I have to use quotes for "off-season" because many of us will continue to ride outside for quite some time if this fall/winter turns out anything like last year. However, we are dealing with less sunlight and the weather may not cooperate as much, making those outside rides tough to schedule and stick to. But we still want to improve our power/skills and enjoy the camaraderie that we've built up over the spring and summer. That's where the trainer comes in, and love it or hate it - many of us will log silly amounts of hours on it over the next 5-6 months. Luckily, our options both on the trainer side and the software side have improved dramatically over the last few years. So as we go into this off-season, I want to make sure club members know what others are doing:
Applications - Zwift & TrainerRoad
Zwift: Many of the club sign up to this, which is a solid cycling simulation with training plans to choose from that also allows for good social interaction. I also know of at least a few times where a group has set up a Skype group call while they're riding to increase the enjoyment factor. I have less experience with this platform, so invite current users to add in all the features they enjoy. To my knowledge though, setting up friends lists so you know when other club members are on is easy to do. The graphics here are very good, and they've both made their own virtual worlds as well as recreated a stretch in London.
TrainerRoad: This is a training focused application, with an emphasis on making you a stronger cyclist. Training plans are in-depth and can be chosen depending on your time commitment. The social element is near zero here, but the Beaches Cycling Club does have a "Team" set up where you can view other members statistics, the rides they've completed, and review what training plans they've chosen. The graphics are limited to essentially bar charts - this is a "train by number" program, so many of us throw on a Netflix show or watch cycling race replays while we train.
I'll leave what to train on to the go-to web guru, DC Rainmaker. He just posted his winter trainer recommendations (which is what triggered the idea for this post) here: http://www.dcrainmaker.com/2016/10/annual-winter-2016-2017-bike-sma...
I use a budget Elite trainer I picked up from MEC with zero electronic control (plus a set of rollers for low-key rides and skills) and that works fine, but I know the KICKR is a favoured option by many if you've got a budget for it.
I encourage others to chime in with their experiences and recommendations to club members on trainers. Please remember that this is in no way trying to convince you to stop riding outside! If anything, enjoy the good weather for as long as possible and invest in some nice warm layers so that you can make the "season" even longer. As helpful as a trainer may be, nothing beats a good ride with a great group - which is what this club is all about!