Unless you live in one of those strange coffee sipping cultures/climates that allow you to train at a multitude of altitudes and temperatures, then every year from October to March you are probably relegated to bicycling purgatory. With the amount of available daylight outside working hours almost nonexistent, you just know it's almost that time of year again. TRAINER TIME.
If you're like me (138 pounds of watt-pumping fury) you've worked like a scrappy little dog all summer to get your sustained speed up. And, now there's nothing you can do but watch that effort spin away down the toilet bowl of seasonal training waste. Right?
Wrong. There are things you can do to maintain your bike fitness and stay sane during the winter 'off season.'
Cyclocross: perhaps you've heard of it. CX, as niche sport wackos prefer to call it, cross is a great way to embrace the unpredictable elements between September and Nov (prime cross season) and get in a lot of good max threshold type effort. Cross practices and races (ask at your local bike shop) are generally 45-60 minutes of all out mashing and endos, with the occasional break to skip across a few barriers and drink a beer or two. It's not for everyone, and certainly not a year round pursuit. But is sure is a good way to break the monotony of living room sweat fests.
Mountain biking: probably the best way to stay bike fit through Nov, and maybe beyond if it's an el Nino (spanish for 'the nino') year. Mountain biking is a great mix of endurance fitness (lots of low HR activity followed by bursts of hill climbing anaerobia) and reflex aptitude (holy sheep! lookout!). And, most importantly, is the best way to work on your pedal stroke when you're not out on the road. Mountain biking requires lots of low revolution power strokes, and really really high cadence climbing strokes. This means that overall you'll work the whole spectrum and your legs will stay nice and balanced. PLUS, you can mountain bike at night. Just get a deer blinding headlight and go nutts.
Stationary Trainer Training: the worst. Some drills to follow this post to make stationary riding less aweful.
Rollers Training: I've only tried rollers once, and I'm pretty sure these are a great way to go careening through your living room window. Or garage. Bueller? Bueller? But, if you've got the ca hones and clams for the extra superfluous training device, it's worth a shot. Real good for your balance. Or you die. Did you watch the video yet ya turkey? Come on!
For more technical aspects of the perfect pedal stroke, check out this great article in Bicycling.