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Indoor Biking Tutorial

Introduction to indoor bike training: Part 1 of 4

Today I declare the world’s top cardio training tool: the indoor cycle. After more than a quarter of a century spent sampling nearly every type of cardio training introduced, some wacky fitness machines to all styles of group aerobic training to running indoors and out, car pushing and sled pulling… the bottom line remains for me the weighted flywheel indoor cycle.

Of course I know you want to be outdoors, and for sure moving your body over the earth is more challenging than training on a stationary machine of any type. But the benefits of training stationary over pedaling outdoors include the ability to use the cycle fully; you’re not limited by the terrain, traffic or weather. You can close your eyes and concentrate on your pedal cadence and on the workload without crashing into the ditch; training techniques used on an indoor cycle are not possible when other concentration is necessary.

Balance, for instance.

I’m not arguing against getting outside, nor implying that moving the tires against the earth’s surface or fighting the wind isn’t harder work. I’m instead presenting a case for an indoor cycle training program where the hill doesn’t end until you decide it ends. Other tricks include spinning with one leg to balance leg strength and coordination, using music to set cadence (double time, triple time… half time), or using resistance to focus on a target heart rate. These things simply can’t be done on the street.

You can, of course, burn more calories sprinting on the track or running hills (let’s not consider the stress on ankles, knees and hips), but you will won’t have the training tool that comes with closing your eyes and concentrating, and it will take a live coach to get you where a heart rate monitor and cyclometer will take you independently.

As a beginner, you’ll flail around, awkward and bouncy. Then, once in a while, your cadence will smooth out and you’ll suddenly know that’s how it’s supposed to feel. Just as quickly, probably the instant you notice and become aware of yourself, the smooth cadence is gone and you’re back to hippy action. But — just like golf or tennis, or that occasional perfect bench groove — you want that feeling back. This is when you shift to the advanced beginner stage and begin to search for your personal biking style.

Soon you’ll find your cadence, that spot where the combination of slow speed and just enough — not too much — resistance triggers the hamstrings into action, where the quads no longer overpower the hams. Such a sweet feeling! It’s a rare moment when the rhythm is right, and it’s quite a thrill.

If you’re average, you’ll quit before the first week’s out. But if you make it through those first couple of weeks. You’ve got yourself a training skill that will last your lifetime.

Ready to give it a whirl? Here’s a pdf of a Greg LeMond beginner bike class description you can follow for a test ride. It’s 28 minutes, describing flats, headwind, hills and turns as an instructor would lead a group class.

In part two we compare the flywheel bike with other stationery bikes, and take a look at a couple of manufacturers.

10 Responses to 'Indoor Biking Tutorial'

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  1. Jack Mohr said,

    on January 21st, 2007 at 1:39 pm

    I tried the Lemond tutorial and found it quite satisfactory. Spinning has become an integral part of my training regimen. Our Tuesday 6AM class is one of the highlights of the midweek. My instructor challenges us, while keeping it fun. (Plays good rock and roll too!)
    Anyone who hasn’t tried spinning should. I agree that outdoors on a ten speed under blue skies is better, but it’s January and your lungs would freeze.
    I have a Schwinn Spinner and a Schwinn Airdyne here at home.IMHO The airdyne is more effective at elevating the heart rate, but the spinner is more realistic and more controllable. Either one is cool though.

  2. on January 24th, 2007 at 3:40 pm

    I tried spinning about 6 months ago and i am still going!
    I do it almost every day, it is an awesome cardiovascular workot and it keeps your legs in shape.!
    Everyone should try it. it is also easy on your knees.

  3. on February 16th, 2007 at 11:13 am

    I do spinning too, in the local gym (in the Netherlands) I love it! We ride the Spinner® bikes.

  4. on February 25th, 2008 at 8:39 am

    If you really want to try something that will blow away any indoor cycle on the market try the RealRyder TM ABF7


  5. scott said,

    on April 11th, 2008 at 10:21 am

    We have a indoor cycling section on our website, http://www.fitmoves.com If you would like to exchange links, please contact me.

  6. Peter Jacobs said,

    on February 10th, 2010 at 5:14 pm

    I have just ridden the Titan Mk2 from GTBC, what a smooth bike.

  7. on December 4th, 2010 at 2:31 am

    “the world’s top cardio training tool: the indoor spin-style bike” I would not go this far, it is acknowledged that it is one of the world’s top cardio training tools but there are others that are on the same level as the indoor spin-style bike. It is definitely a lot of fun. A level higher when done as a group, compete and train while having fun.

    Response: Of course you’re right. That was one person’s opinion (mine) at the time (several years ago). Today I’d put it in the top three, along with a sled for dragging and the Concept 2 Rower. When this was originally written, I’d never tried the sled; later I got a rower. These days I don’t go for that much flexion-based training, so while I still think the ability to control the speed and resistance in a way that can’t be done outdoors, and the fact that a person can train with eyes closed for better focus, I would no longer choose the indoor cycle as a primary cardio exercise without regular off-setting extension exercises. And maybe some inversion hanging.

  8. Cyclingchat said,

    on December 8th, 2010 at 1:21 pm

    I have done my 1st spinning session today and as a road cyclist I was quiet impressed by the session, what I found most advantages was the fact that you can set the resistance meaning you can really pump the legs on a high resistance knowing you can always turn it down when you start to blow, this of course you cannot do on a real hill, so yes its really good from that point of view, increasing your stamina.
    I will see how this helps my road ride Saturday :-)

  9. Spin Freak said,

    on January 10th, 2011 at 11:53 am

    Great article.

    Hey, have you seen these?


    Handlebar covers for indoor cycling & Spin!
    Pretty sweet!

  10. on October 23rd, 2013 at 8:44 pm

    Thanks for the tips. I’ll be following the series. I live in Singapore and I’m going to get a spinning bike. It’s a pity there aren’t many different models around here.

    I just used an upright and recumbant stationary bike and both were good. I’m hoping to buy a spinning bike soon!

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