Being a Power Training fanatic that I am, I also regularly monitor the forums and various blogs about power on the internet.  I came across a fantastic thread of conversations on the Google Wattage forum (a place where serious cyclists, with serious money, talk about serious power).  If you don”™t ride outside, you might not be aware that there is a general disdain from cyclists about indoor cycling, and especially Spinning®.  They lump all indoor riding into the same bucket and consider it a last resort for getting their ride on.

Unfortunately, they have missed more than the point.  If you are a member of ICI/PRO, you already know how much fun riding indoors can be.  This alone is a good enough reason to give indoor cycling a second look if you live in a climate that locks you out of riding outside for months on end.  However, it”™s the performance improvements that are the real draw of indoor cycling.  There a number of cycling workouts that are nearly impossible to accomplish outside.  This applies to both Heart Zone® centric workouts as well as Power workouts.  Many of these workouts are designed to accomplish some of the coveted objectives of higher VO2, greater power, and an elevated threshold.

Here are a few exerpts from some diehard outdoor cyclists who are just discovering for themselves that Indoor Cycling may be the key to their next performance jump:

UK Rider

“...this started me wondering whether there is an argument for doing roller sessions even when you could ride outdoors. The problem with riding outdoors, certainly around here, is that you are often prevented from applying power for various reasons. There's traffic lights, roundabouts, junctions, cars blocking you, downhills with tight bends etc. Then there's also uphill parts where it is almost impossible not to go anaerobic. I could post some pictures of graphs of power distribution and quadrant analysis, but I'm sure you get the idea - my power output is much more variable outdoors, so to hit the same average power as I would on the rollers, I actually end up spending a lot of time at much lower power output and also quite a bit of time at higher power output to pull the average back up to where I want it to be.”

USA Rider

“I took 30 seconds off of my 10 mile TT PR last year and was putting out crazy watts compared to the previous year.  In road races I felt like I had an enormous depth of strength and pretty much went on a reign of terror during the spring and won a lot of races. Interestingly enough though as the time changed and I spent more time outdoors I had a smaller amount of total quality time on the bike per week than I had during the winter.  Of course I was racing and doing more threshold, VO2 max work than during the winter, but in retrospect I felt like my fitness went down during the summer.  In retrospect, if I could I would have sent the April version of me to Nationals in July.  I wasn't bad in July, but I was better in April.”

UK Rider

“One of my points, though, is that outdoor training can be even worse than this, in that interrupting the time spent at the target power with time spent at a much lower power, might have a negative impact on the effectiveness of the training. Accumulating 60 mins of tempo over 3 hours as 5 mins tempo, then 10 mins AR (Active Recovery), then 5 mins tempo, 10 mins AR etc, may not have the same training benefit as a continuous 60 mins of tempo, on top of the inefficient use of time.”

However, all of this does come with a catch of sorts.  This caveat pertains specifically to any cyclist who wants to improve their performance outside.  If you are content to stay inside and ride, this is only an issue if you are pushing for the next level of fitness, or perhaps cross training for another sport.  But for those that enjoy riding in both venues, this is vital to understand.  Without a power indicator on your indoor bike, my current feeling is that you are almost riding blind.   This may seem a bit harsh or extreme, but I”™ve now cycled with a number of Indoor-Only instructors who have asked me to take them outside and give it a try.  While they do have to get used the equipment, shifting and the sport in general, they typically lack the ability to climb real hills.  The lack of an indicator for tension or power creates an almost artificial ceiling, where it requires a great deal of personal conviciton to keep reaching for the next level and making that simulated road that much steeper.

Let”™s hope that soon this will be a non-issue, as old bikes get replaced with new ones like the Keiser M3 and other indoor bikes with Power.  Members, instructors and indoor cycling advocates of all kinds all need to let their voices be heard if this trend is to take hold and sweep across the nation.


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