5 Effective Ways to Cycle Indoors and Out This Winter

Marc Lindsay
by Marc Lindsay
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5 Effective Ways to Cycle Indoors and Out This Winter

When it comes to cycling, it doesn’t have to be about only riding indoors and only riding outdoors. While many cyclists train exclusively on the road during the warmer months and opt to ride indoors for the majority of the winter, combining the two in your training plan is an effective way to reap the benefits of both worlds and become a fitter cyclist.

Read on to learn how to optimize your indoor-outdoor training this winter and beyond:



Certain types of workouts are more conducive to indoor training than outdoor training and vice versa. For example, long rides on the indoor trainer can get really boring. Virtual training, music and movies aside, 3 hours is a long time to spend spinning in your living room.

For this reason, it’s better to have a flexible training plan during the off-season. Instead of scheduling a long training ride only on Saturday mornings, head out for your long rides whenever the weather allows. If you live somewhere where it’s brutally cold, you could split the time and ride for an hour and a half outdoors and come home to ride the other half on the trainer. Breaking up your time this way keeps you from suffering with freezing hands for long periods of time outside, while also keeping your time spinning in the living room or garage to a minimum.



Conversely, trying to do fast workouts like intervals outdoors during the winter can be difficult because of all the extra clothing and poor road conditions. Overheating in jackets and gloves can be a real issue, and you’ll also want to avoid getting sick or taking a spill on slick roads. Save these short, fast efforts lasting less than an hour for the indoor trainer where it’s easier to manage the temperature and safer to ride at high speeds without interruptions or hazards.



Like long rides, you can get some serious benefit by doing both indoor and outdoor cycling in the same day. The key is to keep one ride at a low intensity and the other at a slightly higher intensity. One example could be to head out for a short morning ride on the road for an hour or so at an easy, leisurely pace, enjoying your time outdoors as much as possible. Then, in the evening, plan a short 30-minute interval session that works on your speed and pedaling technique.

While neither workout should be especially difficult, the combined training time benefits your overall fitness and cycling performance more than you might realize. Just remember you’ll want to keep these days limited to two or three times per week maximum to avoid overtraining or injury, with rest or easy days in between.



Riding outdoors during the winter takes extra time. Charging bike lights, layering correctly and finding a safe route are things you’ll need to do to get the most out of your ride and stay safe. While these things are certainly doable, you probably aren’t going to have the time to do this every day or even three or four times per week.

For this reason, it’s best to save your outdoor winter rides for those days when you aren’t as busy with work or family obligations. You can utilize your training time much more efficiently by riding the indoor trainer on the days when you’ve only got time for a quick 30–45-minute workout. Then, when you’ve got the time and energy to battle the conditions, you can commute to work or do a slightly longer training ride outdoors on the weekend.



The weather conditions are a major deciding factor when choosing to ride indoors versus outdoors. While colder weather, rain and less visibility can be dealt with if you layer correctly and purchase high-visibility cycling gear, there are times when the conditions simply just aren’t safe — or worth the effort.

Icy roads, high winds, snow and extreme cold are all good reasons to forgo a day on the road in favor of the indoor trainer or some other form of cross-training. These conditions can be dangerous and difficult to deal with, and your time spent on the indoor trainer helps you get the most from your workout. When the sun comes back out and the roads clear enough to ride, use this time to your advantage and head outdoors for a mental break instead of continuing to spin indoors every day.

About the Author

Marc Lindsay
Marc Lindsay

Marc is a freelance writer based in Scottsdale, Arizona. He holds a master’s degree in writing from Portland State University and is a certified physical therapy assistant. An avid cyclist and runner of over 20 years, Marc contributes to LAVA, Competitor and Phoenix Outdoor magazines. He is the former cycling editor for Active.com.


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