girl riding her bike on an indoor trainer

When most cyclists think about indoor training, they immediately equate it with boredom. I can’t blame them – riding indoors is nothing like being out on the open road.

So the first thing they do is think of distractions – big screen TVs, training DVDs, movies, virtual reality bike races (like Zwift), or at least an MP3 player.

That can be a lot of fun, but it can cost a ton of money. If you want to train indoors but lack the budget for a high-tech setup, do what I did when I was in college.

I call it:

The College Dorm Room Indoor Trainer Setup

Being on a college student budget, all I had in my room was a $55 magnetic stationary trainer. I only had the trainer – no fancy doo-dads, not even a TV.

So I made the most of my posters (obligatory for college students) and simple household items, like the mirror (provided free with room & board).

Step 1: Put the mirror on the wall or door at your riding eye level. (The full-length mirrors that go on doors are perfect.)

Step 2: Set up the trainer in the middle of the room, so you are facing the mirror.

Step 3: Place an action-packed cycling poster on the wall behind the trainer.

See, the mirror functions as a rear view mirror. That way, you ride on the trainer and see yourself in the mirror, along with pro cyclists chasing you down! It’s exciting. Really, it is!

My setup had a large poster of Mario Cippolini (sporting a world champion rainbow jersey) sprinting to the finish line. I spent so many hours watching him chase me that the image is ingrained in my mind!

Hours of fun, I must say!

How much for this setup today?

To re-create my dorm room setup:

CycleOps Mag Trainer: $129

*I actually had a cheap Supergo house brand magnetic trainer that I got on sale for $55, but I wore it out in less than a month, so I’d stick with a good brand for $120 minimum, or check eBay.

Door Mirror: $40

**Free if you already have a mirror in the house that you can borrow.

Cycling Poster: $0

***Check with a local bike shop for any promo posters from last year that they might be throwing out.

So, if you can improvise, you could get a good setup for under $100. But, even if you are buying everything new, the whole setup is under $200.

How to Use Zwift Without a Smart Trainer

Do you already have a trainer and you want to use Zwift, but you don’t want to shell out to buy a smart trainer?

Here’s how to do that on a budget.

[More details coming soon.]

Like a Peloton Bike – But Cheaper

Here’s how to set up a stationary bike at home and use the Peloton app, without the ridiculous $2200 entry fee.

[More details coming soon.]


If you are interested in indoor training, but have yet to purchase a trainer, you may like my answer to What Is a Good Stationary Trainer?


[This article was originally published on November 8, 2008. It was revised and last updated on January 26, 2019.]

Photo credit: pinkpucca

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1 Comment
  1. “When most cyclists think about indoor training, they immediately equate it with boredom.”

    I must admit I am one of those cyclists. I even wrote about it in article Indoor Training: 10 ways to fight the boredom…

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