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I'm not on my own on this one as at least two other people in my Spinning class suffer the same: when Spinning or on the Turbo Trainer, I can feel pressure on my calf muscles after a bit of time (usually less than 45 minutes). But I can ride on the road for up to 3 hours without feeling any pressure.

I think it's something to do with leg angles: on the road, the bike changes angle slightly to best match the angle of the leg, but on a spinner or Turbo, it's fixed and so can't move.

Are there any proven reasons why calfs would ache on a static bike but not on the road?

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Yes I get this too, I can ride outside all day but only for an hour or so on a trainer. Not so much aches but certainly tiredness. The trainer is so much more intense....I think you could be right about bike movement, but I also find ventilation/overheating becomes a problem, plus I think we can tend to underestimate the amount of "resting" we're able to do on the open road as opposed the the constant effort required on a turbo. – PeteH Apr 30 '13 at 9:55
I'm guessing it's mostly the intensity, and the lack of variety. The calves have a particular tendency toward "capsule syndrome" where the muscles swell and are "trapped" by the membrane around them. This can become quite serious in some cases, requiring surgery to relieve the pressure. – Daniel R Hicks Apr 30 '13 at 10:52
Also worth mentioning is that on a trainer, you most likely don't stop pedaling. On a regular road bike, there are almost always situations where you are going to stop pedaling, at least briefly. Be it going around a sharp bend, going down a steep hill, or just because you're drafting off somebody and pedaling would mean that you run into their back wheel. – Kibbee Apr 30 '13 at 16:46
@heltonbiker - Serious compartment syndrome can happen in cases of intense training. It's been known to happen in football training camp, eg. But well before it becomes serious (to the point where circulation is impaired, etc), it becomes uncomfortable -- the legs feel "inflated" and sort of cramped. – Daniel R Hicks Apr 30 '13 at 22:55
@DanielRHicks well I must assume it would still be rare, since all my friends for decades have been cyclists, and there were all sorts of "go-all-the-way"-freaks among them. Never seen or heard anything even closely related to that... I guess you have to go REALLY beyond all limits to damage the muscles like that (I guess fatigue and hunger comes much faster...) – heltonbiker May 1 '13 at 23:25

3 Answers 3

There are likely a few different reasons, but my primary suspicion would be fit. Presumably your road bike is set up to fit your body geometry and angles, where the spin bike is not. Small differences in how a bike is set up can have a big impact on how your body feels while riding.

My n=1 example, when doing higher intensity efforts on the road, I would get high calf cramps after about an hour. When I had a Retul fit done for my time trial bike, the fitter told me that because my feet were somewhat duckfooted, I needed to move to speedplay pedals with longer spindles to allow my heels to drift inward more than my old pedals. Solved my calf cramp problems.

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Maybe you can take some more Magnesium too. When you train hard, there is a need to take proper vitamins and minerals. Running out of magnesium can be painful.

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It could be the way how you set up your spinner.

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Welcome to Bicycles SE. We're looking for answers with more detail. Please consider expanding your answer to explain how to correctly set up a spinner. I have also removed your link as it did not add any value to your answer. Please review our behavior policy which includes self-promotion rules before posting further links. – jimirings Mar 5 at 16:15

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