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Indoor Vs. Outdoor Cycling: Which Is Best?

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Cyclers who enjoy riding outdoors face the same conundrum every winter – the choice to brave the cold and stay outside (read: Outdoor Cycling in Winters: Pros & Cons) or to switch to an indoor stationary bike.

While it’s true that riding outdoors offers many benefits, there are also some pros and cons to cycling indoors.

Indoor Cycling May Be Less Aerobically Challenging

Riding a stationary bike will not raise your maximum heart rate as much as cycling outdoors, especially if you’re a serious rider.  If you’re just biking recreationally, however, you’re probably not riding fast enough or hard enough to give yourself a serious aerobic workout.  Yet at the same time, when you’re riding outdoors, you’re using many other muscles to keep your bike balanced while pedaling.  So it’s something of a toss-up here.  Indoor cycling tends to work better for the average person who doesn’t ride that fast, but for those who are committed to cycling, riding a real bike is the better workout.

Don’t Train On A Stationary Bike If You’re Racing Outdoors

Many new bikers who are training for a race believe that they can train on a stationary bike, especially if the weather isn’t conducive to riding.  However, while that can help you train your stamina, it isn’t a replacement for traditional biking.  As just mentioned, you use many other muscles when riding outdoors, and you’ll need those muscles to be in top shape while racing.  Training on a real bike also helps you get used to riding over different terrain and in different weather conditions, both of which could impact your performance on race day.

Outdoor Vs. Indoor Cycling

While going riding outdoors does require getting out all of your bike gear, it’s also a much more interesting ride.  You can see the outdoors, take in the smells and sounds of nature, and overall have a much more interesting ride than you would cycling on a stationary bike.  Of course, on the other hand, if you’re on a stationary bike, you can listen to music, watch TV, or even talk on the phone.  Indoor cycling with a friend or with a group can make it less of a chore, too.  Some people hate cycling indoors and say that they get bored quickly, while others prefer it because they’re in a more climate controlled environment and can take more frequent breaks.

Ride At Your Convenience

Biking outdoors does take more planning and work than riding a stationary bike.  Being able to ride at your convenience is a very nice benefit of indoor cycling.  All you have to do is go to the gym.  If you invest in your own stationary bike, you don’t even have to do that!  Riding your traditional bicycle, however, involves putting on your bike helmet and heading outdoors.  It can be very inconvenient, especially if there’s bad weather, if it’s rained recently, or if it’s dark.  You may find it’s simply easier to go for indoor cycling.


Your indoor cycle probably has the exact same seat as every other stationary bike out there.  That means it’s most likely not going to be that comfortable for you.  In fact, it may even hurt your back, and some people find that they just can’t ride a stationary bike for that long because it starts to bother their lower back.  With road bikes, though, you can replace the seat with one that better fits your body.  It’s more comfortable, meaning you can longer distances.  Cycling is one of the best exercises to stay stress-free & relaxed, and you just can’t do that if it causes you pain, so traditional cycling definitely picks up a point here.


It’s easy to say that an indoor bike is obviously safer, but that may not always be true.  As we just discussed, it’s possible to strain your back if you don’t find the seat very comfortable.  While you may not risk crashing, you may still find that your knees hurt or your back bothers you after riding a stationary bike.  Riding outdoors may require protective gear and other bike wear, but that’s not difficult to find, and today’s options are much stronger and more protective than they used to be.  For example, the AVIP collection by POC provides enhanced safety level to sports athletes or those simply looking to exercise. (Read, POC earns a prestigious Design S award for the AVIP concept)

So Which is Better?

Do you spend time on your stationary bike or do you head outdoors?  It truly comes down to how athletic you are and what your goals are.  If you want to exercise without spending a lot of money, a stationary bike is probably what you need.  If, however, you want to spend time outdoors, train for a race, or really give your body a full workout, a traditional bike is ideal.


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  • John says:

    I always prefer outdoor cycling. Your post is awesome full of information. When I do cycling at home, I feel like go out and enjoy nature.

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  • Allen says:

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