Indoor cycling is any type of indoor exercise that focuses on rotating pedals in circles.
It can involve very different looking equipment including under-desk pedal systems, rolling cylinders, exercise bikes, or indoor bike trainers.
To get an overview of indoor cycling, let’s take a look at the most popular forms of equipment! For each indoor cycling system, the more it’s like an outdoor experience, the more useful it will be in improving outdoor cycling abilities. We’ve divided all cycling systems into two categories to reflect this.
Indoor Cycling Systems More Like Outdoor Cycling
Indoor trainers are devices that attach to a rear tire of a real bike and provide resistance that simulates riding uphill or against the wind. Smart trainers are a subcategory of indoor trainers that have a computer inside and can use its processing power to closely replicate the feeling of pedaling against natural resistance. Smart trainers can also be hooked up to ride simulating software and TV to create a virtual ride experience.
There are also some exercise bikes that do an especially good job at replicating the experience of riding. Wahoo’s KICKR BIKE simulates coasting and has simulated gear-shifting profiles of real bikes. Made with the processing power and connectivity of a smart trainer, it takes ride simulating software like Zwift and The Sufferfest to the next level of realism.
Rollers are a series of suspended cylinders used in conjunction with a real outdoor bike. They make direct contact with the bike’s tires, keeping the bike off the ground while the user pedals. There is a lot of side to side wobble while riding because the user is not restrained. This creates more realism but also can lead to wipe-outs. They can come with or without a system that creates resistance. Systems with resistance are often limited in how much resistance they provide.
Indoor Cycling Systems LESS Like Outdoor Cycling
Many Exercise Bikes
Many exercise bikes are less like real outdoor cycling. They often have upright or reclined body positions that are not like outdoor pedaling. Their systems of resistance can involve a physical block that drags on the flywheel, making the resistance feel unrealistic. Instead of feeling like you are pedaling uphill or against the wind, it feels like you are pedaling while braking.
Some desk cycling systems have no resistance at all. Many have a physical brake for resistance. While they are an improvement from sitting motionless at a desk, based on body position and ride feel, they barely resemble outdoor cycling.
Riding With the Best Equipment
There’s many equipment options for first-time indoor cyclists. We recommend trying out all the various options because there is a wide variety in ride quality. Even people who do not compete will find motivation and entertainment value while using a smart trainer hooked to a ride-simulating system like the SYSTM Training App or Zwift. See how engaging top end gear can be with the cutting edge realism of Wahoo smart trainers and the Wahoo KICKR BIKE.