Recently, I read an article comparing indoor and outdoor cycling that basically concluded that you’ll work up a sweat doing both, but nothing compares to the real thing. Respectfully, I disagree. In fact, I do not believe that this is a fair comparison. Here’s why: indoor and outdoor cycling are different.

Outdoor riding is freedom of the road or trail. It’s an experience that grants you a passport to climb mountains and see the world around you. Outdoor cycling is surviving the dangers of cars, fallen trees, rocks, and rivers. Outdoor cycling transports you to a place of peace, solitude, and serenity. Accomplishing miles and miles across terrain leaves you breathless and filled with joy.

Let’s compare that to an indoor cycling class.

First off, get it out of your mind that we are simulating any kind of experience listed above. Indoor cycling classes are explosive bursts of high intensity intervals that exhaust the muscles in mere minutes. There is no long haul over mountain paths, just heavy climbs followed by max effort sprints. An indoor cycling class can help make the outdoor rider stronger for sure, but it’s just not the same thing. Add the human element of 50 other riders in the room, a bad-ass instructor that won’t quit, and concert effects on big screens and boom speakers. I’m sorry, but serenity has left the building. (And that’s okay.)

Why do you need to choose one or the other? WE CAN DO BOTH. Outdoor cycling and indoor cycling are both great. Read the two paragraphs above, separately, and both activities sound amazing. They are, but please don’t give disservice to one over the other as the “real thing.” Both are real. You just need to answer what’s calling you that day. Is it the bumping theatre sound, with the inspiring instructor, and sweat-pouring intervals? Or, is it the solitude of the road, with long climbs and a serene rhythm to be the best cyclist you can be?

Indoor cycling and outdoor cycling use the same muscles, same posture, and same vehicle, so therefore both activities can help each other. I teach outdoor riders and indoor riders to smash goals and leave doubt in the dust. I ride inside and outside. That said, remember the difference, and choose to include more to your fitness profile, never less.


Jake Maulin is a Senior Master Instructor at CycleBar. Jake loves a good time, and believes that everything we do in a class has great purpose. The music, choreography, lights, voice, and message all invoke motivational emotions that drive riders to the next level.


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  • Doug Crossley

    Hey Jake, Nice to hear from you! I miss your killer classes! For me, there is a symbiotic relationship between indoor and outdoor riding. The indoor riding prepares me for the outdoor season both physically and mentally. The harder I work inside on climbing skills and pace the better prepared I am for the outdoor rides I take on during the warmer weather. The outdoor riding certainly makes me appreciate the satisfaction of being outside in sunshine and fresh air and I often find myself repeating lines from various instructors as I am climbing; “you can do anything for 45 seconds”, “don’t touch that dial, keep crushing it”, “keep your head up and relax your hands and shoulders”! All very pertinent advice for a long outdoor ride!