Indoor Cycling vs. Outdoor Cycling: Which Is the Better Workout?
If the last bike you pedaled had streamers on the handles or baseball cards in the spokes, you’re probably wondering when cycling (and all the related gear) got so complicated. You may be asking yourself, What are the differences between a road bike and an indoor cycling bike? Is indoor cycling class just like outdoor cycling? Do I really need to wear those padded shorts?
While the padded shorts are a personal choice, knowing the differences between outdoor and indoor bikes will make choosing the right bike much less intimidating. And once you’re back in the saddle, you’ll remember just how much fun riding can be.
What’s the Main Difference Between Indoor Cycling and Outdoor Cycling?
Of course, the most apparent difference between the experience of the road bike vs. an indoor cycling bike is your surroundings. Outdoors, you’re forced to contend with the weather, traffic, terrain, and other cyclists, while nearly every aspect of the indoor cycling experience is within your control.
Depending on your perspective, this level of control could be a plus or a minus for your training, as you can make adjustments (maybe too easily) on the fly. “When cycling indoors, you can easily ‘cheat’ yourself by not adding the correct amount of resistance,” says Garret Seacat, C.S.C.S., head coach of Absolute Endurance. “When you’re cycling outside, the hill doesn’t have any easier way up!”
Seacat notes another physiological difference you may notice between the two forms of cycling. “The major difference you will see when cycling indoors vs. outdoors is a higher heart rate and increased rate of perceived exertion,” he says. Put more simply, working out indoors might feel tougher. “This comes mainly from thermodynamics or your body’s lack of ability to properly cool itself while riding indoors,” he says.
Can You Use a Road Bike for Spinning?
If you already own a road bike and are wondering about its adaptability indoors, there are ways that allow you to bring your workout inside, but they will require extra equipment.
Indoor bike trainers, which enable you to prop up your bike and add resistance to the wheels, range in price from a couple hundred bucks to well over a thousand dollars. If you opt for a smart indoor bike trainer, you can also connect to cycling apps like Zwift and TrainerRoad. These offer cycling workouts, tracking, analytics, training tools, and access to virtual cycling communities.
Is a Spin Bike Like a Road Bike at All?
How closely your indoor bike resembles a road bike depends on the type of indoor bike you’re riding, explains Seacat. Right now, there are currently two types of indoor bikes:
“A spin bike uses some kind of resistance knob the rider turns to make it harder,” Seacat says. This means that while you might pedal this bike the same way you pedal an outdoor bike, much of the user experience will be different.
Indoor bike trainers, however, offer an experience more like that of a road bike. “An indoor bike provides more of a true bike ride feel with the ability to change gears to apply resistance,” Seacat says. “Most use third-party apps to give you a workout.”
What Indoor Cycling Bikes Do You Recommend for Training?
If you’re looking for a true road bike experience, it can cost up to $3,000 to adapt an outdoor bike for indoor use. But what if you’d rather not make such a hefty investment in an indoor bike? Are there cheaper alternatives?
“You can totally get a more run-of-the-mill stationary bike, but by doing that, you typically run into two minor problems,” Seacat says:
- Limited fit customization
- The type of resistance
Most indoor bikes only allow minimal adjustments to the seat placement. However, both the seat and handlebars of the MYX Fitness Bike move up and down and forward and backward, comfortably accommodating riders from 4’11” to 6’8″. Similar to a road bike, this feature allows the user to achieve the fit that’s perfect for them.
As for resistance, depending on your personal preference, you’ll decide between friction and magnetic technologies. The first involves the use of a brake pad to regulate tension on the flywheel and is typically more affordable, while the latter employs magnets to apply resistance and is generally more expensive.
MYX II Bike
The MYX II Bike delivers a higher level of comfort, durability, and cost-effectiveness than other bikes in its class. It comes with a state-of-the-art sensor that tracks speed, cadence, and distance throughout your workout so you can continue to make progress with every single ride.
And now, with MYX+Openfit, you can use the bike’s 360-degree swivel screen to access all of Openfit’s live and on-demand programming! From equipment to results-focused workouts, the MYX system provides everything you need to get healthy, fit, and strong right from home.