Fitness / Cycling

What are the Differences Between Indoor and Outdoor Cycling?

Stick to indoor cycling or take it outdoors? Aaptiv trainer Kelly Chase tells you which one gives you the better workout.

We all know the bike is a good way to exercise. It gets your heart rate up and gives you a great workout. However, there are so many types of bikes that it can be difficult to know which to use.

Depending on your preference, you may want to try indoor or outdoor cycling. But both come with distinct differences that can make or break a workout.

We asked Aaptiv trainer Kelly Chase to share the pros and cons of indoor cycling and outdoor biking.

What are some main differences?

Both bikes come with various advantages and disadvantages.


Rain, hail, or shine, the indoor cycling bike is always there for you. Though some brave souls may be able to brace themselves for a good biking workout in the rain, it can be difficult to battle other weather conditions. The only elements you have to face on an indoor cycling bike come from the walk to and from the gym.

Group or Solo Setting

Both indoor cycling and outdoor biking can be done in group classes or solo. How hard you work on the bike depends on how well you thrive in each setting.

If you prefer your own company, then using the indoor cycling bike in your own time could be more beneficial. As Chase says, “You’re only competing against yourself, and in this case, you can feel fearless!” With an entire category of indoor cycling classes, Aaptiv is your best bet for finding a workout that fits into your routine.

With an outdoor cycling bike, you can also ride solo or with a group. “Outdoor bikes bring more of a sense of teamwork and community as you’re all riding together,” Chase says. “Or you’re just facing the open road on your own.”


Chase says there is a “lower impact with indoor bikes, as you’re only working against resistance—never against both resistance and changing terrains as you do with outdoor bikes.” As with any cardio machine, you’re able to customize the experience to your exact goals. You can change the resistance to target your lower body. You can try HIIT training without fear of any potential road hazards getting in your way.

It’s those outdoor obstacles and terrain changes that make outdoor biking a bit more dynamic.
“I personally believe an outdoor bike is more difficult to use … you’re using more muscles when riding an outdoor bike as you’re going through various terrains,” Chase says. “If you approach a hill or rough terrain, you have to keep going through it, whereas with a stationary bike, you can let up on resistance any time.” She notes that if you want to be sneaky and walk the hill or terrain with your bike, you’ll still be moving and getting in a workout.

Mental Game

Think about the differences between indoor running and outdoor running. When you’re outdoors, you also have different landscapes to look at. You’ll have to pay attention to things around you, such as cars, pedestrians, and other cyclists. The same is true for biking. This helps you shift the focus of working out and pedaling out of your mind. “Because the scenery is always changing, you’re less likely to give up,” Chase says.

This is different when it comes to indoor cycling. Because you stay in one spot, your mind isn’t occupied by the changing scenery. You have nothing to distract you from pedaling. This can make you much more susceptible to boredom and make the workout seem harder and longer. To get around this and make sure you don’t give up early, Chase says, “You must have good music and good instruction in your ear coaching you through the workout.” (Such as Aaptiv, perhaps?)

Are you using the same muscles in both?

Both bikes work the quad and glute muscles, but there are a few differences. The “outdoor bike provides more of a full-body workout, as you’re not only using your leg muscles but also your core for varying terrains, standing to seated to gain speed, and streamlining,” Chase explains. “With indoor cycling bikes, the focus is more on your legs. Yes, some workouts provide out-of-the-saddle work, which does require a shift of focus to your core but not as much as when riding an outdoor bike.”

Should I bike outdoors or stick to indoor cycling?

All fitness levels can use an indoor cycling bike. The great thing about it is you can change the difficulty by adjusting the resistance and pushing yourself to hit certain speeds. Whether you’re a beginner, an intermediate, or an advanced rider, you can fit in a killer workout on the indoor bike.

If you’re comfortable on a cycling bike, then try riding outdoors as well. Chase says, “[This] will allow [you] to progress to more athletic, more advanced training levels with an outdoor bike.” Either way, both bikes can give you a great workout, so it ultimately comes down to your personal preference.

Do you stick to indoor cycling or venture outdoors, too? Aaptiv’s classes can give you workout variations you’re going to love.

Cycling Fitness


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