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Riding outdoors makes you happy and healthy

There’s only one place to ride a bicycle and that is outdoors, but through the winter more cyclists have been taking to indoor cycling to avoid the rain and cold. We’re here to remind you of all the benefits of cycling outside. 

We’re sure most of you don’t need us to tell you why cycling outdoors is so much better than indoors cycling, but just in case, here are six reasons.

- 6 reasons why using a home trainer is the best way to get fit over the winter — and how to make it fun too

There’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing

Yes, the rain and cold can make facing the outdoors challenging at times. But provided you’ve got the right clothing you can face any weather.

Cycle clothing has come on leaps and bounds in recent years with some big textile developments that make it so much easier to face the rain or cold weather. Waterproof and breathable jackets, waterproof socks, neoprene gloves, soft shell jackets. The Gabba. You don’t even need to spend a fortune either as the quality and performance you can get in clothing that doesn’t break the bank is impressive these days. 

focus paralane  david arthur riding 13.jpg

focus paralane david arthur riding 13.jpg

Cycling outdoors makes you happy

There’s nothing like the feeling of air rushing past your face and the exhilaration from hurtling along a road at high speed to make you feel alive and lift your mood. You don’t get that in a gym that’s for sure. 

According to some research outdoor exercise can be a cure for the seasonal affective disorder that some people suffer from at this time of year when the days are short and the nights long. So that’s a good reason right there for shunning the indoor trainer.

Riding outside is sociable

You can’t ride with friends on an indoor trainer. Though saying that Zwift does allow you to ride with virtual partners. What we mean of course if you can’t go for a ride with a group of friends and have a good old natter, racing each other to the top of each hill and then celebrate with a slab of cake and hot drink. Riding in a group is also safer and you’re more likely to push yourself that little bit harder.

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Cycling is a great sociable activity and it’s one of the big appeals for many cyclists. Doing regular rides with friends is a great motivator as well, especially if you’re feeling a bit lazy or the weather is a bit iffy. No one likes to let a friend down. 

Cold weather helps you burn fat

According to a study cycling in cold weather can promote the growth of brown fat (brown adipose tissue) which burns white fat and can reduce sugar levels. The brown fat consumes a lot of energy producing heat to keep you warm in cold weather and this process can help regulate body weight. So cycling outside in the cold is good for you.

Cycling outdoors is interesting

Who wants to sit on a stationary trainer staring at the wall or trying to distract yourself from the tedium and utter boredom by listening to music and watching television? Not us. Cycling outdoors is infinitely more interesting as you have the beautiful great outdoors, whether country or urban, to enjoy and prevent you ever getting bored. 

The outdoors gives you the chance to enjoy spectacular views, watch the sun rise over the valley, experience the transition from one season to the next, experiences that are far more enjoyable than staying indoors staying at a screen. Plus there's night riding which, provided you're prepared with decent lights, can be hugely enjoyable. 

Plus, not only is riding indoors on a stationary trainer so boring, it 'might' also knacker your bike, as Mat found out when he spoke to a few brands about using carbon bikes in a turbo.

DavidMuro.jpg

DavidMuro.jpg

Outside is free

To borrow the popular #outsideisfree hashtag, cycling outdoors doesn’t cost you anything unlike indoor training which requires an expensive turbo trainer at the very minimum, and a smart trainer and Zwift subscription if you’re really going to invest in cycling indoors. Yes, there will be those rides in the rain, cold wind and snow even, but there’ll also be rides in the sun and it’s those rides that you’ll look forward to and remember fondly. 

What gets you cycling outdoors?

David has worked on the road.cc tech team since July 2012. Previously he was editor of Bikemagic.com and before that staff writer at RCUK. He's a seasoned cyclist of all disciplines, from road to mountain biking, touring to cyclo-cross, he only wishes he had time to ride them all. He's mildly competitive, though he'll never admit it, and is a frequent road racer but is too lazy to do really well. He currently resides in the Cotswolds.

65 comments

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andyeb [31 posts] 10 months ago
8 likes

There does seem to be a particular brand of cyclist, that believes the basic rules of physics, for some unknown reason, do not apply to them.

For example, those who ride without a helmet. And those who think that their tyres still grip on black ice.

I'll take indoor training over waiting for hours in A&E and weeks off the bike, waiting for broken bones to heal. Yes, I've been there.

