t disintegrate after the first wash will keep everyone in your household and your bike happy.
As far as cheap bath towels go, we’ve had pretty good luck with the Amazon Basic Bath Towels. For about $25 you can get six 100-per cent cotton towels in three different sizes. They aren’t quite your plush, Turkish cotton joint, but you’re using them exclusively to catch sweat, and can double as a dog towel in a pinch.
Some people like everything to match, and if this is you not to worry, each trainer brand makes and sells logo branded towels. They are all roughly ~30cm x 130cm in size, designed to drape perfectly over your bars without the need to be folded over, and are good quality absorbent cotton towels.
If you have nice linen and don’t want to ruin a good bath or beach towel with hours and hours of super-salty sweat, the branded towels from each respective trainer brand are a good option.
The Halo headband is technically designed for running, but has a nifty sweat guide that makes it perfect for heavy trainer sessions. Made from Dryline wicking fabric, a silicone strip on the inside not only prevents it from creeping down but creates a seal against your forehead to direct sweat away from your eyes and down the sides of your face.
It may sound like a gimmick, but it does well to create a gutter that keeps the torrent of sweat from running down off your forehead and into your eyes.
The Transfer Lite headband wasn’t initially designed for use on the trainer; but it sure works. Made from the brand’s Pro Transfer fabric, which is essentially a 3D-warp mesh, it sucks up moisture like a ShamWow while still allowing airflow for evaporative cooling. With the constant breeze from the fan that’s pointed at your face, it offers real relief from the indoor training heat.
Quite a few people wear cycling caps when they ride the trainer, and while a classic cotton cap may look nice, it’s not overly functional. On the other hand, Castelli’s AC cap is made from a lightweight mesh that is ideal for riders whose heads are of the Q-ball variety. The lightweight open mesh breaths well but also wicks sweat off your head and adds some evaporative cooling, too.
The bill isn’t doing much to protect your eyes from wind, sun, or rain on the turbo trainer when in the riding position, it guides the sweat so that it drips off the end of the bill rather than off your eyebrows and into your eyeballs.