How to start cycling indoors

Our recent article covered the incredible benefits of exercising outdoors in nature, however, as the Australian summer heat descends, it’s important to add that outdoor exercise isn’t always safely achievable. 

When the temperature is over 40 and you still want to get a ride in without the sunburn or sunstroke, you are going to need to leave the road and switch to carpet. 

Here are some handy ways to keep the pedals moving so you stay fit even when you can’t be outdoors. 

Indoor cycling is a different activity than road cycling because you lose the freewheeling effect of gravity and inertia. You also cancel out breaks that you’d get on the road due to traffic, stoplights and intersections. Cycling indoors has every pedal stroke working your body with intensity meaning you can count on indoor cycling to help with fitness, weight loss or race preparation. It also means you might find indoor cycling more taxing than you expected. If you are new to cycling inside take it slow and keep the cadence high while you get used to the extra exertion. 

While having a turbo or rollers set up at home is the typical way to go, it can get a little stagnant. The best motivation for exercise is to love it, so if you are finding your indoor routine boring, switch it up and add some entertainment, socialising or variety to keep those legs happily pumping. 

What you need to know about your indoor cycling options: 

Turbo Trainer 

Turbo trainers allow you to clamp you bike wheel in and away you go. If you are on a tight budget you can pick up a turbo for as little as $30 from a bike store, although the higher the price, the better the quality and more true to life your pedal strokes will be.

You can adjust the pressure of the turbo on the wheel to increase or decrease resistance as well as use your gears to work your way through a warm up, hard sprint and warm down routine. 

The tech savvy can up the fun with a Smart Turbo Trainer, (although the price increases drastically). Once connected to Bluetooth you have access to Zwift and similar apps that simulate virtual cycling routes, including the feeling of climbing and group ride drafting. You can also pit your progress against other online users including celebrities. 

For best results on the smart versions use the direct drive feature, which mounts your frame, not the rear wheel to the stand. Removing the wheel creates more realistic riding simulations and also saves wear and tear on your rubber tread. 

Roller Trainer 

A roller trainer is basically a treadmill for your bike. When you pedal the power of your wheels spinning turns the cylinders underneath you so you get the full motion, and balance of riding, without actually going anywhere. 

The real benefit to a roller trainer is its mobility. Most people prefer them at events for warm up as they are easy to assemble anywhere and your bike simply rolls on and rolls off when you are done, ready to take the start line. 

Getting the balance right can take a few goes but once you have the hang of it you will look like a professional. 

They are not especially well suited to a hard train, while Smart Roller Trainers are available that create resistance and connect you to apps, you need to be highly skilled to manage the right amount of power output without sending your bike over the edge (and through a window). 

Best for warm up style riding they do help improve core strength and stability much more than turbo trainers, and because of the concentration required, can be more interesting to train on.

Spin Class

Just about every modern gym has spin class facilities. Unlike home trainers, you can only use the bikes when the class is running, not on a whim or a quick ride before breakfast! You will need to select the right class for your ability and intended goal (i.e. lose weight, maintain fitness, prepare for an event). An instructor with a microphone will lead the class along with a sound track of energising music to keep you pumped and working your hardest.

Most session run from 40 to 60 minutes and you will be required to pedal the entire time, usually with bursts of High Intensity Interval Training.

The bikes are up to date and sophisticated, you can even opt to set your spin bike to your road bike measurements in most cases. It’s cheaper and easier than buying your own indoor trainer, especially if you already have a gym membership and only need occasional breaks off the road.

The social atmosphere, leader instructions and scheduled timing can really work for people who need external motivation to train.

Turbo Studio

If the full body workout of the gym and track-style bike set up isn’t for you, there is an alternative. Turbo studios are speciality group training sessions where you bring your own bike and use their state of the art turbo equipment. Most studios offer group training, like a gym but with a total focus on road cycling styles and technique or you can book a one-on-one session with a coach. This option is perfect for getting event ready or honing you bike handling skills and position.

So no matter the weather you have multiple ways to stay in shape and keep riding – that’s freedom!