Cycling indoors is a great alternative when you simply can’t ride outside in real life. You don’t have to worry about weather, sunset, sunburn, or getting lost. But if you think riding inside is boring, you can do lots of things to increase your motivation and make it fun with these 14 Indoor Cycling Tips.
Planning ahead and creating a great ride experience will enhance your indoor rides and your workouts. Simple things like snacks and drinks, adjusting your temperature, doing a little pre-ride bike maintenance, and cleaning up after your ride will help you have an all-around better indoor riding experience.
In this article, we’ll look at some tips that you can use to have a better ride inside. You won’t need to spend a lot of money or time, either. Instead, we’ll show you a few key things to focus on that will get you a great workout and a fun ride.
1. Set up your pain cave
It’s called a pain cave because, well, sometimes working out hard really hurts!
But you’ll be much more willing to suffer on your indoor bike if you enjoy your setup. It doesn’t have to be fancy, but it should be comfortable.
Invest in a good trainer that meets your needs. Most indoor cycling enthusiasts love their direct drive trainers, but there isn’t anything wrong with a wheel-on trainer if that’s what suits your fancy. There are plenty of options, and you’ll need to make sure the one you get is compatible with your bike.
A good bike fit is also key to a successful indoor ride. You can use the same bike that you take on the road if you like. Or you can set up your indoor bike so that it feels similar to your outside ride. Just make sure it’s a good fit for you.
Some ambient lighting, good speakers, and a large screen are fine assets to your workout, but they’re also optional if they don’t fit your budget. You can shop garage sales, Craigslist, or repurpose things in your house to upgrade your pain cave. Anything that makes your experience feel more immersive or comfortable will help you feel better during your workout.
You’ll also want to consider temperature, humidity, and space. If your room is too hot or too cold, you won’t be as excited to go in. Lower humidity will help you feel drier and cooler when possible. If you can, make a little space around your bike, so you have room to sprint!
Even if your pain cave is a garage or basement, don’t be afraid to decorate. A few motivational prints, some meaningful photos, or your favorite jerseys can add to the ambiance. It doesn’t have to be fancy or expensive. It just has to make you feel good to be there.
2. Plan ahead
Don’t leave your indoor workouts to chance. Plan ahead and set aside a time for you to ride inside, just like you would plan an outdoor ride with your cycling crew. When possible, choose the time that works best for your riding.
For some people, it works better to get up early and knock it out before the day starts. For others, a late-night ride is more suitable.
One of the great things about indoor riding is you don’t have to wait for daylight or good weather, so you can plan it for whenever you like. Just remember to set aside a specific time for riding because it probably won’t just happen all on its own.
When possible, invite your friends to a preplanned, virtual meetup so you can encourage each other. On many indoor riding platforms such as Zwift, you can get a draft effect just like you would IRL. Use it to your advantage and get your bike moving even faster so you can rack up the miles.
Don’t forget to plan ahead for your riding needs, too. Make sure you have everything you need before your ride starts. It’s no fun to get dropped on a virtual group ride because you need to get more water, refill your snacks, or make a break for the loo.
3. Snacks and drinks
IRL riding says you should drink a water bottle per hour of riding and eat something every half an hour or so.
Indoor cycling is no different. You need to fuel your rides, so keep some snacks and drinks handy.
If you like, you can eat and drink the same things you would on an IRL bike ride, such as bars, gels, and sports drinks. However, you can also take advantage of the fact that your bike is kinda, well, stationary. Don’t be afraid to branch out into foods that you might not be able to munch out on the road. You might not be able to sip soup, but a cheeseburger has definite ride potential!
Due to the extra heat and sweat loss, you may need additional water on inside rides. A little bit of sports drink can help replenish your electrolytes while you ride, too. (Source)
4. Keep things handy
Invest in a table, a cart, or a sturdy tray to keep things at your fingertips. You might want something to hold all your remotes, your snacks and drinks, tissues, lip balm, and anything else you might need. If everything is within reach, you’ll be more likely to stick to the ride.
You could go fancy and invest in a Wahoo Kickr Desk or keep it simple with a little Ikea cart or shelf. You could also make use of a handlebar bag or cupholder.
If you’re using a laptop to run Zwift or RGT, you might want a laptop desk to set it on. Any side table, countertop, or sturdy little table at the right height will do.
While you’re at it, consider mounting your phone on your bike. You could purchase an adaptor for your Garmin mount or use a phone-specific mount on your handlebars. Mounting your phone will keep your phone apps, texting, and companion apps within easy reach so you can snap pics of your victorious finish to post on Instagram.
5. Get cool
Out on the road, the wind and air movement help keep you cool and evaporate sweat even when it’s hot out. Indoors, you’d be amazed at how much sweat one person can produce! If you’re riding in a small room, the body heat you create while riding indoors can even raise the temperature of the room a couple of degrees.
If you’re overheating on the bike, you’ll get tired more quickly and have a more challenging time producing your usual amount of power. Your workout won’t be as effective, and your heart rate will be higher than average.
You can fix this with a good fan or two to keep you cool. You might prefer a fan with variable speeds and a remote, so you don’t have to get off the bike to change it. Or you might like a directional blower that blasts the air right in your face.
Make sure you drink plenty of cool water. You might also want to have some cooling towels, damp cloths, or other means of cooling.
6. Mop up the sweat
Sweat is pretty corrosive stuff! After a hard indoor session, you’ll want to wipe down your bike and especially your handlebars.
If sweat gets underneath your bar tape, it will corrode your handlebars and create a potentially hazardous situation over time. If the bars corrode enough to weaken, they could break and cause a crash when you’re out on the road.
Sweat can also damage the finish on your bicycle and your floor. You may want to protect your bike with some towels or a top-tube-shaped sweat cover.
