Differences between Indoor Vs Outdoor Cycling

Indoor Vs Outdoor Cycling: Which One Is Best?

by

Billy Hughes
August 13, 2021
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If you want to start cycling more regularly, you have many options to choose from.

This includes the different types of bikes you can choose to ride as well as if you want to cycle indoors or outdoors.

What benefits do both types of cycling offer? Both indoor and outdoor cycling will boost your heart health while helping you to lose weight.

You don’t have to choose between indoor vs outdoor cycling. You can enjoy both! However, it helps to know what their pros and cons are to help you choose which one you want to do more regularly. 

Indoor Vs Outdoor Cycling: What Are Their Pros And Cons? 

Outdoor Cycling 

cycling outdoor pros and cons

Pros

  • If you cycle outdoors, you’ll be able to keep your ride interesting and motivating, such as by exploring new sights and sounds.
  • You’ll feel a mental boost, thanks to how you’ll get to ride in the sunshine and feel the breeze on your shoulders.
  • You can use your outdoor cycling sessions to get your errands done, so it’s a creative way to burn calories and get fit while being useful.
  • It’s easy to use an outdoor bike as most people have experience with riding one, so you don’t have to learn how to use it.

Cons

  • It’s not always easy to squeeze in an outdoor cycling session, especially if you’re very busy.
  • Various things can get in the way of your outdoor cycling, such as the weather.
  • When you cycle during hot summer days, you can risk dehydration and sunburn. Or you might just not feel like getting out there to do the exercise.
  • You risk injury, such as by falling off your bike. Whether you’re on a road or mountain bike, this can result in serious injuries and accidents. 

Indoor Cycling 

pros and cons of indoor cycling

Pros

  • Cycling on an indoor bike offers climate control because you’re more in control of your surroundings and don’t have to deal with the weather.
  • You can multitask on an indoor bike. You can stream live fitness classes or watch television while cycling. On a recumbent bike, because you’re in a reclining position you can even read a book on your device while cycling.
  • You reduce your risk of injury. While working out on an indoor bike can pose some injury risks, especially if you don’t use the proper form, you don’t risk falling off a stationary bike as compared to a bike you’d use outdoors.
  • You can make use of high-intensity interval training (HIIT) much easier on an indoor bike without having to tolerate any disruptions to your workout, such as being forced to decrease your speed because there’s traffic on the road. Generally, you will be able to avoid both distractions and disruptions to your pace and speed much easier on an indoor bike. 

Cons

  • Cycling indoors can become boring because you don’t get to explore new routes and scenery in your environment. However, you can make use of live fitness classes to get a more immersive and interesting ride. 

Indoor Vs Outdoor Cycling: How Do They Compare?

Now that we’ve looked at the pros and cons of both types of cycling, let’s explore how indoor and outdoor cycling varies according to different features and factors. 

Design

design difference

While you can find stationary bikes that are designed in a similar way to outdoor bikes, with an example being how a spin bike is very similar to a road bike, generally indoor bikes have a huge difference in their design: they have a flywheel. 

This is a wheel that weighs approximately 30 pounds to give you enough resistance when you cycle on the bike. This flywheel causes your hamstrings to put in more effort so that you can slow down the pedals.

By comparison, when you’re cycling outdoors, you will have to pedal against the road friction and wind resistance, both of which require more effort to be put in from your quads and hip flexors.

In addition to the above, a stationary bike’s flywheel can cause you to let the bike put in all the work for you because it’s easier to maintain its speed once the wheel is turning, so that’s something to bear in mind when you take part in indoor cycling.

Difficulty Level

When you choose to do indoor cycling, you will use the same lower-body muscles over and over again, which can make it feel more difficult to get through cycling sessions as compared to when you’re riding outdoors. This is especially the case with spin biking.

By comparison, outdoor cycling usually feels easier to get through because you get to immerse yourself in the sights and sounds around you, and you can change your route at a whim if you get bored.

That said, you can make indoor cycling feel less strenuous by paying attention to your surroundings – don’t cycle in a cluttered, uninspiring room! – and use live cycling sessions on an app that will keep you motivated.

Convenience

Their Convenience

It’s not always easy to cram in a cycling session if you’re really busy with other things, so you might be drawn to the type of cycling that’s most convenient for you.

Generally, indoor cycling is considered to be more convenient. As long as you have a bike at home, you can cycle at any time of the day or night without having concerns that you would if you had to cycle outdoors, such as regarding your safety or bad weather conditions.

Indoor cycling is also convenient because you can take fitness classes or ride with fellow cyclists from the comfort of your home.

By comparison, outdoor cycling requires you to consider various factors before you can jump on your bike. For example, you have to think about your route, the weather conditions, your safety (such as when cycling at night), and traffic. 

Mental Health

Much has been said about outdoor cycling (and exercise in general) being better for one’s mental health. A study found that doing physical activity outdoors is linked to higher levels of energy, positive engagement, decreased tension, and less depression.

