One of the great things about riding a bike is that it’s not just a workout, it’s a journey. You can cover a lot of territory and see a great deal in a long Saturday ride. So why would any cyclist or triathlete want to be indoor cycling and go nowhere? Obviously, foul weather can make riding indoors more a matter of necessity than choice. But there are three special benefits of indoor cycling that can make it worth doing even on perfect days:
1. Safety. Let’s face it: Sharing the roads with cars is a little scary at times. Most cyclists have had close calls and know at least one fellow rider who has been hurt in a bike-vehicle encounter. Indoor cycling is a way to reduce your risk of an accident.
2. Performance. High-intensity interval workouts are an essential part of serious cycling training and triathlon training. Many athletes feel that these workouts can be done more effectively in a room, which presents a controlled environment where you can just put your head down and hammer.
3. Time. Indoor cycling saves time. You can get started more quickly without the usual tire inflation and other preparations and you don’t have to stop for traffic lights. Also, because there is no coasting indoors, indoor cycling is slightly more intense, so that an hour of pedaling indoors is equivalent to 65 or 70 minutes on the roads.
Know Your Reasons
It is important to have a clear understanding of why you ride indoors, because this can help you determine how to train indoors most effectively. For instance:
You ride inside only when something makes it impossible to ride outdoors. In this case, simply do your best to replicate your planned outdoor rides indoors. Most workouts are easily transferred. Long rides can be exceptions as many cyclists find it very difficult, both physically and psychologically, to perform multi-hour rides under a roof. In cases when you know you will not be able to go the full distance of a planned ride that you have transferred indoors, just go as long as you comfortably can.
You ride inside for long stretches during the winter. Cyclists and those in triathlon training who choose to “ride out” the winter mostly indoors should consciously approach this phase of training as a lower-volume phase. Make up for reduced cycling volume by cranking up the intensity of some of your rides, adding some cross-training to your program (e.g. cross-country skiing), and/or lifting weights to build strength for the upcoming season.
You ride inside to boost performance. Choose the types of rides you do inside wisely when looking to improve performance. Long rides and hill repetitions are best done outdoors, as hill climbing is difficult to properly replicate on a trainer. The trainer is conducive to recovery rides, base rides, and all types of high-intensity training other than hill climbing.