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fizrar6 [27 posts] 10 months ago
28 likes
andyeb wrote:

There does seem to be a particular brand of cyclist, that believes the basic rules of physics, for some unknown reason, do not apply to them.

For example, those who ride without a helmet. And those who think that their tyres still grip on black ice.

I'll take indoor training over waiting for hours in A&E and weeks off the bike, waiting for broken bones to heal. Yes, I've been there.

Don't forget to pad the area around your indoor trainer with cotton wool.

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Prosper0 [110 posts] 10 months ago
8 likes
andyeb wrote:

For example, those who ride without a helmet. And those who think that their tyres still grip on black ice.

I'll take indoor training over waiting for hours in A&E and weeks off the bike, waiting for broken bones to heal. Yes, I've been there.

 

You crashed because someone in your group wasn't wearing a helmet?! I would love to have seen how that happened. 

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HowardR [141 posts] 10 months ago
7 likes

I enjoy cold weather cycling, there's even something about donning the extra winter kit that makes me think the days ride is going to be extra fun - But! There are two conditions that I avoid like the plauge;

* Icy roads (Painfull experiance has taught me a number of lessons there)

* The combination of wet roads and a low sun (Thus far I've been lucky and not had some pointless retard run straight in to the back of me & I'd like to keep it that way)

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Leeroy_Silk [159 posts] 10 months ago
10 likes
andyeb wrote:

"particular brand of cyclist"

For example, those who ride without a helmet. And those who think that their tyres still grip on black ice"

Where do these particular brand of cyclists live? 

Im not sure about you but where I live (Birmingham, and I guess a big portion of the UK) we see very little ice and frost, we even had mild sunshine last weekend which meant we could safely ride on dry roads and really enjoy being outside. Granted yesterday we did see snow. But that too was ok, MTBing through a few cm of fresh powder on the trails was both grippy, pleasurable and picturesque. Imagine that!

My fellow cyclist friend: winter isn't out to get you, treat it with respect, make the most of the opportunities it presents, get out and live a little. 

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arfa [855 posts] 10 months ago
8 likes

Each to their own but hours on a turbo would bore me senseless, hence the reason why I have a mountain bike as opposed to a turbo trainer.

Riding on the snowy trails yesterday was sublimely peaceful and testing at the same time: physically demanding and challenging your senses to keep the bike upright at the same time. Providing you stick to the golden rule of mountain biking (trees, don't crash into them) it's a pretty safe alternative to treacherous roads this time of year and you don't have to worry about the ubiquitous crap driver.  You might even become a better handler of your road bike as well

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ColT [344 posts] 10 months ago
5 likes

I have a specific beef with indoor trainers and the rise in the use of something like Zwift out here in Taiwan. I am seeing an increasing number of riders on the roads who are strong, fit and fast, but they lack roadcraft.  Can be a bit scary.

The slightest hint of 'weather' here and huge numbers of riders simply stay at home.  When I say weather, essentially I mean rain.  Any amount of rain.  Even simply wet roads.  Ride cancelled.  Very odd.

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HalfWheeler [667 posts] 10 months ago
2 likes
andyeb wrote:

There does seem to be a particular brand of cyclist, that believes the basic rules of physics, for some unknown reason, do not apply to them...those who think that their tyres still grip on black ice.

You could just cut your cloth accordingly. Busy or just even moderately busy rural A class roads are always gritted, the flow of traffic spreads the grit and breaks any ice up. Not my first choice of road, utility miles when all said and done, but better than sitting on a turbo.

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CXR94Di2 [1856 posts] 10 months ago
8 likes

Comments about indoor being boring staring at a wall- that is rubbish,. Zwift and bkool are interactive, with bkool having video of routes, real feel gradients with a smart trainer. The other argument it 'might' damage your bike is also bollocks. My carbon bike has been on my trainer for over 2000 miles and is fine.

Riding indoors with a proper setup is hugely rewarding in training quality and entertainment. Also you don't get cold, wet and won't crash in less than ideal conditions.

When spring arrives after a winter of structured training makes for a great time chuckling at your less fit riding buddies.

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tritecommentbot [2268 posts] 10 months ago
13 likes

I do both. I'm probably in the 'hardcore' camp - I'll take the bike out in the ice and grin at every save from either the back or front wheel giving out. Also find riding in pissing rain one of the greatest pleasures I've ever known, for some reason it's again - instantly grin inducing. Is any part of that smart? No. Do I get as much benefit as I would have from doing an indoor session? Of course not, you can't go hard in bad conditions. 

