Riding Inside versus Riding Outside

March 11, 2011

At the beginning of the year I bought a stationary trainer for my bicycle with the hopes of using it to regain some lost conditioning and perhaps lose a few pounds of weight. For the past two weeks I've been very diligent about riding it and, in spite of it being the most boring activity on earth, I'm pleased with how it's working out.

Today the weather here was spectacular, with a high near 75º, so when I arrived home from work my goal was to ride outside instead of inside. There are some differences.

Wind

The inside of our garage is nicely sheltered from the wind. However, while you don't have to battle its resistance, you aren't cooled off by it either. Riding inside on a stationary trainer is hot, sweaty work, even in a 40º garage. Riding outside you are constantly aware of the wind. The only wind that truly helps is a tail wind. Cross winds aren't any fun, and head winds are absolutely no fun. Regardless, wind is fresh air and wonderfully rejuvenating.

Coasting

Outside you can coast, perhaps the single best thing about bicycling - the effortless gliding along, covering ground for free. Inside coasting is also known as stopping. And further referred to as, "Oh, God, I have to start again."

Of course all the coasting that goes on outside means you aren't working, and, if your goal is improved fitness, you aren't moving toward that at all. Inside, since every pedal stroke is required, you are constantly working.

Hills

Hills may be the outside equivalent of coasting inside. With the added thrill of not falling over when you reach your lowest climbing speed. Of course the upside to hills are their downsides. See "Coasting" above.

Dogs

Since we don't own any dogs I don't have to contend with them on my trainer rides. Truth be told I haven't had to deal with them on the few outdoor rides I've had here either, but the potential is there.

Cars

Our neighborhood has marked bicycle lanes and there are walking/bicycle trails around town, so the car situation is better rather than worse. There are still a few yahoos who think you shouldn't be on their road but thankfully they are few and far between. The only cars to contend with in our garage are parked, and the driver's are nice people.

Fitness

As I mentioned before, riding on the trainer is a constant activity. There is no coasting and therefore no let up. I feel I get a better workout on the trainer than I do on an outdoor ride. It's too easy to loaf outside, and there are traffic lights, stop signs, and other delays that make it very difficult to maintain a good work out tempo. Once it is light later in the evening, and consistently warmer, I can make some longer rides that will be good work outs. For now I'll use the trainer to get into shape and rides outside for fun.

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Mark H. Nichols

I am a husband, cellist, code prole, nerd, technologist, and all around good guy living and working in fly-over country. You should follow me on Twitter.