There’s nothing quite like getting fresh air in your lungs and exploring the great outdoors by bike. However, with the rise of indoor cycling continuing apace, it’s tempting to just stay at home Zwifting and forget to complement your indoor efforts with regular outdoor sessions. We get it… The wind. The rain. The cold.
Despite the temptation to focus purely on indoor cycling, the benefits of integrating outdoor road cycling into your indoor regime over the autumn and winter periods are wide-ranging. Outdoor cycling is in the fresh air, on the road, and in the elements. Of course, both types of cycling provide a cardiovascular boost and release feel-good endorphins, but outdoor cycling has some additional benefits you simply just can’t get on an indoor bike.
See our most compelling reasons to get out of the house and into the real world here.
The great outdoors
The feeling of fresh air in your lungs is a beautiful thing and should never be taken for granted. One of the biggest drawbacks of indoor cycling is the static nature of it - cycling inside on the same spot, in the same surroundings. It can dull the senses. On the contrary, road cycling outside unlocks the door to exploration and adventure. You can cover great distances by bike, seeing the great outdoors and all of its magic.
Being outside helps break away from the daily stresses of working of life, as well as break out of the confines of being stuck inside. While all exercise is good, being outdoors in the crisp autumn and winter air brings extra clarity you just can’t get stuck in four walls.
Additionally, getting outside helps us to appreciate the environment and the world we live in. It inspires us. And that can never be beaten by sticking purely to indoor cycling.
Your daily dose of vitamin D
Road cycling outdoors also provides you with something an indoor Zwift sesh can never give you: Sun on your face. Sunshine is a great source of vitamin D, something we’re all lacking in over the winter months, and is essential for a load of our key body processes. For instance, vitamin D supports bone health, muscular functions and our immune system.
Getting outdoors isn’t simply just about getting some sunshine, though. It requires a deeper level of thinking, appreciation and attention because of your surroundings. The positive impact of the natural environment on your mood, productivity and health is well-documented.
Real-world bike handling skills
Although an indoor bike helps you focus purely on cardiovascular movement, and you can change the speed and resistance of the bike, the outdoor environment offers real-world terrain that can’t be replicated. Wind resistance, pot holes, other road users, different surfaces, and more. Cycling outdoors ensures you don’t forget the rules of the road and the all-important bike handling skills required for effective road cycling. That’s especially important if you ride in groups or in sportives / races.
Plus, when outdoors, you never know what you’re going to ride into… If you haven’t had to dodge a badger running across the road or avoid the cluster of cows in your way then you haven’t been road cycling enough.
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A mental boost
In, 2010, a study revealed that just five minutes of exercise outdoors, in a park, nature trail, or other green space, significantly improves your mental health. Again, that’s something you just can’t get indoors. The study goes on to discuss the differences between indoor and outdoor exercise and highlights the positive impact of the natural environment, which is associated with feelings of revitalisation, improved energy levels, and positive engagement.
Outdoor exercise was also shown to lower negative feelings such as anger, sadness, confusion, stress and depression. Even more reason to complement your indoor sessions with some outdoor cycling.
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Greater core strength and stability
Have you ever noticed during your indoor workout that you don’t have to worry about your bike falling over when you move around or start to pedal, and you don’t have to worry about handling the bike around the environment? We’ve already discussed how cycling outdoors helps improve and fine-tune bike handling skills, but it also enhances core strength and stability. That’s because, on an indoor bike, your core doesn’t need to be as engaged as the bike is locked in place, stationary.
Comparatively, when riding outdoors, your core muscles are far more engaged when it comes to pedalling, standing up on the bike, turning on corners, and hill climbing. All the stabilising muscles are fired into action at every move, which is often neglected during indoor riding. So, generally speaking, road cycling outdoors is a better full-body workout, especially for your core.
Well, what are you waiting for? If you’re banking on getting your cycling fix purely inside on an indoor training, maybe it’s time to rethink your strategy and include outdoor sessions when the winter sun is out.
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