Here’s The Difference Between Cycling at the Gym and On the Road

Here’s The Difference Between Cycling at the Gym and On the Road

You could be better off inside, it all depends on the type of cyclist you are.

When it comes to running, some people swear by the treadmill and others despise it. Running outdoors is the only way to go, they say. But research shows that with some small tweaks, your rendezvous with the treadmill can be just as beneficial as hitting the pavement.

But what about cycling? The entire machine is different.

Here are some things to consider when deciding which route to take:


Stationary bikes tend to concentrate on strengthening your leg muscles, only. You can exercise your core somewhat by standing in the seat, but it’s really your legs that get the benefit.

Exercising on a real bike is a different story. Riding involves your torso and arms, and depending on the path and bike, it can be a near-whole-body workout.

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But there are some things to consider. A study completed by the American Council On Exercise (ACE) found that the average person tends to work out harder on a stationary bike, than they do on a real bike. (This doesn’t apply to serious cyclists who really know their ride and the road).

Most recreational cyclists have a hard time pedaling as fast on a real bike as they do inside. A lot of it has to do with balance.

And so, it depends on how serious you are about your activity.


Is working out generally easier on a stationary bike? The study found that a typical person cycles in a class inside at around 75 to 95 percent of their maximum heart rate, (as inferred above). Outdoors, this is lower.

And there’s this: on a stationary bike, you can easily increase the resistance, instantly. On the road or trail, this can happen when you hit rough terrain, wind or a hill, but you’ll have to sprint to up your game and raise your heart rate if the path remains constant and the weather is good. Not all recreational riders do this.

The Final Verdict

Both methods of working out are good: stationary bikes and the real deal. If you feel confident and challenged on a real bike outside, go for it. (The benefits for serious cyclists can actually be greater outside).

If you feel like spinning class gives you a better workout however, stick with it. Or, toss it up and include a bit of both.

Either way,  may the “road” be long, and the wind (or fan) be always at your back.

Photo credits: nd3000/

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