Where to Start and What You Need For an Indoor Cycling Race

When you start to ride a bike indoors and find your feet, it becomes a lot of fun, and you begin to embrace what it’s all about. You might just enjoy a pleasant spinning workout in a virtual world, or you might like that high intensity buzz of doing an interval session. Whatever you take from indoor cycling, typically, it is a positive experience with great benefits.

Some of us want to take it to the next level and push ourselves to the absolute max against others, and this is what we call online indoor cycling racing. Riding your bike or a spin bike online is challenging, but lining up against hundreds of others to see who is the best on the day is an experience that is just incredible.

One thing a lot of people struggle with is getting started and learning how to train for indoor cycling races. There are a lot of things we need to make this experience happen, and in this article, we’re going to speak about everything you will need and have to do to make online cycling racing a reality on your spin bike and indoor trainer. Welcome to our beginner’s guide to racing bikes online.

What Equipment You Need For Indoor Cycling Racing?

Firstly, we’ll need to get ourselves set up and ready for our first spinning workout race. When it comes to buying equipment, typically, you get what you pay for in the indoor cycling world. If you buy cheap spin bikes, it won’t work as well or feel as good. If you spend a bit more on your indoor cycling equipment, you will get a better experience. I have split this list down into essentials and optional indoor cycling gears and accessories for racing online, depending on how much you want to involve yourself in it.

Essential accessories for indoor cycling races

Smart Turbo Trainer with a bike or Smart Spin Bike

The first thing we are going to need is a smart trainer. What’s unique about a smart trainer is its connectivity to Bluetooth or Ant+. This means you can connect to the application on which you race. Smart turbo trainers also generally have a power meter function, and this will be needed to send data to the application, so it knows where to put you in the race.

Tablet, Phone, or Laptop

You will also need a tablet or a laptop to run an application to race on and connect other devices such as heart rate monitors. Typically, most racing online is done on platforms like Zwift, and you will need to install this application to get going. It will also be beneficial to have the Zwift companion application downloaded to your phone as you will need this.

An Internet Connection

Having an internet connection is vital as this is how you will find your opponents. The better the connection, the smoother the race will be and feel for you. The closer you can be to the router, the better.

Optional accessories for indoor cycling races

Heart Rate monitor

I believe for most training, it is very beneficial to have a heart rate monitor. It’s great data to see how hard you are working and track your fitness over time.

Cooling Fan

One of the most underfed pieces of equipment that you need for indoor cycle racing is a cooling fan. Keeping yourself cool and providing yourself with fresh air can completely change your experience.

Cycle Clothing

It’s not the be all and end all if you wear cycle clothing or not, but it does help. Cycling clothing not only keeps you comfortable but it helps keep you cool and agile. I highly recommend cycling clothing for indoor cycling training.

Phone Holder

This is really handy on applications such as Zwift as you can use your phone as a controller, and having it in your reach means you don’t have to get off the bike.

Where do we start to race on an indoor bike?

In the next section, we are going to give you a step by step guide to racing on Zwift using a spin bike or trainer. We have chosen Zwift because it is by far the most popular, and we feel it’s amazing value for money for what you get especially if you have a spin bike that works with Zwift seamlessly.

Step One: Setup

The first thing is to get all your equipment set up in a safe area where you will be able to race. Indoor training and racing can be noisy, and you will be hammering into the bike, so make sure that the area is pet free and somewhere where you won’t bother the neighbors too much. Getting the right indoor training space will help take away distractions too.

Step Two: Connect all the devices

When you start loading up Zwift, it will automatically search for the connections to your devices. All you need to do is click on the devices that you want to pair it with, and in the future, it will connect automatically. You will also want to get your Zwift Companion application running on your phone and using the same Wi-Fi network as the tablet or laptop. When you start, you need to enter your weight and a few other details. You will also be honest with this as it keeps the races fair.

Step Three: Book a Race

Now, if you are looking in your Zwift Companion, you need to load it up and click the tab that says events. You can sign up for races that you wish to participate in on the events. Make sure you’re in a class that suits you. If you’re unsure which class, you should do an FTP test to find out.

Step Four: Get into the Waiting Room

Now you need to get yourself into the waiting room. So about 15 minutes before the race, jump on the turbo trainer and just leave your avatar waiting, have the companion application open in front of you too. A notification will come up offering you to enter the lobby of the race when you’re ready to enter. The early you get in, the better, as it will put you at the front of the pack.

Step Five: Go Go Go

Now you’re in the lobby, start warming up about 5 minutes before the race begins. For the best start possible, and what many riders do is 3 seconds before going, they power as much as they can. This is so you can pull yourself to the front and get in a front group. I highly recommend getting the power down heavy for the first couple of minutes. After a few minutes, it will all settle, and you will just need to stay in your group and be strong until the end. In the end, give everything you have left.

Things to think about when racing indoors

Racing indoors is very different from racing outdoors, and there are a few things that you might find surprising compared to what you experience cycling outdoors in a race situation.

Workout Data isn’t always perfect

Although you may give everything, sometimes someone might just be that little bit in front, and although you may be stronger, it’s out of your control, which can be due to the different data readings. Riders on a trainer set up like a basic turbo with a cadence and speed sensor don’t get as accurate data as a high-end smart trainer. They don’t have the power meter function, so don’t be disheartened if you are beaten by a friend you clearly could beat outside on the road. This is the same issue with some exercise bikes as many of these people use for Zwift estimate power with pedals or smart trainer.

It’s much harder

For myself personally, I find an indoor bike much harder than an outdoor bike. You don’t have this injected air from outdoors, and you’re not distracted by all your surroundings. All you focus on is your pedal stroke, and you don’t always get that realistic ride feel. If you feel like the work is much harder on smart trainers, it’s because the level of the perceived excursion is much higher as it’s all you’re focusing on. Racing online will be a hard workout, but don’t be scared of it.

Direct Drive or Wheel on Trainers?


You will get a much better experience with direct drive trainers when racing. They are much stronger, quieter, more accurate, and much sturdier to use. A trainer where the rear wheel stays on isn’t as nice an experience, but they are much cheaper and will get you in virtual worlds racing.

Mountain bikes or Road bikes?

indoor cycling improves positioning

Typically most smart turbo trainers can take a variety of bikes so that you can use anything to race. I personally find for online racing you get much more out of a road bike as these are geared much better to virtual racing than mountain bike gearing.


Racing bikes online is a lot of fun and can be that piece of motivation you might need to get those legs turning and to take on your personal goals. It’s going to be challenging, but it will be a lot of fun. The best advice I can give you is not to take it too seriously and enjoy it. Your fitness level with go through the roof in the process.


Hi there, I'm Sayed Hamed Hosseiny, the founder and one of the authors at yourexercisebike.com (YEB). I am a former indoor cycling instructor and personal trainer with nearly 20 years of experience. With a passion for indoor cycling, I have spent years designing cycling parts, repairing, and importing exercise bikes. All the articles, tips, guides, reviews, and comparisons on YourExerciseBike.com (YEB) reflect my personal opinion and expertise in the field. I'm excited to share my knowledge with fellow exercise bike enthusiasts and help people find reliable indoor cycling information and the best exercise bike for their needs. If you have any questions or suggestion, you can contact me at sayed@yourexercisebike.com.

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