Taking a minute or two post-ride to clean up will extend the life of your bike, trainer, your floor, and maybe even yourself.
7. Find some friends
Cycling is a social sport, and indoor riding can be the same. You don’t have to go it solo. There are plenty of Facebook groups for indoor cycling, and many indoor cycling platforms offer ways to connect with other riders.
In Zwift, you can join meetups, group rides, races, or simply chat with the person who happens to be riding near you on the screen. It can be a lot of fun to create a group on Discord and video chat with your fellow riders while you ride on screen.
Indoor rides are a great way to meet interesting people with a shared love of cycling worldwide. You could ride with people in different countries and different time zones, all from the comfort of your pain cave. Indoor cycling friends can help you stay motivated and keep you accountable to work out when you’re feeling lazy.
8. Pump up the jams
Blasting your favorite tunes is a surefire way to get the blood pumping and motivation rolling. Whether you groove to classical music like In the Hall of the Mountain King or classic rock like Rolling Stones, Start Me Up, find something that gets your heart rate going and load it up.
Studies show that music reduces the perception of pain associated with working out. A study discussed by Scientific American, showed that the best tempos (or music speed) for workouts fit somewhere between 120 and 145 beats per minute. Cycling in time to music may even reduce oxygen needs by 7% – meaning you’re more efficient when you’re grooving.
You might need a different type of mental stimulation for extended efforts, such as movies and audiobooks. If noise is a problem where you work out, invest in a good pair of headphones and keep the music alive.
9. Take care of your bike before a ride
Bike maintenance is just as essential inside as it is outside.
Your chain can get dirty indoors, especially if you use a woodstove to heat your home. Clean and lube your chain to keep your drivetrain in good shape.
Don’t forget to check your tire pressure, too. If you use a wheel-on trainer, tire pressure is significant to how the trainer will function. Check the manufacturer’s directions, but you’ll most likely need to release the tension on the trainer, pump up your tire to the recommended amount, and then readjust the tension. If your tire starts to go flat, you’ll lose grip on the trainer, and your strenuous efforts will be wasted.
If you ride indoors frequently, you may need to change your bar tape often to prevent sweat from corroding away your handlebars.
Inspect your trainer and setup frequently. A loose bolt can make your trainer loose or unstable. Indoor tumbles can happen and crashing off your trainer not only ruins your workout but also hurts you and perhaps even your bike. Some occasional maintenance will keep your indoor rides safe and effective.
10. Pick a platform
Long past are the days of the indoor stationary bike with a boring speedometer to mark the miles.
Now, you can choose any number of workout platforms to make your indoor riding much more fun and effective, especially if you’ve got a smart trainer.
Zwift is popular for its group rides, built-in workouts, and cycling courses, route badges, maps, and virtual prizes along the way. Another great contender is Rouvy, which has more life-like scenery. Newer to the scene is RGT which allows you to upload your own IRL courses and create a simulation so you can practice that dreaded gravel hill or prepare for your next crit race.
For those more interested in FTP and workouts, you can lean more towards TrainerRoad and Cycling Peaks. But if you don’t want to pay a hefty subscription fee to participate in those, your trainer likely comes with a pairable app with built-in workouts that you can access from your smartphone.
11. Put down a mat
Indoor cycling can get noisy! Vibrations from the trainer can cause unwanted noise and discomfort in your handlebars. And we already know what a sweaty mess it makes. An easy solution to these problems is to put down a mat underneath your bike and trainer.
If your setup slides around, you might want to choose something with a bit of grip, like a yoga mat. On the other hand, if the vibrations are making your downstairs neighbors go a little nuts, you may want to put down something cushy, like a kids foam puzzle pad. Foam padding will dampen vibrations and soak up some noise.
If you’ve got carpet beneath you, a simple throw rug will help protect your carpet from sweat damage and wear and tear.
12. Raise your wheel
Many trainers, both wheel on and direct drive, raise your rear wheel slightly off the floor. The trainer can make your bike unlevel, causing you to pitch forward as you ride. This position can cause you to put too much weight on your hands, causing neck and shoulder pain and even hand numbness and tingling.
Wheel blocks are inexpensive solutions to this problem. Your trainer may come with one, or you may need to purchase one separately. They’ll raise your front wheel just high enough to make your bike level again. Wheel blocks also help keep your front wheel a little bit more secure, so your handlebars don’t flop around when you’re riding inside.
In a pinch, you can use whatever you have on hand to create your own wheel block. A piece of 2 x 4, a couple of hardback books, or even a brick can go under your wheel to raise it up a little bit. You can experiment to find a comfortable height.
If you find your wheel is slipping off the block, you may want to put a piece of rubber shelf liner or a rubber placemat under your wheel to give it a little extra grip.
13. Upload to Strava
Strava can keep track of all your rides – both indoors and outdoors – in one place. Most indoor bike platforms, such as Zwift and TrainerRoad, will automatically connect to Strava and upload your rides.
From there, you can compare your indoor stats to your outdoor abilities. Speed, cadence, heart rate, distance, elevation, mileage, and even power can be recorded to Strava.
Seeing your progress will help motivate you to keep on going! You can even go KOM hunting indoors. Just check out all the Watopia segments on Strava and get those pedals spinning.
14. Chase your own goals
If you are used to riding with an IRL cycling club, you might be surprised by a large number of riders you find on a platform like Zwift. At any given time, you could be riding alongside thousands of other folks.
Most of the people there just want to work out and have a good time! But there are always a few trying to cheat the system by faking their height, weight, and ability. Don’t worry about them.
Chase your own goals instead.
Even if you’re the fastest in your area, you might not be the fastest on Zwift because there are so many more people in the pool. It’s ok! Compete with yourself, create goals for workouts, ramp tests, and sprints, and enjoy the journey.