How to Transition From Cycling Indoors to the Road

Peter Glassford
by Peter Glassford
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How to Transition From Cycling Indoors to the Road

Each spring, cyclists in snow-bound areas pedal away on indoor trainers while watching movies, cycling races or — as of late — using online apps to watch a video avatar version of themselves cycling in a virtual world. Regardless of what you stare at while you pedal, the reality is you will have to break yourself out of that indoor training routine and get outside at some point. Deciding when to make the switch need not be an all-or-nothing decision. Ease into it!

THE TYPE OF WORKOUT MATTERS

Anytime the roads are clear and there is not an intense interval session planned, it is best to bundle up and go outside. Doing endurance and tempo training outside is generally fine on cooler days, but anything approaching or going over threshold presents an issue with sweating, which makes indoor training attractive for these harder workouts.

COMBINING WORKOUTS

When there is an intense workout set on the training plan, but the roads aren’t perfect yet, do the interval portion indoors and then, if you have more time after the intervals, consider a triathlon-style transition into outside gear for cross-training or to ride endurance pace outdoors. This is a great tactic year-round, but especially when getting sweaty during intervals can ruin the rest of a ride. Adding more outdoor ​riding after tough ​indoor intervals​ helps your body get ready for a complete switch to outdoor riding, once the warmer weather comes.

CROSS-TRAIN OUTSIDE TO STAY FAMILIAR WITH THE ELEMENTS

I have always advocated mixing cross-training into cycling training and I especially encourage my adult clients to do this so they have options to train in different weather and when they are traveling. Training outdoors year-round makes it much more fun, easier to put in longer hours and boosts your work capacity. An overlooked benefit of regular cross-training is that you’re used to dressing for different conditions, so you’re more comfortable hopping on the bike the instant the roads are clear.


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JUST GET OUT THERE

Many cyclists are not as scared of the cold and wet weather as they are that their workouts won’t be perfect. However, since we are all training indoors to prepare for outdoor riding, the steady and controllable nature of indoor cycling is absolutely not a perfect training stimulus. I preach that 80% is a passing grade when it comes to training, keep your workout goals in mind and incorporate hill climbsheadwinds and bunny-hops. A good friend or two help to make a great workout.

YOU CAN ALWAYS GO BACK INSIDE

There is also some fear that once you’re outside, you can’t come back in. Feel free to ride the trainer to warmup or cooldown or for easy recovery spins. If you live in a city, the trainer offers a way to do intervals that are too long or too fast for city routes. Finally, if you live in areas with extreme temperatures (hot or cold), the trainer offers another way to keep your training frequency up when Mother Nature doesn’t cooperate.

Get off that indoor trainer as soon as you can and start working on your outdoor cycling skills. You can always come back inside if you need to. Use the tools, terrain and contexts you have at your disposal to optimize your cycling training.

About the Author

Peter Glassford
Peter Glassford

Peter is a cycling coach and registered kinesiologist from Ontario, Canada. He travels frequently to work with athletes at races, camps and clinics. He also races mountain bikes for Trek Canada and pursues adventure in all types of movement. Follow @peterglassford on Twitter, or check out his online and in-person coaching at www.smartathlete.ca.

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