Indoor Cycling Classes vs. Outdoor Riding

by Kara Federowicz
8.8 Blog

To ride, or really—what to ride!? That is the question.

To begin, I would like to start with the disclaimer that regardless of your decision to ride inside or outside, give yourself a high five for actually riding. You are among the top percent of our population exercising, moving, doing something great for your health, and improving your longevity.

The “indoor cycling classes versus outdoor riding” debate can be divided into many different categories, but for this purpose we will dive into the following: location, equipment, time, and preference.

Location: If you live in the Northeast like me, you have a solid 4-6 months of mild or warm weather a year during which you can bike outside comfortably. That leaves around 6 months where indoor cycling is the more attractive option. If you live on the West Coast, the “right” coast as cyclists will call it, outdoor cycling is year round. Location also plays into the scenery, which can lead to a more tranquil ride. There is nothing better than riding outside and being on the road with the fresh air and the concrete underneath you. As cycling enthusiasts like to say, “Let’s have a moment of silence for all those stuck in traffic on their way to the gym to ride the stationary bicycle.”

Speaking of traffic, we can also take into consideration city life vs. rural life. Riding in NYC or on the outskirts requires more planning and travel than it would if I lived in Kansas and could just head out my front door and ride for miles, and miles, and miles (flat miles, of course). There is no excuse to not ride either way, but this is where time becomes a factor…

Time: In most cases, there’s no debate-outdoor cycling will take up more time than going to the gym or cycling studio. Preparing your bike and gear (along with regular bike maintenance) takes time and precise attention to detail to ensure that your ride goes smoothly. Then you’ll need to deal with traffic, road rules, etc., all of which make the trip longer. By contrast, a cycling or spinning class usually lasts 45-60 minutes. Unless the gym is far out of your way, taking a class is the faster and more convenient option. That being said, if you’re looking to cover more distance and/or training for something specific such as an endurance ride, 60 minutes may not be enough. In that case you may need to take double classes, or look into getting a CompuTrainer that you can use for indoor riding with your own road bike.

Equipment:  The world of cycling is expensive whether you ride inside or out; however, there is no price you can put on your health! The typical 45-minute cycling class is about $35. If you’re taking 2 classes a week, this could cost you up to $3,500 a year. At the same time, a nice carbon fiber bike along with the bells and whistles can cost you anywhere from $2,500-25,000 (I’m not joking!).  Across the board, the most important gear for cycling are protective shorts and clip in shoes.

Preference:  It all comes down to this: if you’re the type of person who likes to rock out to music in a dark room with a motivating instructor, then spin class is for you. If you’re more of an outdoor type that likes to focus on your own workout or ride in a pack, then outdoor cycling is probably your best bet. The answer lies within you, but you won’t know which is best unless you try it!

Kara Federowicz is a certified athletic trainer at the Tisch Performance Center. Kara has a degree from Penn State in kinesiology, the scientific study of human movement.

Topics: Featured, Rehabilitation and Fitness
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The information provided in this blog by HSS and our affiliated physicians is for general informational and educational purposes, and should not be considered medical advice for any individual problem you may have. This information is not a substitute for the professional judgment of a qualified health care provider who is familiar with the unique facts about your condition and medical history. You should always consult your health care provider prior to starting any new treatment, or terminating or changing any ongoing treatment. Every post on this blog is the opinion of the author and may not reflect the official position of HSS. Please contact us if we can be helpful in answering any questions or to arrange for a visit or consult.

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