With the rising popularity of indoor cycling or spinning classes, it is often wondered whether indoor or outdoor cycling has the same effects on our workouts and if one is actually better than the other.
First let’s distinguish the difference in the equipment. The most significant difference is that indoor cycling bikes are stationary and they each come with a 40-pound fly-wheel, which provides resistance while pedaling and works the hamstrings harder especially when slowing down the pedals. On the other hand, cycling on outdoor bikes uses more of our quadriceps and hip flexors to resist wind and road friction.
In terms of the challenge level, indoor cycling is actually easier as the fly-wheel keeps the pedals moving once you get the wheels spinning, hence fewer calories burnt when compared to outdoor cycling.
Although indoor cycling might burn less calories than outdoor cycling because of the fly-wheel, peer pressure from cycling classmates, loud bumping music, and screaming instructors could play a huge role in motivating your workouts hence possibly resulting in an intensive cardiovascular workout. Whereas recreational outdoor cyclists might have a harder time achieving the same heart rate due to factors like not having a motivational instructor, having to navigate the roads and balancing the bike at the same time, more muscles are used to pedal outdoors including quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, and calves without the fly-wheel. But then again, mostly only professional or trained cyclists can easily reach higher heart rates than those in the indoor cycling classes.
Other factors to consider when comparing indoor to outdoor cycling: convenience, weather, temperature, bike repair, maintenance, traffic, accidents, scenery, cycling gear, costs, etc. Either way, your body will get a great workout. So see what suits you best!