A spin class workout at the gym is a great way to keep fit and get that cardio working; in fact many "real" cyclists use indoor training as a key part of their routine. Spin bikes allow no reprieve: If you aren't pedalling you may as well be sitting on the couch watching TV - it's more comfortable! But there are some things a spin bike can't replicate:
1. The Environment
This is the first reason why you should get out of the class and onto the road. It is a matter of letting go of controlling your environment and allowing the world to supply the challenges. Indoors, you decided when and where the effort will begin, end, and how difficult - out on the road it is the wind, the road surface, the hills, the traffic, and many other nuances which factor in dictatating how difficult the ride will be. This is a good thing. Everyday is different and offers constantly changing variables which keeps the ride interesting.
This also means you have to be on your game and not drift off. On a spin bike in the gym you can wear head phones and just zone-out for the duration - this is a bad idea on the road. That is not to put anybody off, but just to recognize there is more to cycling than turning over pedals. Cycling is a holistic sport which requires the engagement of the body, the mind, and the spirit. You may even discover a level of environmental awareness you never knew you had!
Indoor spin classes can be boring, real boring, mind-numbingly brainmeltingly bori... you get the picture. Stuck in a room that is clinical, full of machines and electronics, screens, and the noise of the modern age is as far as you can get from the taste of fresh air and adventure that going for a ride in the hills offers. The accomplishment that comes from climbing a mountain and the thrill of descending the other side are impossible to replicate indoors.
Planning a route on previously unridden roads is freedom enough for many to get that endorphin high kick. Or you could be testing and constantly stretching oneself with longer rides and greater distances and finding endurance you never knew was possible. Freedom comes in many forms.
It is ironic that enclosed in a gym on a spin bike next to others how little we converse or share the experience. But then, what's to share when you're just pedalling away in a clean room under fluoro lights and everyone is plugged into their own world?
One of the best reasons to get on the road is the sense of community. It doesn't take long to find like-minded cyclists to join with on a ride, or just jump onto a bunch. Cycling on the road is a social experience and a heap of fun. There are groups that ride hard and fast, others that enjoy a more relaxed pace, and everything in between.
As we've already mentioned, cycling is holistic; this is a full body workout not just a seat attached to pedals. Riding outdoors means learning bike handling skills which involves body positioning, balance, cornering skills, brake control, and more. There are specific skills for climbing and descending, riding into wind, or handling rough or sketchy surfaces. Then there are all the skills required when riding in a bunch.
There is great satisfaction in learning any or all of these skills and the resulting confidence is earned.
Spinning for fitness and health is great, but have you ever considered taking your fitness to the next level and competing in a cycling event? The massive growth in "fondo" type events means that anybody with a bike and a level of fitness can challenge themselves with or against others in a safe and exciting format. Events like these are designed for the average person and you will find all manner of riders, young and old turning up at the start line.
Alternatively, with specific skills and fitness training, you could join a club and participate in weekend club races and criteriums. Participating gives training a greater purpose and helps with motivation and experiencing the joy of life spinning on the road!
So, next time you pop down to the gym for a spin session just take a moment to think about how far you could take your fitness and skills and how much larger your world could become just by taking the indoor spin outside.
Stayed tuned for the next installment which will explain the steps to moving from the spin room to the road.