Man on Horizon Fitness exercise bike in his home.

Did you know that continuing your indoor cycling workouts this spring can do amazing things for your outdoor rides? Outdoor cyclists need serious stamina to be prepared for a variety of terrain and conditions. Here are the most effective ways to continue training on your indoor cycle as you gear up for outdoor cycling.

Build Climbing Strength:

  My favorite indoor cycling advantage is building climbing strength.  Indoor cycles let you practice repeated climbs, without worrying about surrounding conditions or finding sufficient hilly terrain.  The best cyclists focus on creating power from behind the hips by using the glutes as well as the quads.  Focus on maintaining a low, “hips back” position, while pulling slightly back on the handlebars to build posterior strength.  Work in heavy loads at cadences of 55-75 RPM, as well as at slightly lighter loads at a cadence of 85-100 RPM at a level you can maintain for less than 2 minutes.  This will build strength and explosive power that will let you blast over your next set of outdoor hills.

Increase Turnover:

  It’s easy to get a little too comfortable with your cadence outdoors. Skilled riders can adapt their cadences to respond to changes in wind direction and terrain.  Dedicate specific portions of your indoor ride to holding a quick cadence while maintaining sufficient load and core engagement.  This high power output is just what you need to press to the front of the pack in your next outdoor race.

No Coasting:

Using a weighted flywheel means that indoor cycles require some level of constant effort (i.e. no coasting).  This teaches recovery in the saddle. Use lower intensity times to maintain an aerobic level of effort as your body recovers from the peaks of your workout.  On outdoor rides this translates to working recoveries that still increase the overall power output of your ride.


Raise Lactate Threshold:

  Your lactate threshold offers tremendous training potential that can result in a higher V02 max and stronger cardiovascular output over time. Lactate threshold training is tougher than aerobic, causing lactic acid to begin to build up in our muscles.  It remains below anaerobic, without the accompanying muscle failure.  Lactate threshold training makes us more comfortable with continued tough efforts. Our bodies also become more efficient at clearing lactic acid from our muscles, ultimately increasing our lactate threshold.  Target your lactate threshold by completing indoor rides of 20 minutes at 85% of your maximum heart rate.  Intersperse lactate threshold training into other rides by including five minute efforts at a heart rate of 85%.  Your lactate threshold efforts will require a great deal of concentration and willpower, but you can be held for more than 3 minutes at a time.

Planned Workouts:

Varied conditions are one of the best things about outdoor riding.  Preparing and training for those conditions is tough without a big commitment of time spent on transportation and planning.  Your indoor cycle provides a fixed environment and adjustable loads to focus on drills that replicate the most challenging portions of outdoor cycling.

Serious Calorie Burn:

Even active recovery workouts on an indoor cycle result in an enviable impact on your metabolism.  To burn the most calories during your indoor cycling workouts, focus on your form.  Support your bodyweight and keep your core strong throughout your workout.  Avoid leaning on the handlebars.  Since you need to use your arms to create a strong base,  this is not the best time for catching up on your reading and social media.  Keep an eye on your wattage.  If it’s lagging, so is your power output, and by association, your calorie burn.

Safety and Convenience:

  Outdoor riding can take a lot of time to prep your bike and your body for the experience.  On long weekdays, rainy or windy weather, or even during extreme heat, indoor cycling will blast calories and let you concentrate on your form.  Additionally, we all know that there are safety risks associated with outdoor riding.  When riding outdoors, concentrating on your surroundings can sometimes result in planned workouts and riding form suffering as a result.  While there is no substitute for the outdoor ride, the indoor cycle is really the best option for completing specific drills and accommodating scheduling and weather related challenges.

Perfect Form:

 When you aren’t distracted by outdoor safety issues or challenges, you can focus specifically on your cycling position.  Drill these habits in your indoor rides so that you maintain them even during challenging conditions.  Good areas to notice include upper body tension, alignment of your knees, back position, and core engagement.  Breath control is another excellent area to focus on during indoor training rides.  You’ll be able to use it during both your pushes and recoveries in outdoor cycling events. Post-workout you can even complete a little cycling specific mobility work in the comfort of your home.

Indoor cycling is not a replacement for outdoor cycling, but it does offer the perfect cross training complement to your outdoor rides. On your indoor cycle, mimic the conditions you want to train for as closely as possible.  Use your cycling shoes and consider trying out new clothing or nutrition options on your indoor ride so that you know how they will affect your performance out on the road.  Remember to hydrate just as you would for an outdoor ride. Lastly, plan your workouts by targeting specific drills and formats.  Both HIIT and Active Recovery days are important on the indoor cycle, as they can be difficult to stick to on outdoor rides.  Including drills targeting all of the areas discussed above will let you smash the varied challenges of your outdoor rides.