This Pro Zwifter Has The Best Pain Cave You’ve Ever Seen – Triathlete

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Matt Gardiner’s basement is a thing of indoor training glory. He’s got multiple screens, devices mounted almost everywhere, the best fans, humidity control, custom DIY Bluetooth switches—everything you’d want to ride inside, and some things you’ve never even thought of. But why would he need it? (Answer: The full-time CPA founded the Zwift racing team Saris/No Pinz, logged over 60,000 miles in Zwift and spent a staggering 765 hours indoors in 2021. average of two hours per day, every day.)

Read on for more about Gardiner, his crazy indoor numbers, his setup, and his gear list.

Photo: Matt Gardiner

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How Did It All Begin?

Though Gardiner currently competes in eSports, riding for a Zwift team he founded, he (unsurprisingly) has his roots in multisport. Like many, he dabbled in sprint triathlon and competed in his first half-iron right out of college; in 2019 he raced the 70.3 world championships as an age-grouper.

But before that, he was bit by the indoor bug after a bike crash derailed his plans to run a marathon in 2016. “I did a light spin, crashed my bike, and broke my collarbone,” he said. “All of my fitness was about to be gone, so I rode on an indoor trainer with a sling mounted on a pull-up bar”

The immersive sense of a smart trainer—letting him feel the virtual hills as he rode them—and the introduction of a newborn into his life cemented his love/need for indoor riding. It didn’t hurt that he was already prime for the virtual training world with a lifelong love of video games. “I was not a very fit high schooler,” he joked.

RELATED: Triathlete’s Guide to Indoor Training

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By the Numbers

Virtual miles ridden in 2021

19,000 or 765 hours; averaging 260W and 137bpm over the duration to burn over 650,000 calories

Average temperature and humidity in his dream cave

65 degrees F and 35% humidity

Watts (or W/kg) averaged during his races

“Usually the Zwift Premier Division races require you to average around 5W/kg (for me this is ~340W). Depending on the course, the power output required changes quite a bit—the first race in this season on Neokyo had a climb where I did 455W (6.7W/kg) for 3 minutes, 20 seconds, with sprints before and after requiring 15W/ kg+ to compete!”

Hydration and calories consumed during an indoor event

40-50 ounces/hour with 3-4 servings of SkratchLab Hydration mix and a few scoops of Optimum Nutrition Amino Energy with caffeine. “With my room temperature and humidity controlled, I actually don’t sweat very much, even in intense efforts.”

RELATED: How to Fuel for Long Indoor Rides

Estimated cost of indoor setup (minus bike): $5,000

From custom shoes to custom PC, rocker plate to indoor-specific clothing, smart trainer to blower fans. With the hours I spend in my training and racing space, every penny spent is utilized fully.”

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The Setup

Bike: Specialized Tarmac Expert with eTap

Power Measurement: Favero Assioma Duo Power Meter Pedals and an SRM

“I always record a second power source for Zwift races, and very often a third, to compare to my Saris H3. This is a standard practice on my Saris NoPinz eRacing team I pioneered to aid in transparency when racing online.”

Saddle: Shimano Pro Stealth Carbon

“This saddle has a wide center channel which makes it easy to ride long hours indoors.”

Trainer: Saris H3 Smart Trainer

“This trainer is purpose built for eRacing. Absolutely bomb-proof, I have put over 2,000 hours on my H3 and it’s still just as accurate and quiet as the day I set it up.”

RELATED: The Smart Trainer Explainer

Rocker: Saris MP1 Motion Platform

“An absolute game changer—motion indoors is often overlooked, but the way you move your body on a stationary trainer is completely different to how you ride outside. Many people don’t realize this and wonder why their training indoors doesn’t translate well to outside. The MP1 has fore and aft movement, as well as side-to-side, so you get a fully immersive experience which has increased muscle recruitment and more closely mirrors outdoor riding.”

Floor covering: Generic black 12x12in rubber floor tiles

“I bought mine from Lowe’s. They’re durable and decently cheap!”

Desks: Saris TD1 Trainer Desks

“These things are perfect for keeping your devices charged up and are incredibly sturdy. They have two power outlets and two USB ports.”

Kit: NoPinz SubZero

“NoPinz has created the absolute best kit for suffering inside. The SubZero has pockets on the lower back and between the shoulder blades which hold freezer packs to cool you down mid-race or mid-interval. The suit comes with two packs, and they stay cool for ~30min, so you can put one in to start that hour session, and swap it out halfway through.”

Cycling Shoes: VeloKicks Blanco Dials custom painted by FromTheFeetUpCustoms

“I have had a few pairs of cycling shoes painted by FTFU. Custom gear is so much fun, and as a donut aficionado, why not have shoes to match my motivation to ride.”

Fans: Lasko Pro Performance Blower Fans

“This fan will change your life. OK, that might be an overstatement, but if you’re riding and have a traditional bladed fan blowing air on you, you deserve an upgrade.”

RELATED: What Are the Best Fans for Indoor Cycling?

Dehumidifier: Frigidaire High Humidity 50-Pint Capacity Dehumidifier

“Since I’m in a basement, I have a storm drain which I can run a hose to so the dehumidifier can run continuously. If you don’t have that option, the larger the capacity, the longer you can ride while it pulls the moisture out of the air before it turns off.”

Humidity Sensor: BestAir Humidity Monitor

“I got this when I started trying to dig into my power meter accuracy—wondering how much temperature and humidity played into the offset calculation on my old Powertap P1 pedals, and later, the Saris H3. I recorded a lot of data and basically got nowhere, but now I always make sure to keep an eye on this because humidity plays so much into sweat rate and perceived exertion. Ideally, I keep my basement around 35-40% (that’s as low as I can get it!).”

Mounts: Vanmass Magnetic Car Phone Mount

“I have two of these on my Saris TD1. It is so nice to be able to put my phone somewhere secure, but easy to see mid-ride.”

PC & Peripherals: Cyberpower PC Custom Built PC w/ ASUS Prime Z490 Motherboard, Intel i7-10700K CPU, Nvidia GeForce RTX 3070 GPU, 32GB RAM, liquid cooled with RGB fans and RAM

“I have a Logitech G604 mouse and a Cyberpower Skorpion K2 Keyboard which are really customizable. Since I ride in the early morning hours, I also always have my iPad next to me with the baby monitor on my son’s crib.”

DIY Tech: Titan Labs Bluetooth remote, positioned like a Shimano sprint shifter.

“You can program it to turn around, pick directions, and activate PowerUps,” Gardiner told Velonews. “It is such a gamechanger. I use a rocker plate, and for me to take my hands off throws my rhythm off. Now I can hit a PowerUp like a sprinter shifter.”

Audio Apple AirPod Pros

“These are seriously great headphones. The Active Noise Cancellation completely cuts out the sound of my fans so I can hear any music/show/voice chat clearly.”

Communications: Blue Snowball Mic

“This mic has directional control so I can eliminate noise from behind the mic from my fans, and people can hear me much more clearly. I use this for Discord voice-chat with my teammates when we race or ride together, and to pick up my voice when I’m streaming my races to Twitch.”

Connectivity: Wired Ethernet

“My house is old and not exactly the best for signal. I had too many rides ruined with Wi-Fi issues, so I don’t risk it anymore.”

Have indoor set-up specific questions? Gardiner will also be answering questions for Team Triathlete members later this month. All Triathlete & Outside+ members get access to Team Triathlete—which provides you with training plans, gear giveaways, a community of other triathletes, in-person meet-ups, and Q&As with experts.

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