My approach to indoor cycling has always been to bring the qualities of cycling outdoors into the indoor cycling studio.  On one hand, there are the general qualities of fitness and condition that everyone enjoys, cyclist or not. However, there are definitely attributes of training and riding that appeal specifically to those that enjoy riding outdoors.  I thought I’d have a little fun and give you a glimpse into what goes on in my head when I design an indoor ride. Ok, maybe “fun” was not the right word and the thought of entering my head may have sent your mouse uncontrollably toward the back button. Regardless, here is taste of what goes on during an outdoor group ride and how it translates to almost every indoor ride I create (with the exception of race days).

Meet Up and Warm-Up

I’ve joked around multiple times that every good ride begins and ends at a coffee shop. That may not really be the case. The group I ride and train with on Saturday mornings meets at a local bike shop called Quad Cycles. After the usual banter, bragging and coveting of the latest gear, we roll the ride.  Everything starts at an easy pace - very conversational. Often times we are riding 2 by 2 (or 2 abreast) chatting and catching up on whatever.  You can often pick out the serious riders or those who understand proper warm-up buy their faster cadence (90-100 RPM).  Their legs are spinning fast and smooth, and the pace is easy.  After 20-30 minutes, we arrive at our first stop.  This signifies the end of the initial warm-up and time to decide what we are going to be doing for the day.

Warm-Up Part 2 and the Ride / Training Focus

Our groups can range from 12 to 60 riders depending on the weather. There are usually 2-3 ride leaders who will create smaller sub-groups and will announce what their focus will be as we continue. “Tom abi”, which is how I’m referred to (which is “brother Tom” in Turkish), “What’s the plan for today?”  I’ll let the group know the focus of what I’m planning to do, plus the distance (or time) and target speed. Each ride leader does the same and then people choose which group they want to continue riding with.

We pull out of the parking lot and begin the second part of the warm-up.  The second part of the warm-up is both more intense and more focused toward what we are planning to do.

The Route

The second part of the warm-up leads us to our route - the roads where we are going to carry out the “mission”. Maybe it is a set of hills for some climbing or a long flat road for aerobic intervals or sprints. It can also be a rolling meandering course just to get some good endurance miles and time in the saddle.  The point is, we select the road or course based on the purpose of what we want to get out of the ride.

Shut it Down

After we hit and complete the main course (pun intended), it is time to shut down and roll home easy. It’s a great time to chat and just chill on the bike. Technically we refer to this as “active recovery”. However, if the workout was designed right, shutting it down is welcome regardless of what you call it.  Now I’ve been on many group rides around the country and this “shut down” is sadly rare.  People will hammer until the last 100 feet before coming to a screeching halt at the café.  I’m fairly strict and let people know when and where we will shut it down. You’ll be surprised how much comfort it brings people when they know everything will calm down at some point. This knowledge also makes the “route” more intense. Since everyone knows the shutoff point, they are now free to really go for it during the “main course”.  Are you seeing the connection to indoor cycling? How the effectiveness of an indoor ride can be increased or hindered by how it is created or explained?

Bringing the Experience Indoors

So how does this translate to designing and indoor ride?  Well, here is how it translates to me:

(1)  Warm-Up 1 (5-6 minutes) — Easy spin to loosen up the legs, raise the heart rate and increase body heat. Explain the purpose of the ride and provide some options for people to choose from.

(2)  Warm-Up 2 (5-8 minutes) — Greater focus during the second part of the warm-up to prepare the mind, muscles, energy systems, etc. for what is ahead.

(3)  The Course (35-40 minutes) — Get down to business!  The drills. The Intervals.  The challenges.

(4)  Cool-Down & Stretch (8-10 minutes). Depending on how intense the last efforts were, we may take 3-5 minutes to cool-down and then 6 minutes to stretch. We use this time to chat again and reinforce what we experienced and ways to interpret how our body responded to the ride.


 So there you have it.  That’s what’s on my mind when I’m designing the ride and actually riding a profile in class. If you are interested in attracting outdoor riders to your class, try to put together an experience they connect with. If you’ve never been on a group ride, take a Saturday or Sunday morning and join up with a local club or informal group.  Just don’t expect it to go down “exactly” as I’ve described above.  Those that know me, also know I like to keep things structured and well planned….a bit.

Originally posted 2017-04-03 14:12:49.

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