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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
Overheating is definitely a problem. I had my trainer in my unheated garage over the winter. It could be 5 degrees in there, but by the time I was done a 40-60 minute ride, I was quite comfortable in regular cycling shorts and jersey. Also I found that I would more often put the bike in a harder gear than I would on the road. –  Kibbee Apr 30 '13 at 12:55
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
@DanielRHicks this health issue you mention (compartment syndrome) is very serious and never happens during physiological conditions, even under extreme exercise. Severe tissue damage with large swelling is required to close the blood vessels and start necrosis: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Compartment_syndrome –  heltonbiker Apr 30 '13 at 17:46

1 Answer 1

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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