The SufferFest: Winter Training Gets (a little more) Interesting


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Riding the trainer sucks. It’s about as mindless as Fox News and as excruciating as a trip to the oral surgeon. But unless you’re a Cancellara doppelgänger who thrives in the cold and wet or a cycling snowbird who winters in Arizona, time on a spin bike or rollers is an evil necessity for a good racing season. Like a nightly visit to Fight Club, you plug in your workout, take your lumps, and (hopefully) get stronger.

In full suffer mode.

In the past few months I’ve discovered a way to get through the trainer torture. The SufferFest, a series of short, brutal training videos, makes the winter sessions if not fun, at least tolerable. The Singapore-based upstart offers 10 videos that target specific attributes, from pyramids of short intervals that build max power to long threshold sessions. Visuals are a mix of race footage from the world’s biggest events (Paris-Roubaix, World Championships) and helmet cam rides through bucolic mountain settings (mostly for the recovery). There are visual directives (including a cadence and perceived exertion commands), audio queues (a gunshot for an attack, screeching brakes when you can relax), and a thumping soundtrack of rock, punk, and techno. It all adds up to good, hard, fast motivation that never failed to get me going, even on the evenings where the only training I had in mind was Bourbon-related liver strengthening.

I was skeptical that watching a bunch of pro racers in action would do it for me, but having completed almost the entire set of videos I’ve found out otherwise. (My wife is worried.) In particular I like the classics footage, such as the bits from Liège-Bastogne-Liège in Angels and images of Cancellara ripping it at Roubaix in A Very Dark Place. These are highlights lifted and spliced for real drama and inspiration, which also gets at what makes these videos work. They’re short (mostly just an hour), focused, and hard, so you can pop them in, knock out a workout, and feel totally beat afterward.

As for practicalities, it couldn’t be easier. Just log on to The SufferFest and download your poison (MP4 format) for $12 apiece. For real masochists and the truly cooped-up (cyclists from MInnesota to Alaska), there’s also a bundle (10 videos for $95). You can do these videos with nothing but a trainer, I found it helpful to have at least a heart rate monitor and ideally a power meter to really help quantify my efforts. And though folks on a pre-set training plan may balk at these one-off sessions, I’ve found a broad enough variety of workouts to match up with my existing plans and sub in for occasional variety.

And if you’re still unconvinced about riding a trainer at all, The SufferFest has you covered there, too. Their slogan—I Will Beat My Ass Today To Kick Yours Tomorrow—is pretty much the only rationale you need.

Now go suffer.

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