It makes sense because when you jump on your bike and head outside, you will be able to get into nature which can help you destress after a horrible day.

This is something that you might not be able to achieve with an indoor bike. However, there are ways to make your indoor cycling sessions more invigorating, such as by improving your surroundings, listening to music that makes you feel good, and streaming live classes so that you can connect with others. 

Equipment

equipment for outdoor cycling

When you start cycling, you’ll need to ensure you have essential equipment to reap the most benefits. This includes gloves to protect your hands, cycling shorts, a towel, water bottle, and more.

However, when you choose to cycle outdoors, you will need more items than you would if you cycled indoors. For example, you’ll need to ensure you’ve got a helmet to keep you safe, sunglasses, sunscreen, tube and patch kit, and more.

So, if you want to be able to jump on your bike whenever you want without requiring much, indoor biking is your best bet.

Fitness Benefits

You get a good workout from cycling, whether you choose to cycle indoors or outdoors. However, it’s been said that because outdoor cycling can be more enjoyable, you’re likely to want to spend more time on your bike.

You can spend up to 120 minutes riding around outside and exploring new places, whereas working out indoors might cause you to spend no more than 60 minutes on your bike.

What this essentially means is that spending longer times on your outdoor bike can result in you burning more calories and working your muscles more than if you use a stationary bike.

Muscles Worked

As we’ve already mentioned, the flywheel of a stationary bike helps you to target specific muscles, such as your hamstrings.

Indoor cycling will also work out your calves and quads. You can zone into your glutes if you stand on your bike, such as during a spin class.

When outdoor cycling, you’ll be able to target muscle areas like your calves, shins, and glutes.

So, ultimately, you get similar lower-body workouts.

Hydration

always hydrate yourself

Do you know that hydration varies depending on whether you’re cycling outdoors or indoors? There are many reasons for this.

When cycling indoors, your skin doesn’t get as cooled as it does when you ride outside in the wind. You can prevent this from happening by setting up a fan in your home gym.

Similarly, when you cycle in a warm room, your body won’t cool itself down as well as when you cycle outdoors, which means you’ll sweat more – and the result is that you’ll lose more fluid.

Make sure you have your water bottle handy when you’re ready to hit your cycling session hard.

Cost

You will also have to factor in the cost of buying a new road or mountain bike versus an indoor bike. Generally, you’ll have to spend between $500 to $1,000 for a stationary bike, but you can find models that cost less.

By comparison, for a quality mountain bike, you’ll have to pay upwards of $2,000. You can find a road bike for less than that. There’s quite a price range for road bikes – you’re looking at $200 all the way up to $10,000.

Generally, you can save money on your bike by shopping around, and that’s the case whether you purchase a bike for outdoor or indoor cycling.

Space

Before you bring a bike home, you’ll have to ensure you have enough space for it. The great thing about outdoor bikes is that you can find easy ways to store them, such as by purchasing space-saving storage solutions like racks or hanging them up on the wall to free up floor space in the home.

By comparison, a stationary bike tends to be bulkier, and it will take up more space if you place a mat underneath it and make use of a bike trainer

Can You Use Your Outdoor Bike Inside? 

Can You Use Your Outdoor Bike Inside?

If you have a bike trainer, you can use your road or mountain bike to work out indoors.

This trainer essentially keeps your bike in place so that you can use it as a stationary bike, and it can help you to save money because you won’t have to purchase another bike. It’s also useful if you want to use the same bike to train for an event or race.

To find out more, read our article, “How To Turn Your Bike Into A Stationary Bike.”

Related Questions 

How much does a bike trainer cost? 

A bike trainer can cost between $200 to $1,400. You’ll pay more for a high-quality smart trainer. 

How long do you need to cycle to reap health benefits?

A 20-minute cycling session every day is enough to help you stay healthy. However, note that you shouldn’t use a spin bike daily as it’s too vigorous.

Is cycling good for your knees?

Cycling, whether outdoors or indoors, is gentle on the joints because it’s low-impact exercise. Choosing a stationary bike such as a recumbent bike makes it even gentler on your body. 

Conclusion 

If you want to start cycling, you’ll have to decide if you want to cycle indoors or outdoors. Of course you can do both!

But which one is going to be best for you? This choice will influence what bike you should invest in, such as a road bike, mountain bike, or one of the many types of stationary bikes that are available on the market. 

In this article, we’ve provided you with the pros and cons of riding outdoors versus indoors, and we’ve compared them according to different features and elements. Happy cycling!

Sources: 

Billy Hughes

Billy Hughes is a fitness trainer based out of New York. She has registered success in training clients at multiple fitness centers and thus aims to establish her module relevant to the post-pandemic era. Her space, Cerevellum.com, is an attempt towards encouraging and educating more people on the scope of indoor fitness. She believes the power of fitness can transform attitude, personality, and way of living. She also finds it rewarding to help people achieve their goals and make their lives better.