Which do you think is a better workout? Outdoor cycling? Or indoor cycling? In this blog post, we are going to talk about the key differences between these workouts, and hopefully, at the end of it, you’ll be able to choose which one suits you best.
Indoor bikes and outdoor bikes don’t work the same
Let’s get this out of the way first. While it’s obvious that indoor bikes are stationary and outdoor bikes are not, it’s important to know how these equipment give you a workout. Indoor bikes come with a flywheel that weighs around thirty to forty pounds. This flywheel provides the resistance needed to work out your legs and hamstrings. You get a work out as you exert force to slow down the indoor bike they come around. Because of the weight of this flywheel, it’s very easy to keep the bike spinning. This is why most people in the gym appear to pedal very fast without exerting too much effort.
Outdoor bikes like road bikes and mountain bikes, on the other hand, give you a workout by pedaling against the wind and the friction of the road — putting your quadriceps and hip flexors to the test.
Now that you know the difference between outdoor bikes and indoor bikes, let’s evaluate which one is better when it comes to difficulty, fitness, and convenience.
When it comes to effort, outdoor cycling generally feels easier except if you are a professional bike racer. However, the level of difficulty required changes easily as you switch from leisure cycling to conquering these technical terrains. Mountain biking can easily become more difficult than indoor biking as you use various technical skills to complete the trail.
What makes indoor cycling feel difficult is not the amount of physical effort you exert but rather the mental exhaustion you need to deal with. If there’s one thing we can learn from the Covid-19 pandemic, it is that staying at home can get boring real fast. Indoor cycling also lacks variety and you end up using the same set of muscles every time.
In terms of fitness, outdoor cycling can easily increase your heart rate if you are very serious about your ride. However, for the most part, people who bike for recreation don’t pedal as much to give their leg muscles a serious workout. Add to that other distractions like navigating and balancing the bike. If you want to get fit riding your bike outdoors, you have to bike hard. Cruising can only burn around 100 calories per hour. If you want to burn an average of 500 calories per hour, you have to throw everything down.
Studies show that a regular indoor cycling routine/class can keep your heart up by up to 95 percent. And from a fitness standpoint, that’s good. Perhaps one of the biggest motivators includes pressure from your peers in the indoor cycling room and the yells and barks of your fitness instructor. A very sweaty indoor cycling session can easily burn between 400 to 600 calories per hour. Unfortunately, one of the biggest downsides of indoor cycling is that the flywheel does most of the work and you use fewer muscles in your ride. Contrast this to outdoor cycling where you use hamstrings, calves, shins, quads, and glutes more as long as you don’t spend most of your time cruising.
Indoor cycling beats outdoor biking easily when it comes to convenience. All you have to do is get dressed and ride your bike. If you have an indoor bike at home, you also save yourself the extra hassle of getting to the gym.
Outdoor biking, on the other hand, can be a logistical nightmare. If you are serious about your ride, you need to get the right clothes (like these bike shorts), you need to know how to replace a bike tire and you need the right bike tools to do it. When outside, you also have to deal with traffic, rain, and low visibility. To top it off, you also need to learn how to maintain your bike properly so it’ll last longer.
Indoor cycling and outdoor biking are both great workouts if you put your mind and heart into it. If you are someone who prefers convenience and a “plug and play” approach, then an indoor bike is perfect for you. However, if you love the outdoors and don’t care about all the things you have to deal with on the road, then go for outdoor cycling.
Both indoor and outdoor biking have great communities that support each other. If you constantly attend an indoor biking class, you’ll eventually form bonds with the person on the bike next to you. The same is true for outdoor cycling. Now and then, I see bike gangs riding together in a pack — tackling a long ride, hard climb, or steep descent. And there’s no better way to cap the day than cheering over a few bottles of beer.
At the end of the day, it’s your preference that counts. Riding 30 miles on an outdoor bike is not the same as riding 30 miles on an indoor bike. But you choose whatever suits your lifestyle best. You can even choose both! Go and bike outdoors if the weather is great and bike indoors if it is too wet or cold. That way, you get the best of both worlds.