Commerce Content is independent of Editorial and Advertising, and if you buy something through our posts, we may get a small share of the sale. Oh, and FYI — prices are accurate and items in stock as of time of publication.
While I’ve become fond of indoor cycling because of the world’s current condition, I do occasionally take my cheap mountain bike to the streets and have my moments in the open. These two forms of cycling aren’t equal, though. While you push pedals in both cases, there are just too many differences that you need to know.
So I’ll give my thoughts on indoor vs outdoor cycling, and help you determine how the two modes are completely different.
Without further ado, let’s get started.
The Difference between Indoor and Outdoor Cycling
Differences in Convenience
If you’re interested in convenience as far riding a bike is concerned, then you should consider going for indoor cycling. And that’s because it’s more flexible unlike taking a bike to the streets. Or, what’s more thrilling than getting on a bike or showing up for a spinning class? If you have an indoor stationary bike at home, even better. You’ll never have to worry about getting to the gym.
Outdoor cycling, on the other hand, is both interesting and messy. Unlike just hopping on a bike and getting straight to pedaling, outdoor cycling requires you to dress up properly to brave the weather, check if your bike is in compliant with cycling laws, and deal with rough terrains. You’re simply at the mercy of everything the outside environment throws at you. And if conditions outside get messy, cycling become a lot harder.
Even more challenging is the bike handling process. You’ll have to tune up the chains once in a while. After a few months of cycling, your bike tires will need an upgrade. And if you don’t have bike lights and a protective cycling helmet, you’ll need to make sure you buy the accessories.
But don’t get me wrong:
Cycling outdoor can be fun if you have full gears in place and if your bike is up to the standard to brave the street. Plus, it’s cheap. You only buy a bike once and you can use it for the rest of your life. That’s more reasonable than paying a monthly gym subscription.
The bottom line is this:
If you’re looking for a more convenient bike riding option, indoor cycling is the way to go. But if you’re ready for a lot more fun outdoors, and you’re ready to brave the harsh weather and bad roads, nothing should stop you from investing in outdoor cycling.
Many indoor bikes have close to 40 pounds flywheels that provide some form of resistance as you pedal. Because the wheel is in the flying state, the pedal tends to stay in motion even after you stop pedaling. And your hamstrings must have the power and energy to control the pedals.
Pedaling is different when you’re biking outdoors. Because you’re riding against friction and wind, you work your quadriceps and hip flexors far much more than you would in an indoor cycling class. Unlike indoor bikes with flywheels, you’re doing most of the work when you take your bike to the streets.
Remember, a flywheel is the reason why indoor cycling is easier than outdoor biking. There’s little force required to put the wheel in motion compared to outdoor cycling. So the next time you see people in an indoor cycling class pedaling rather faster than you’d expect, just remember they aren’t doing a lot of work at all.
Comparing the Performance
Just because there’s less energy required for indoor cycling doesn’t mean it isn’t involving. The exercise doesn’t just involve working the back of your legs to control the pedal. It can also raise to a level good enough to give you a reasonable cardiovascular response.
The problem with this form of cycling is that there’s just more help from the bike and less effort from your end. If you wanted to burn more calories, this wouldn’t be the most effective form of exercise whatsoever. In other words, indoor cycling lets you burn overall fewer calories, no matter how fast you think you’re pedaling.
Outdoor cycling gets different parts of your body moving all the time. That’s why it’s ideal to prefer biking outdoors to taking an indoor class if you seriously want to boost your muscular fitness. With outdoor cycling, you can get your heart rate as high and burn more calories in the process.
Understand that outdoor cycling doesn’t allow you to enjoy the company of a cheering group like in an indoor cycling class. But you still get the motivation to keep moving because being outdoors gives you the opportunity to connect with nature.
As far as performance comparison goes, not all outdoor cyclists burn the same amount of calories or raise their heart rate high. For example, someone riding a hybrid bike may not necessarily be interested in keeping shape, so he or she may not pedal nearly as aggressively as someone who’s on an exercise bike or a mountain bike. In other words, people don’t cycle the same, and those who don’t ride a bike hard enough simply can’t build muscles fast.
The Difficulty Involved
Indoor cycling is the simple form we’ve ever tested. It’s the kind of exercise that anyone can do. The bike is stationary, with only the flywheel and the pedals in motion. There are no ascents or descents, and the system only works the same muscles repeatedly. However, and this is based on our experience at Bikes Haven, indoor cycling can get boring quite fast, especially if you’re doing it alone. But adding something like music, and even engaging an instructor, can go a long way to make the exercise interesting.
Outdoor cycling can be difficult, moderate, or much like indoor cycling depending on what you choose. For example, regular commuting feel much easier because it needs very little effort, not to mention that, in this case, you’re biking for leisure and/or just transportation. Hardcore outdoor cycling, on the other hand, is quite involving and is often suitable for those who want to take their cycling skills to the next level.