From Peloton to Zwift, indoor exercises bikes and virtual cycling classes have seen a boom since lockdown. Here’s why you should join the pack swapping the road for a room at home.
It’s a wet, dark, cold evening, and I’m pootling along the most famous finishing sprint in cycling, down the Champs-Elysee in Paris. My thighs are burning and sweat drips down my forehead as my housemate casually asks me if I want spag bol for dinner. Because I’m not actually in France at all, I’m at home in my kitchen in South West London, cycling indoors.
The next day I’m cycling through Central Park in Manhattan, the day after, its hills in Harrogate, Yorkshire. All over the world, in bedrooms, garages and sheds, men and women are doing the exact same thing as me. I know this because I can see them riding virtually on the screen in front of me.
In the absence of gyms, indoor cycling has boomed. From Peloton to Echelon bikes, wattbikes to turbo trainers – people went crazy for indoor cycling kit during the first national lockdown. And, as much as I love jumping on my bike and escaping to the winding countryside lanes with friends in tow (including, of course, an obligatory coffee stop), there’s something about riding alone, holed up indoors that’s just so darn convenient.
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My machine of choice? A Wahoo Kickr turbo trainer – which, while still expensive, only costs a fraction of the price of a Peloton bike.
You simply remove the back wheel of your road bike, attach the trainer at the sprocket and pair it wirelessly with Zwift, an app that simulates cycling via CGI scenery. Imagine The Sims, but on bikes, and you have to actually move your pedals to get your avatar to cycle.
Indoor cycling is intense. It’s sweaty, steamy, hard work. But it’s also fantastic fun. So grab a towel, water bottle and a fan (trust me, you’ll need one). Fancy indoor cycling kit from Nopinz – that actively cools core temperature – is optional. Here’s why you should give indoor cycling a spin.
1. Indoor cycling is a great workout
2. You can still get your cardio hit when it’s raining and dark
Don’t quite fancy cycling in the great outdoors while it’s freezing outside? Me either. And since indoor cycling takes place, well, indoors, you don’t have to deal with the ever-changing British weather – whether that’s rain, ice or a full-blown storm.
Plus, it’s safe too – there’s zero chance of getting run over.
“There are so many benefits to having an indoor set-up. When I still had a full-time office job it was extremely difficult or dangerous to go outside during the winter months in Ireland so I invested in an indoor smart trainer,” says track sprint cyclist and Nopinz ambassador, Orla Walsh.
“Since then I’ve used it to do very specific interval training that might be impossible to replicate safely on the road. Smart trainers, in particular, can be set to automatically change in resistance so that you can complete the required workout without having to do anything other than hold a specific cadence.”
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3. Indoor cycling is time-efficient
Working out from home offers most of the same advantages of working from home – it takes a lot less time to walk to your bike set up in the kitchen, or spare room, or garage, than it does trekking to a spinning class and back again.
So forget faffing around with pumping up tyres – you can hop on for a quick 30-minute session, and multi-task by catching up with your favourite TV series at the same time. Convenient and no time-wasting. Tick tick.
4. You don’t have to stop at traffic lights
Ironman athlete and fitness blogger Emily Young uses a turbo trainer and Zwift set-up to complement her training. She says that having no traffic lights to contend with makes a huge difference.
“It means I can hit a power output that I wouldn’t necessarily get to on the road (or be motivated to without seeing it on the screen in front of me!) Especially living in London, it can be a good 45 minutes of stop-start traffic lights before you get a chance for any decent training, so if you’ve only got an hour then using a turbo means you’ll get the most out of it.”
5. Indoor cycling can fast-track your training
So you’ve signed up for your first triathlon, or you fancy completing an event like RideLondon? If you haven’t got the luxury of a cycling coach to hand, then here’s where indoor cycling comes in particularly useful.
Zwift, for example, has a multitude of workouts and training plans to help you take your fitness to the next level. So whether you want to improve your FTP (functional threshold power) – which is the maximum average power you can sustain for one hour – or your endurance, there are specific training plans that are all tailored specifically to your current level of fitness.
“Indoor cycling means I can structure my sessions to work different energy systems for specific periods of time,” says Young. “It means I can train to certain power or cadence without external things like traffic, weather, hills getting in the way, and also means I can control the progression while considering rest.”
6. Indoor cycling is fun
I know you might think I’m joking, especially if your idea of indoor cycling consists of slogging away in a cold shed with just a bare white wall to stare at, but Zwift – with its game-like functionally, is actually enjoyable. In a ‘type two fun’ kind of way.
“The body will release ‘feel good’ chemicals like endorphins long after you finish your workout, helping you to feel confident, energised and positive, encouraging you to make better decisions throughout your day,” adds Murin
7. It’s sociable
Probably one of the best things about indoor cycling is that, if you’re using Zwift, you can create private ‘Meet ups’ and cycling with your friends as if you’re actually in a group.
I’ve done a couple of cycles with my brother – which despite the fact that he’s in Edinburgh and I’m in London, means we can still put the miles in together and chat at the same time.
8. There’s a real sense of community (and female camaraderie)
Avid cyclist Marie-Louise Kertzman admits that indoor cycling gives her a chance to cycle with like-minded women (which makes a nice change from riding with men in real life!)
“Cycling is amazing, but often feels very male-dominated,” she says. “Coming together with women on Zwift has given me a sense of community that I didn’t know I was missing until I had it. There’s chat about saddles and chamois cream, and being the only woman who needs to pee in a ride! It’s refreshing to learn you’re not the only one, and there are women all over the world who also have the same experiences.
“I also love that I can find a whole group of women the same standard as me to race against. In real life, I have some wonderful friends to cycle with, but we are all at different points in our cycling journey, and there aren’t many of us.”
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