That said, fair amount of small-minded, ill-informed nonsense being spouted in the article above. Too much to go through them all, but the most important ones.

 

1. Indoor cycling is as sociable as outdoor group rides - people on Zwift chat using VOIP, form supportive communities and race tactically together. They do this more far more regularly than outdoor groups. Some 3 times a week. Some several times a day. This is fact and something that surprised me when starting Zwift. People are warm and friendly, you'll get warm hearted messages from people you don't know. It's great and something that you don't get much of outdoors. I think that's because Zwift and similar apps attract a lot of progressive minded riders, who tend to be outgoing and friendly. 

 

2. Riding in a group outdoors pushes you harder? It can push you hard, but most people will likely never find any group ride outdoors that kill have you throwing up as you pass the lamp post. In Zwift, races are hell, and people who will never race hard in real life for many reasons will get to experience dark places that the road outside never will. 

 

3. Cold weather burns more fat - pretty sure this nonsense makes absolutely zero difference to some guy who does a handful of 0 degree rides for a few hours at a time. Shameful guff. 

 

4. Spectactular views - sure, most people just have spectacular views within reach of their doorstep?  And even if they did, diminishing returns and having to keep your eye on the road means you only really get the occassional feeling of satisfaction from it. If you really want this sort of experience you go hiking, or climb a mountain on your bike in Europe where the low speed means you can take it in. Rest of us get a few green fields to bore us while dodging potholes, while you know, actually putting some pace on it.

 

5. Cycling outdoors is interesting - no it's now. You pedal your bike. What's remotely interesting about that unless you're on some technical descent? New things are interesting. Trying new indoor trainer software and racing on it is way more interesting that riding along crappy roads in gray weather, which yes, doesn't make you happier by the way - positive ions, if you believe the sicence stuff - makes you feel negative. 

 

6. Making you happier - more guff - how many hours would a rider have to ride and what times of the day would they need to ride at to relieve to what extent SAD? You could be out all day, every day and still have shit vitamin D production in the UK in winter.  If you want some sort of happiness boost, use achievement - train smart, lose weight and that'll keep you ticking along until the weather is better. Plan a holiday abroad to use your winter fitness on - things to look forward to. 

 

Can't believe I got baited by this rubbish but oh well. CXR said it all aready anyway - proper training gets done in a controlled, structured way - and for the modern cyclist, that means getting your act together, stop making excuses and getting on a trainer to do the work. 

 

 

 

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cyclisto [329 posts] 10 months ago
4 likes

I ride mostly for commuting, but if I wanted to train using my bike, an indoor trainer would seem the best option as I could avoid all the exhaust gases. Any benefits from training at high rates in an area with heavy pollution, could be possibly be cancelled by the damage to lungs or even cancer.

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230548 [54 posts] 10 months ago
3 likes

I detest the turbo trainer but there are days when it is more effective than tiptoeing round on icy roads at a very slow speed.

 

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MikeKlemin [6 posts] 10 months ago
1 like

If there is ice, use spiked tyres, there are plenty of these (schwable, nokian, kendo, continental -- all have it in the range) , and they do really help on ice.  Not sure if you can get it bellow width of 30mm, but should be no problem for a winter bike  1

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CharlieTwoWheels [7 posts] 10 months ago
5 likes

I'm new to indoor training and in particular Zwift but it has revolutionised my training. 

I also love riding outside and battling the elements and racing to the top of hills but then there's so much stopping for gels, punctures, people catching their breath and weaker riders. It's extremely rare that you're with a group that pushes you in the same way as Zwift does.

Today nobody in my cycling group wanted to come out. Instead I did a 50km ride with 600m of climbing, ate a healthy recovery meal and stretched, rather than having a roast and 4 pints. 

Midweek training after work too. Now I do gruelling races where my heartbeat's at 170 constantly rather than doing boring laps round Regents Park in the dark and wet or sitting on the sofa.

This article seems to contradict the article recently which praised Zwift and trainers. Let's just have more balance please.

 

 

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ianrobo [1213 posts] 10 months ago
1 like

I have been riding out all winter and even yesterday morning at half 6 in snow and other things and apart from one or two slips no issues.

I own a indoor trainer but maybe use it once a week for a specific interval session I want to do and thats about it. Even yesterday it was of a kind of fun and it hardens your sould towards the summer fun to go.

