Cycling vs Spinning / Indoor Cycling

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By Robbie Ferri, Personal Trainer & Group Exercise Instructor.

Many people use cycling as a tool to get fit, feel better, improve their health, and even lose weight by burning extra calories. Whatever your reason may be, I personally believe it’s one of the best ways to get fit and not have to put yourself through too much pain. It’s low impact, can be done regularly, and typically comes with a low injury rate. 

I am often asked as an avid outdoor cyclist and spinning instructor what is the better option for cycling. Should you be indoors hammering the spinning sessions or outdoor on your local cycling trails? In this article, we’re going to discuss what’s best for a few different reasons.

Indoor vs Outdoor Cycling

Which burns more Calories?

We cycle a lot of the time because it does burn an amazing amount of calories but what is better for calorie burn, spinning, or cycling outdoors? I personally find that spinning has a much higher calorie burn. You never stop pedaling when spinning, typically people’s heart rate sits much higher, and when in a group you push yourself harder.

Which gets me Fitter?

Whichever you pick, providing you are consistent and you train hard enough you will get fitter. Though if you are looking at making good progress quickly then spinning could be a better option. It challenges you more, it offers much more structure than riding outside and the resistance it gives you is endless. If I plan to be race-ready quickly I will do the majority of my training inside.

Which uses more muscles?

Although you are doing the same motion spinning and outdoors I believe outdoor you have to use more muscles. All the work that goes into stabilizing yourself riding outdoor does require more muscles to be working. As a trainer, one thing I see is outdoor cyclists typically seem to have more core control than spinners and indoor cyclists.

What creates better cycling efficiency?

Riding outdoors typically for longer durations in my opinion builds cycling efficiency better than riding indoors. This is because to build efficiency the intensity has to be much lower and it is about training for longer periods of time at lighter effort levels. This is known for many as base miles and you will see pros spend the majority of their time not working very hard. 

What is easier?

I think personally cycling outdoors is easier. The main reason is that the airflow is much better. When you are in an indoor cycling studio you are fighting for air and it doesn’t circulate well, this not only means it’s harder to get more oxygen in but also your body has to work harder to keep itself cool. Outdoors you have air pushed into your system and are constantly cooled by it as well, meaning your body can focus on cycling and not staying cool.

Which is more entertaining?

In my opinion, I think being outdoors and cycling is much more entertaining than cycling indoors. The wind in your hair and plenty of good views and different road options. Although cycling indoors can be a lot of fun if you in the right class and doing the right type of session. 

Which is cheaper?

I personally think riding indoors is cheaper. It may cost a few hundred dollars for a bike and a subscription to an app, or you might take the route of a gym membership but compared to outdoors I believe it is cheaper. In outdoor riding, you need more equipment, and the maintenance costs much more. Things like tires, clothing, inner tubes, and servicing, all add up and, personally, I think being an outdoor cyclist isn’t the cheapest way to get fit.

Conclusion

When it comes to spinning or outdoor cycling I personally think it comes down to personal preference. They both offer a completely different experience but either way, you go they are going to be a lot of fun and you get a lot of benefits.

Robbie Ferri

A Personal Trainer and Ultra Cyclist living in King's Lynn in Norfolk, UK. From Ultra Cycling World Records to Bikepacking Races and a huge amount of time on the gym floor training myself and clients my experience when it comes to Health and Fitness is vast.

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