Clearly, we’re big fans of the stationary bike.
A staple in commercial and home gyms, indoor cycling gives beginners and experienced riders a great cardiovascular workout. You can also generate clean electricity as you exercise, so there’s never been a better time to jump on the saddle and start using one. But that doesn’t mean that stationary bikes don’t also have their disadvantages, especially compared to outdoor bikes.
No Real Word Experience
Indoor cycling can’t give you the same experience as riding outdoors, so developing your cycling skills will be tough if you only ever ride a stationary bike. Outdoor cycling helps riders develop key proficiencies and abilities, including balance, hazard perception, reaction and coordination. These are all far harder to replicate indoors with a fixed wheel. Whilst this might not seem important to someone with little intention of riding outdoors, indoor cyclists are missing out on extra muscle work, including stabilising muscles, arms and abs. Outdoor cyclists should use indoor cycling as a supplement to training and not a replacement.
It Can Be Easier to Cheat
Indoor bikes use resistance to naturally replicate the challenging terrain that outdoor cyclists encounter. There’s little point in riding indoors if you’re not using some form of resistance because otherwise, it wouldn’t be a workout.
Smart indoor bikes use digital resistance controlled by an instructor or artificial intelligence built into the software. It’s a great feature to have (and we’ve included it in the RE:GEN), but where there’s digital resistance, there’s also a manual override. It means cyclists can reduce resistance when they’d prefer to exercise at a lower intensity. Again, it’s a great feature, but it’s also one that can make it easier to underperform or reduce effort. And let’s face it, we’ve all been guilty of doing that at one time or another. Outdoor cyclists can change their route to avoid certain terrains, but ultimately, when there are hills or challenging climbs, outdoor cyclists have to dig deep and put in the effort. Those two little switches on the sides of the handlebars? They make it easier to dial down intensity and make it easier.
Indoor Cycling Can Be Boring
Indoor cycling can feel repetitive because the scenery doesn’t change, and you’re limited to seeing what’s immediately around or in front of you.
Outdoor cycling offers ever-changing environments with the advantage of having things you must pay attention to, like terrain, weather conditions, hazards, and other road users. These types of challenges (whilst they may sometimes be frustrating) make riding more engaging and exciting. If you’ve ever tried exercising when you’re bored and unfocused, you’ll know how excruciating it can be. You can do things with an indoor bike to make a more varied workout, like adding a TV to your home gym, signing up for virtual platforms like Zwift or taking an instructor-led class, but sometimes these may not be enough. We’ve been developing the Energym app, using games and incentives (earning coins to spend on products and rewards) to help make exercise more engaging and fun.
Indoor Bikes Are Noisy
Surprisingly, some indoor bikes are pretty loud, and you may not realise this until you’ve bought one home. Vibrations from the flywheel and frame as you ride can go into the floor, making you very unpopular with your neighbours. Try putting a mat under the bike to reduce contact with the floor if this happens. Mats are also helpful for protecting the carpet or flooring underneath from sweat (yes, a good indoor cycling class or training session can do this. It happened at our Bloomberg event!).
There’s No Air Flow
When you ride outside, there’s a breeze on your face and arms as you move through the air. This airflow helps your body thermoregulate using sweat on the skin to cool you down, but this doesn’t happen indoors because you don’t move through the air –you’re stationary. This is why people get incredibly sweaty during an indoor cycling class and why you’ll often see large fans set up inside studios to help create some movement of air. Unfortunately, they’re not always a match for the temperature or for the effort you (and everyone else) is putting in.
It’s a Lot of Numbers
Indoor cycling heavily relies on data and metrics like distance, calorie burn, watt generation, heart rate, speed, etc. These numbers are invaluable for training or anyone looking to improve their performance as they provide a baseline and roadmap for progression. Functional threshold power (FTP) is a critical cycling metric, so we’ve built it into RE:GEN’s portable battery. But riders are also human, and it’s hard to appreciate how far you’ve been riding using only numbers. There’s real satisfaction when you can use visual cues to understand your progress: the miles you can physically look back on, the gradient you’ve powered up or even the heavy rain storm you’ve powered through. Indoor cycling also relies heavily on time – the length of the class or the time on the bike – but that can be difficult to quantify, especially when you’re finding staying motivated to exercise tough.
Like most things in life, there are advantages and disadvantages to using a stationary bike. We think they’re a fantastic addition to home and commercial gyms, but it’s also worth understanding some drawbacks, especially if you’re choosing between an indoor or outdoor bike.
Ready to generate clean useable electricity with every workout? We’re launching the RE:GEN. Our smart indoor cycling bike captures and converts human power and turns it into clean energy, and the best news? We’re now taking pre-orders.