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Bring Your Workout Inside

Indoor Cycling Guide

While we’d all rather be outside, indoor cycling is a great way to keep putting in miles and stay fit even in bad weather or when you’re crunched for time. Whether you’re a diehard rider looking to get in structured training sessions or looking for a convenient way to riding during the winter months, indoor cycling is fun way to keep turning over the pedals.

What Is Indoor Cycling?

Indoor cycling is a broad term used to describe any sort of stationary cycling. This includes join your local spin class or riding a bike indoors at home. There are many benefits of indoor cycling, including:

  • Safety – Indoor cycling lets you avoid riding in the dark early in the morning or in the evening
  • Weather – It’s always warm and dry riding inside and you won’t ruin your bike as you might riding in rain and mud.
  • Efficiency – Indoor cycling lets you get on the bike, get in a ride, and get on with your day without driving to a spin studio, gym, or trailhead.
  • Intensity – Indoor cycling lets you fit in specific structured training quickly that offers fitness benefits without putting in 20+ hours per week riding base miles outside.

Ready to dive in? Let’s roll!

Types of Indoor Trainers

There are several types of indoor cycling trainers available that range in price from $150 to well over $5,000. The differences usually come down to the kind of resistance, how loud the trainer is, and whether you’ll put your bike on a trainer or buy an indoor cycling bike.

Turbo Trainer

Turbo trainers are the most basic option but still offer plenty of options. A turbo trainer is a portable resistance device that fits to your bike with the rear wheel on. The unit’s resistance is based on either an internal fluid or magnet and interfaces with your rear tire. That means you’ll wear out your tire quickly unless you pick up a trainer-specific tire.

We stock options like the Saris M2 or Saris Fluid2.

Direct Drive Trainer

Direct drive trainers offer a more realistic feel thanks to a heavy flywheel. The term direct drive refers to the interface; you’ll remove your rear wheel completely and attach your bike to the trainer, which includes a cassette. In a sense, it replaces your rear wheel.

Direct drive smart trainers automatically increase or decrease the resistance you feel while pedaling. This makes applications like Zwift feel much more realistic; when you go up hill, the resistance feels like an incline. Go downhill and the resistance eases off. This functionality makes direct drive trainers like the Wahoo KICKR Core a great investment – and you’ll definitely have more fun riding it!

Smart Bike

While smart bikes are the most expensive option, they also offer the best indoor cycling experience. Most offer advanced power meters, tilt to mimic the virtual gradients in cycling apps, and more. Bikes like the Wahoo KICKR Bike and others cost $2,500 or more, but they make financial sense for many riders. Riding your bike on the trainer all winter can wear out parts and even cause erosion if you sweat on the frame, cables and other components. Smart bikes are also more cost-effective than paying for a gym membership or indoor cycling class year after year.

Not sure which trainer is right for you? We can help. Brick Wheels can help you choose the right trainer and show you how to set up a bike trainer correctly, no matter what kind of bike you’re using. Get in touch with any questions!

How to Make Indoor Cycling Fun

Indoor cycling apps like Zwift and Zwift alternatives have made riding inside almost as fun as riding outside…almost. Zwift is the most widely used indoor cycling app due to its many riding options, including a full library of workouts and training plans, racing and group rides, and an ever-expanding selection of routes and maps. Other options include:

  • TrainerRoad
  • RGT
  • Wahoo System
  • Rouvy
  • and more!

Plenty of indoor cyclist turn on movies, TV shows or old bike races to pass the time. And don’t forget to make fresh music playlists!

What Do I Need for Zwift?

If you’re ready to give Zwift a shot, you’ll need a few basics.

  • A trainer. Smart trainers work best, but you can use a “dumb” turbo trainer as long as you have both a speed sensor and a cadence sensor. We can help you use a turbo trainer on Zwift!
  • WiFi. You’ll need an internet connection to stream the app.
  • A WiFi enabled device. Most people use a laptop, iPad, Apple TV or even their phone.
  • For a full guide to Zwift set-up requirements, we recommend this excellent “Getting Started” guide from Zwift Insider.

Indoor Cycling FAQs

You’ve got questions, we’ve got answers! If you need more information or just need to see the latest indoor cycling trainers for yourself, get in touch. We’re proud to be your local bike shop anywhere; we ship!

Is indoor cycling good for weight loss?

Indoor cycling is an excellent weight loss activity when paired with a healthy diet. Indoor cycling tends to burn slightly more calories than outdoor cycling over the same period.

Are indoor cycling shoes the same as outdoor?

Most riders use a two-bolt mountain bike shoe and pedal to train indoors. These are the exact same as your outdoor shoes and pedals, though many athletes have a dedicated pair of shoes and pedals for their indoor set-up.

Is indoor cycling a good workout?

As much as 30% of outdoor riding is spent coasting, stopping at stop signs or getting out of town and away from traffic. Structured training inside is much more efficient and offers an excellent workout. Zwift, TrainerRoad and other apps offer huge libraries of individual workout sessions and multi-week training plans as a part of your subscription.

Can Strava record indoor cycling?

It can! Strava has a dedicated indoor cycling setting. However, you’ll need to give it some data by connecting it to a Bluetooth or ANT+ speed sensor. Here’s how to do it.

Do you ship indoor cycling trainers?

We do! Order your trainer from Brick Wheels and we’ll make sure you have everything you need to get started, including any thru-axle adapters or accessories.

Are there indoor cycling groups in Traverse City?

DIRTy Mitten Racing League is a fun group of dedicated indoor riders. The group holds events most weekends between November and March. Learn more about the DIRTy Mitten Racing League.

Reasons to Ride a Smart Trainer

Virtual Rides

Apps like Zwift and Rouvy integrate with your smart trainer so you can participate in virtual group rides on virtual routes. Compete with friends and pros across the globe.

Simulated Conditions

Indoor smart trainers use automated changes in resistance to simulate road conditions and inclines. Work on intervals and climbing as if you were outside, minus the traffic.

Professional Training

Use training apps like TrainerRoad for highly focused workouts. It's like having your own personal coach to help you work on posture, pedal stroke, and mental endurance.

Smart Trainer Options

Direct Drive

These trainers attach directly to your bike drivetrain.

Get more accurate metrics than a wheel-on trainer
Feels as natural as riding outside
Quieter than traditional trainers and rollers

Requires an extra cassette and assembly (We can help!)
Moderate transition time between training and outdoor rides
Can be bulky and hard to move

Wheel-On Trainers

Resistance is applied to your back wheel via a roller.

Attach your bike without any added hardware
Easily go between riding inside and outside
Lightweight and easy to move

Can wear out the rear tire
Tire can slip while training
Requires frequent re-calibration

Shop Smart Trainers