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So this post will be aiming towards a complete beginners perspective and it’s a full guide on everything you need to know or how you can get started with indoor cycling.
Some of the bikes or bike trainers I will be discussing really come down to your fitness needs, your budget and the space you will be exercising in.
Nonetheless, after this post you’ll know where to start and how to get your own indoor cycling space setup!
Table of Contents
Why You Should Indoor Cycle
Indoor cycling is probably one of the most popular and best forms of exercise/cardio you can do that offers an incredible full body workout.
Just take a look at only some of these benefits:
- Improved cardiovascular system
- Improved heart health
- Improved muscle tone
- Improved cognitive function
- Low impact (Easy on your joints)
- Builds endurance
- And of course….burns a ton load of calories!
These are only a few health benefits of indoor cycling however there are many more.
Now I hear what you’re saying….yes, most other forms of exercise provide the exact same benefits and you’re completely right!
However, with indoor cycling one of the main differences to it compared to other forms of exercise is the low impact it has on your joints.
You’re still getting a full cardio workout but not at the same risk of developing an injury or even the onset of arthritis as for example running or weightlifting.
Not to rule out running or weightlifting – these have their own place and are awesome for your health and I love weightlifting myself. But indoor cycling is one of the very few forms of exercise that can give you the full health benefits with the lower impact to your joints.
Your Type of Bike
Now moving onto the actual bike itself and there are a few options you can choose from when setting up your own indoor cycling area.
Standard Indoor Cycling Bike
If you’re looking for that indoor cycling studio type of experience then an indoor bike is what you’ll be wanting.
Most standard indoor bikes can be purchased for a couple of hundred dollars/pounds, ranging anywhere from $250-$600.
For a good, durable and well-made indoor bike you don’t need to rob a bank and it’ll provide you with a full, heart pumping, sweat-dripping workout.
These can come with either magnetic or friction-based resistance with a flywheel at the front or back of the bike.
These are the new ages of indoor cycling bikes – they’re basically a standard indoor bike, but a lot smarter!
What I mean by that exactly is that they have more advanced features such as:
- Integrated Bluetooth and ANT+ technology
- Automatic resistance
- Automatic Gradient when cycling simulation is uphill or downhill
- Device control from your smartphone or computer
- +/-1% accuracy of your cycling metrics
These are only to name a few but if you’re really after the whole indoor cycling experience that simulates that of an outdoor environment then a smart bike is something you may be interested in.
As you’re probably aware, as it is a smart bike there is a hefty price tag for these and can come in at around $2,700 – $4,100.
Outdoor Road/Mountain Bike
Now, this is for people who already own their own road/mountain bike and would rather use that indoors instead of buying an stationary bike or if you simply want the option of cycling indoors and outdoors.
There are a few ways you can connect your bike up to cycle from your home and these use either trainers or rollers.
Turbo trainers are a great and very affordable way of cycling your own bike in your home and you can pick up one for as little as $160.
There are a few options of turbo trainers you can choose from; Wheel-on Turbo Trainers or Direct-Drive Turbo Trainers.
Wheel-On Turbo Trainers
This allows you to sit and connect your rear wheel onto a roller and locks it in place either through locking bolts or a skewer.
As you crank up the gears, you add your resistance – just like an outdoor bike.
Direct-Drive Turbo Trainers
So direct-drive trainers remove the use of the rear wheel and instead the trainer connects to your bike’s drivetrain.
As you pedal your rear bike hub will pick up your cadence and speed and will be able to transmit your cycling data usually through Bluetooth or ANT+ to your smartphone/tablet/computer.
Smart trainers are basically an updated version of the direct-drive trainers.
They look the same and come with Bluetooth and ANT+ enabled however there are a few differences.
They are more accurate at reading your cycling metrics. A standard direct-drive trainer may have an accuracy of +/-3% whereas a smart trainer has an accuracy of +/-1%.
They also can connect up to apps such as Zwift and automatically apply the resistance within the gameplay. If you’re going uphill in Zwift – the smart trainer will kick in and increase your resistance to simulate going uphill without you having to touch your gears.
As these are smart trainers – they can come in more expensive that a standard direct-drive trainer.
Rollers are used if you want to basically bring ‘the road outside into your living room’.
Here the bike doesn’t connect to anything, you simply lay the rollers out flat on the ground, sit your bike on top, jump on and begin cycling.
With rollers, your front wheel cycles over one tube with 2 tubes at the back for your rear wheel.
As you crank up the gears, you apply your own resistance and your bikes wheels are simply rolling over these aluminium tubes.
Rollers are another great way of using your outdoor bike indoors but as there is no connection of the bike to anything it can make stability a problem. Total beginners can use them but they do require a lot of practice because if your momentum slows down- you’ll be toppling off to the side!
