Indoor Cycling. Sounds kind of pointless, doesn’t it? “You go inside, strap yourself to a stationary bike, and pedal nowhere for an hour or more.” Why not just go outside on a Real Bike?
Don’t get me wrong. I love riding bikes outside. Nothing quite like the rush of wind going down a big hill, or the thrill of accomplishment once you reach the top of an even bigger hill. But Indoor Cycling can be a lot of fun in its own right.
“Spinning™”, a trademarked form of Indoor Cycling, emphasizes a group dynamic. You’re in a crowd of other folks on bikes, with loud, driving music, getting cues from an instructor. This is a lot of fun, losing yourself at a primal level with a group of other people.
There are also virtual rides, pioneered by Global Ride out here in Western Pennsylvania. A virtual ride is a first-person trip in an exotic location, such as Hawaii, Italy, France, or Rhode Island. You’re on your indoor bike watching a video on a big screen, transported to another place. Throw in some awesome music, and a group of other folks, and you have an indoor experience that replicates much of the outdoor experience.
Riding outdoors is awesome. Except in my neck of the woods in winter. Between the ice, snow, and generally terrible drivers, you’d have to be insane to be out on a bike in the winter. Instead, you can go indoors and work out. With a structured plan like Cycling Fusion’s Winter Training, you can do work indoors that translates directly to riding outdoors.
Indoors you can concentrate on the four phases of your pedal stroke. Outdoors if you do too much of that you’ll end up in a ditch. Indoors you can closely monitor your heart rate and see how it changes with exertion. Outdoors you’ll end up in that ditch again. Indoors you can do hard intervals followed by quality recovery time. Outdoors you’re at the mercy of your route and the wind. One day’s recovery segment becomes hard work as you pedal into a 20 mph headwind. Many indoor bikes these days have power meters, so you can apply power-based training principles. Outdoors, power meters will add a couple of thousand dollars to the price of a bike.
For me, I spend late fall and winter inside, where it’s comfortable, and work on the fitness, strength, and skills I’ll need for the next year. In the spring it’ll probably be half-and-half, with summer primarily being outside. Unless of course it’s over 100 degrees and 105% humidity, in which case I’ll head back in to someplace climate-controlled, or at least has a bunch of fans.