Benefits of riding outdoors / negatives of only riding indoors?

Hey everyone,
quick and supposedly easy question: what are the benefits of riding outdoors compared to riding on a trainer? I know bike handling skills are a big and obvious answer, but what else?
You see professional cyclists and triathletes ride mostly outdoors, so there must be something in it. I listened to a recent podcast and some more podcasts before about how doing structured work is much better/easier inside.
I’m asking because I enjoy riding inside a lot more than outside (damaged roads, reckless drivers, my work schedule, unpredictable weather etc.).

1 Like

Pros ride outside because they are doing a ton of volume and have pretty perfect roads to do intervals on. Riding outdoors will make your bike handling better. Riding indoors can increase your plasma volume because of the heat. This will help you in all temperatures. It can mentally be refreshing to riding outside if you like the outdoors and have nice views to look at.

Riding out is great for mental health. I love long rides out with friends and stop for coffee mid way…

Indoor is the best for Wo and specified power… It’s much easier to train the muscles and legs to the power you are training at…

Plus it usually gives significant others peace of mind knowing that being hit by a car while on the trainer is very very hard (yet sadly still a possibility)

5 Likes

I think the main benefit is that 99% of people are able to ride for a lot longer outside, so you can simply get a lot more volume done, all things being equal. A lot of people also find they can put out more power on the bike outside (for me its 15-20w at threshold) so you can actually push HARDER outside. during your intervals. If you ride with others then you can also tap into a greater motivation to push yourself as well - I bet you can go harder when really sprinting against a mate for a town sign than you can on a TR interval :wink:

You also learn how to handle different conditons so if you’re training for an outdoor event then you can get better prepared for winds, rain, maybe heat etc etc which could be vital if you end up riding on different road surfaces, wet tarmac, different off road conditons etc in your event. Of course if you ride with other people outside then you learn essential skills around group riding skills as well and then things like descending skills.

Other than the great reasons outlined above, there’s the fact that a lot, if not the majority, of pros, U23s and non-amateurs racers in general hate riding indoors. They see it as the last possible option and they prefer to ride in the rain and with the dangers of the road. Many of the athletes I follow on social medias had to buy a trainer last year when it was prohibited to ride outside and some of them would post every day about how much they were hating riding indoors.

Obliously that’s understandable since they have a lot of time to train, whereas I think that many more amateurs, including me, ride indoors since it’s more time efficient. (Unless you have a long, steady and low-grade climb out of the door)

I think riding indoors a lot can make you a bit soft. Slight drizzle? Turbo! Bit windy? Turbo! Temperature not at optimal? Turbo!

Much of it depends on why you ride a bike.

3 Likes

yep - used to be our club rides were pretty well attended in bad weather but these days it seems like the first drop of forecast rain means barely a soul shows up, rides get cancelled and Strava fills with Zwift rides… Each to their own I guess!

1 Like

You see professional cyclists and triathletes ride mostly outdoors

Regarding the triathletes part, I just wanted to add that the best mid and long distance triathlete (Jan Frodeno) rides for the most part indoors. Similar case for Lionel Sanders (around top 5 mid-long distance also). But for the shorter distance ITU guys, they all look like they hate training indoors yeah.

My point is that for disciplines where bike handling is not a critical skill, if you can endure the mental part of it, it seems like there are no downsides to riding indoors.

Don’t they also travel to different areas? I would think that helps too, change of scenery and weather.

I get the feeling that it’s mostly about mental shape to make it more tolerable. They do spend much more time in the saddle than most anyone on the forums.

I think indoors would see a lot of people get burned out with the volume the pros adhere to.

There’s a story here… Do share!

1 Like

Variables. Wind, road surface, temperature, humidity and everything else. Indoor riding cannot replicate that. Whether you prefer one over the other is an individual thing. Much the same as preferring one sport over the other.

Quick and easy? Think you are going to get a lot of different perspectives.

Looking at my own data, riding outside always results in getting faster and stronger. That has been true if I’m only doing outside workouts, or a mix of indoor/outdoor workouts. I have some theories on why that is, and how to modify my training if doing indoors only.

I guess this falls into bike handling, I felt a bit wobbly, like my pedal stroke was pushing the bike around, when I finally went outdoors after nothing but trainer rides for the past 6 months. I also have issues pacing myself, I suppose this is something that could be resolved by using resistance mode instead of erg mode.

I’d also say an hour on the trainer is definitely harder on my “undercarriage” than a few hours outdoors. I can’t imagine racking up 20-30 hours of training per week all on a stationary trainer.

It’s fun, riding indoors isn’t. YMMV

4 Likes

I was going to post exactly that, was 4 minutes late.

1 Like

You only get one life.

Spending all those hours staring at a screen in your garage seems like a poor way of executing said life.

Obviously, when it’s appropriate, absolutely have at it.

Just talk to someone older and wiser than yourself.

I imagine they’d say something along the lines of, get outside, ride with your friends, ride different disciplines. Generally, have as much fun as possible.

6 Likes

Depends. During winter had two weeks of virtual learning camp, every day 4-5h of different courses. Combining it with indoor TBHV1 (bunch of long Z2 rides) was perfect from time management perspective.

A lot of it comes down to volume, easy to ride 3 hours outdoors, very hard to do indoors.

Riding outdoors uses a lot more muscle groups than riding indoors. Rough roads, but also climbing and leaning the bike in corners.

A lot of things might come under bike handling, but also stuff like using momentum, shifting bodyweight, as well as line spotting and making your wheels go where you want.

To be honest I’m at a point where I doubt that training too much indoors is good for you - the numbers might be good, but it doesn’t translate well to real riding performance for me.

It all depends what you want though, if all you want to do is sweat a lot, breath hard, and keep the weight in check, riding indoors is enough. If you actually want to ride bikes, you should ride outdoors a lot.

I may be the odd one out here, but i actually find it easier to hit my numbers outside.

(Yes, i use different power sources, but they have been run alongside each other and are within 1 %)

That is pretty normal, most people feel like they have a higher FTP outdoors. Reasons could be better cooling, or engagement of more muscle groups.