Check out our Bike Roller reviews here!
Choose Your Workout Time
I always find it works best for me if I can allocate a time to my indoor cycling training where I won’t be interrupted.
I know that when I have a set time – I can give my training everything I’ve got even if it is only for 30 minutes.
For me, mornings at 5:30am work best as everyone else in the house is still asleep and it gives me time after to get a shower and eat a healthy breakfast.
However, evenings after work may suit you better.
Whatever time it is you have, put your full focus into the training and a great way to help keep you motivated and keep pushing is the use of cycling app.
Grab a Cycling App
Without a doubt I do highly recommend downloading a cycling app. If you can take anything away from this article, take this!
A cycling app without question is going to keep your interest, keep you pushing through your allocated time and even help you to get every drop of juice out of your workout!
However, the most popular and one I use almost everyday is Zwift (as seen above).
Zwift is a gamified virtual cycling app where you can cycle in real world locations such as London, Paris or New York but they also have their own world, Watopia.
To use Zwift, you’ll need to be able to communicate your effort on the bike to your avatar on-screen. This is usually transmitted via Bluetooth or ANT+.
This can be done with the use of:
- Turbo trainers
- Integrated Bluetooth indoor cycling bikes
- Power meters
- Cadence and speed sensors
These will transmit all of your cycling data to move your avatar on-screen so you can see in real-time your speed, distance, time, cadence, watts and heart rate (if you have one connected).
Not only is it an incredible way of helping you keep fit but it’s seriously fun and addictive!
You may not think it’s necessary but if you want to avoid scratched floorboards and keep noise at a minimum it’s worth investing in a floor mat.
A good floor mat is generally made of rubber or PVC and it will dampen down any noise made by your indoor bike setup.
It’s also great at keeping sweat off your floor – trust me when your putting the ‘pedal to the metal’ I wouldn’t be surprised if there was a pool of sweat below you!
Soak Up The Sweat With a Towel
So just like I said, indoor cycling is going to have you really working up that sweat and it’s handy to have a towel nearby to dab yourself down.
Throw it over the front of your handlebars and you’ll be good to go!
Once again, not necessary but an item I can’t live without when cycling.
Having a fan blowing cool air on you when your well into a long endurance cycle or even a quick HIIT workout is going to keep you cool and just feels great on your skin.
It also gives that extra resemblance of cycling outside….without the rain of course!
Keep a Water Bottle Handy
Always a necessity – make sure to keep a water at arms length or store it in water bottle holder.
If it has 2 water bottle holders, even better.
It’s important to keep hydrated when exercising at such levels of intensity. Your muscles will be crying for that hydration as you give all your effort during a 30 minute, 60 minute or even 3 hour cycle.
This will reduce fatigue, injury and keep you going for longer.
Have a Few High Sugar Sweets Ready
Now, this is more aimed for people who prefer longer endurance cycles- anything over an hour long.
Having a few high sugar sweets gives your muscles that extra bit of glucose that converts into energy so you can pedal on through and for longer.
The Workout Itself For Beginners
If you’re completely new to indoor cycling, you want to get your bearings and understand how hard you can push yourself without causing any injury.
Get to know the feel of the indoor bike or resistance being used.
Always start off with a 5-10 minute warmup just to get your blood pumping and muscles activated.
Then you can start to increase your intensity little by little. This is where a cycling app can really come in handy as it provides a guided and well structured routine for you to follow along with.
You’ll want to increase the intensity to a point where you’ll be cycling for a few minutes where you’re starting to really feel a burning sensation in your quads.
Perform this with high resistance then lower it down to give your legs a break and give you a chance to catch your breathe.
For the final 5-10 minutes – have a cool down. Here you want very low resistance almost to none where your legs can still cycle but with controlled cycling.
I must say I do recommend taking a trial with Zwift – it’s a great way to get involved with the cycling community and keeps your indoor cycling fun and enjoyable.
If you feel you would rather benefit from an online indoor cycling class, you can check out our full list of best online indoor cycling classes here.
So this is your full rundown on how you can get started with indoor cycling.
If you’re a complete beginner – decide what way you would like to cycle indoors, whether it be the use of a stationary bike or turning your outdoor bike into an indoor bike.
Next, workout your budget and then look at your options.
- Is it a stationary bike you’re after?
- Maybe you prefer to use a turbo trainer?
- Or does bike rollers seem more appealing?
And lastly, take advantage of a cycling app. They are perfect for motivation, peaking your interest, keeping your bum on that saddle and in overall just absolute fun!
In no time – you’ll be shedding pounds, becoming more fitter and simply just having a great time!