This is a frequent question I see posted around and in discussion forums. Working out on an indoor trainer vs. working out on a regular bike (on the road).
Long story short, yes they yield the same results.
But why does working out on an indoor trainer give the same results as a regular bike? Read on to find out!
Working out on an indoor trainer vs outside
Let’s break this into its simplest form and look at the core differences.
In one example you are outside riding against the wind, have the sun beating down on you and have to deal with the ups and downs of the road.
In the other you are inside your house, little to no ventilation, and have no scenery to look at so a bit more of a mental challenge.
Now that the core differences are outlined let’s get these all debunked and show how as training is concerned the results achieved are no different. And in my opinion you should almost always be training indoors on a trainer vs outside!
The biggest argument that could affect training is that you do not have to deal with incline and declines that you would outside. However in this day and age, a smart bike trainer is going to be able to replicate an actual race condition!
Indoor trainers now can have locations set up via Zwift, or other similar apps. From there they will emulate the actual course you would be taking on race day by raising and lowering tension on the trainer.
This not only gives you better training for your actual race conditions but also gets your muscles just as efficient of a workout as they would if you rode outdoors.
The reason I feel this is actually more optimal is, unless you live where your race is, this lets you practice the course without having to worry about traffic or stopping.
An everyday ride on the street involves, stoplights, cars, pedestrians, other riders and different conditions than your race will have terrain wise.
Utilizing an indoor trainer provides you a non-stop riding experience. And with the right smart trainer, in your actual race conditions!
Another reason I think that indoor trainers and exercise bikes are ideal for getting ready for a race is distances.
Of course you can get your distances out on the open road, but for me the experience has far too much stop and go.
During an actual triathlon, or cycling event, I am used to riding for 20 miles plus without interruption. In my location geographically this is hard to do. I cannot go much more than a few miles without having to deal with added congestion and needing to stop. Even if I drive a bit to a local lake, I then am dodging people running out in front of my bike and can’t really practice riding at a full race pace.
For me this is another place that indoor trainers really nail being better than outdoor riding.
When I am training for an Ironman and need to handle riding 50 miles or more, you just can’t find a better place than in your living room!
It is easy to throw on a movie, hop on my bike trainer, and crank out 50 miles non-stop at a full race pace. Perhaps I would be able to do this in some regions, or places with wide open roads you can ride on. But if you live near the city… Good Luck!
This lets you focus on something that matters a lot in triathlon and cycling training, getting used to riding at race pace.
At the end of the day indoor trainers are just better for training at race pace. Most competitive age-groupers are all riding over 20 mph during the cycling leg of the race. I currently am coasting around 23-24 mph for my current Ironman.
On a trainer I am able to train at this pace every day, in the same conditions, and against the course I will be riding in a few months!
This is invaluable that your muscle memory gets used to sustaining the same race pace you intend to do during your event. If you have to stop for traffic, a child running in front of your bike, or a car you are going to be hurting during your event to hold this non-stop for a few hours.
At the end of the day, riding your bike should be fun for you. But if you are training for an event and wondering if riding on an indoor trainer or exercise bike will yield the same result as outdoors riding, yes it will. And in my opinion it will do it better!
And with new applications like Zwift, you can get to do group rides from home as well. So you would not lose the social aspect if that is one of your perks to outdoor riding!
So hop on your indoor trainer and get ready for your next race, knowing full and well that you will get all the benefits your fellow riders get outdoors.
Just without dealing with any of the complications!
Hey there, my name is James and I am the creator and editor of this site. I have been doing Triathlons for a while now and am competing in 70.3 Ironman's as well come this year. I created this site to help those new to the sport and to share my journey with other athletes.