Why indoor cycling is beneficial all year round

While some riders still view indoor cycling as a last resort for bad weather or winter months, the truth is that indoor riding offers a plethora of benefits that make it an attractive option year-round. Even professional athletes, who have the luxury to chase the sun, consistently integrate indoor training into their routines. Let’s explore why indoor cycling is not just a fallback option but a strategic choice for cyclists of all levels, regardless of the season.

1. Safety first 

One of the main advantages of indoor cycling is safety. With no traffic, unpredictable weather conditions, or road hazards to contend with, riders can focus solely on their workout without putting their safety and well-being in the hands of any drivers along the route. Although cycling is generally becoming safer around the world, the number of preventable cycling-related deaths in the US increased by 37% from 2012 to 2021, reaching a total of 1,230 fatalities. 

Bicycle-related deaths peak in the warmer months, starting in July, so indoor training isn’t just the safer option during the winter months. Mercifully, the vast majority of rides don’t end in tragedy. However, while cycling is certainly on the up, the car remains king of the road in most countries. In the UK, two-thirds of cyclists have experienced aggressive behaviour from motorists. You won’t get abused while sitting on your smart bike!

2. Any time, any day

Whether it’s work, family, social life, significant other, or a combination of them all, it’s not always easy to be consistent in terms of when you ride. Indoor cycling offers incredible flexibility in that regard; whether it’s early morning, late at night, or even grabbing an hour of their lunch break on a work-from-home day, cyclists have the freedom to pedal away at their convenience, fitting their workout into their schedule without being at the mercy of daylight, weather, or worrying that a flat tire might make them late for an important afternoon meeting.

3. Your efficient friend

Flat tires are just one inconvenience that indoor riding avoids. Prepping for even a short outdoor ride can be a time-consuming ritual – debating clothing choices, pumping tires, and planning your route all take up valuable non-cycling time. With indoor cycling, you’re on your bike quicker, maximizing your time and allowing you to spend more time turning those pedals.

The same is true once the ride has finished. Hop off the bike and straight into the shower. No post-ride clean-up routine or need to launder a mountain of sweaty cycling attire after each session.

4. For the urban masses

If you live in a major city, like Amsterdam, London, Paris or  Berlin, you may not have quick access to roads suitable for training. Instead of spending an hour weaving in and out of traffic or waiting at traffic lights, before you even reach decent cycling terrain, better to jump on the smart trainer and dive straight into the proper training.

5. Global connectivity 

Thanks to indoor cycling platforms like Zwift, Rolla, and Rouvy, no matter where you live, you can now transcend geographical barriers and tackle vast virtual worlds, from imaginary cycling paradises to real iconic climbs, all from the comfort of your own home. However, these apps now also offer cyclists the opportunity to join a global community of bike riders, through virtual club rides and races. If your location or schedule doesn’t allow you to join the local cycling club, you can find that sense of camaraderie and diversity online.

6. Entertainment on the go

If you love cycling but you’re also a huge fan of Succession, Casa del Papel or Below Deck, then indoor cycling is the perfect combination. Add a screen to your pain cave and you can finally get around to watching Game of Thrones, or that action movie your other half doesn’t want to see, all while breaking a sweat and making real gains. While this suggestion is a little tongue-in-cheek, combining your workout with entertainment can really help with motivation. On days when you don’t feel like smashing out some sweet spot intervals, the opportunity to watch an episode of Drive to Survive might just be what gets you on the bike.

7. Optimized workouts

While all these other points are definite benefits, the reason why top-end cycling coaches will ask their pro riders to do certain sessions on the indoor trainer is that it’s simply a better environment for sessions that require riders to fine-tune their performance with precision. Whether it’s dialing in hard intervals, experimenting with high RPM drills, or pushing the limits in a test session, riders can maximize their efforts and achieve targeted results more effectively indoors than on outdoor rides where traffic, road furniture, undulations in terrain and technical corners all force riders to come off the gas.

This lack of interruption makes indoor riding more efficient, with most coaches estimating that an outdoor workout should be 25-35% longer than an indoor ride to be comparable in terms of total effort. In 2016, Aussie pro Matt Hayman was forced to ride exclusively indoors due to a broken arm. How did it work out for him? That year, he won Paris-Roubaix, one of the world’s most brutal one-day bike races.

So, should you drop outdoor riding altogether?

In reality, the optimal training regimen is a balanced blend of indoor and outdoor riding. While indoor cycling offers unparalleled convenience, efficiency and the perfect environment for specific interval workouts, outdoor rides provide essential elements, such as handling skills and all-important blasts of vitamin D. Plus, there’s nothing like a long day in the saddle, chatting to training partners or watching the countryside zoom past, for those big aerobic endurance gains.

But, by adopting a hybrid approach and integrating indoor cycling as a central component of your year-round training plan, you can reap the benefits of both worlds, ensuring optimal performance and enjoyment throughout the year. So, whether it’s rain or shine, embrace the smart bike or smart trainer and discover the transformative power of indoor cycling as not just a backup plan, but a game-changer.