If you can ride in conditions like yesterday then anything else is easy.

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Bahrd [15 posts] 10 months ago
2 likes

Going outside is more unpredictable - some people like it, some avoid. Using Zwift, one is virtually all the time within a comfort zone.

PS

Don't get me wrong but... Haven't you ever felt ashamed by a little sparrow?

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Leviathan [2864 posts] 10 months ago
4 likes

The air inside your house is not exactly free from pollution. I do ride outside because I have to commute to work. I will ride in the winter at the weekend, but not if it is freezing. That is just my choice, as much for my lungs as for safety. I live in Manchester and like the guy from Birmingham, most places (in England at least) are not freezing for the vast majority of the winter. 

There seems to be a particular strain of cyclists who love to sneer at anyone else. Any mishap is dismissed as 'not riding to conditions' or you are foolish to be riding in that weather. These are often the same ones who sneer at helmet use because of their own excellence (any possible crash could not befall them of course.)

By all means, ride/train inside if it suits you, but if you think 6C is too cold then you are missing too much of the year. {I've also had debates with people claiming they don't take winter tights of until it is 20C, life/summer is too short, get outside.}

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ianrobo [1213 posts] 10 months ago
2 likes
Leviathan wrote:

{I've also had debates with people claiming they don't take winter tights of until it is 20C, life/summer is too short, get outside.}

really ? my tights come off anywhere north of 5C !! being British is meant to make us hardy, something tells me become too wimpy ... 

Indoor training plays a part but thinking Zwift in anyway makes up for the road is nonsense ! 

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steviemarco [236 posts] 10 months ago
3 likes

I'm using Zwift because where I work (10 days on shift and 4 days off away from my home) the roads are awfull (Lincolnshire) and the drivers worse. After my 10hr shift  it's dark and for my own safety I choose to ride indoors. On my 4 days off I'll get out onto the road at a reasonable time of day but while at work Zwift has totally changed my opinion about training indoors even more so since I bought a Kickr. I think as long as you're riding your bike, and it's not collecting dust in the garage, who really cares whether it's indoors or out #justride

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s_lim [214 posts] 10 months ago
2 likes

Amen to the article. Thanks to a winning combination of my kids getting older, and my wife moving from shifts to 9-5, I've ridden my bike more this winter than ever before; and it's been great. Rain, hail, snow, and that was just this morning.

If I never have to ride the turbo again, it will be too soon

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Mungecrundle [866 posts] 10 months ago
4 likes

I think there is a basic psychology involved in going out and facing unpleasant conditions so that when it comes to the day of whatever big challenge you might have set yourself and the weather is less than perfect, you can shrug your shoulders in the knowledge that you have been out in worse.

But there's also nothing wrong with the gym or doing something else you feel it really is not safe to be out on a bicycle.

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risoto [41 posts] 10 months ago
0 likes

I planned going to a gym to do spinning in the winter. We had an indoor trainer for 10 years, so boring we never used it. I also hate the gyms. With that in mind I took the decision to train on my Crossbike in all types of bad weather and to build up a collection of winter clothes. I am there now and enjoy the outside. I don't do icy or salted roads but then resting for a few days probably does you good. Your body gets to rest for a few days and your motivation comes back.

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CXR94Di2 [1856 posts] 10 months ago
1 like
risoto wrote:

I planned going to a gym to do spinning in the winter. We had an indoor trainer for 10 years, so boring we never used it. I also hate the gyms. With that in mind I took the decision to train on my Crossbike in all types of bad weather and to build up a collection of winter clothes. I am there now and enjoy the outside. I don't do icy or salted roads but then resting for a few days probably does you good. Your body gets to rest for a few days and your motivation comes back.

Trainers of old are nothing like the modern fully interactive power based magnetic trainers of today, you cannot compare. Each to their own.

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Crashboy [53 posts] 10 months ago
1 like

Interesting comments: almost as heated as the Helmet/no helmet or disc brakes/rim brakes debates!  Can't see why people are getting so het up about it: if you want to do it, do it. if you don't, then don't.  

For my money,  buying an MTB is a better investment than a trainer. Going Off road is the best in rubbish weather: fewer walkers / horses / dog walkers (don't get me started on them) so you have the trails to yourself and can relax and play about.

And when you get in cold and wet and muddy with tales to tell of bunny hopping a frozen pile of horse dung, misjudging it and skidding across the footbridge etc I feel like I've earned my coffee and kitkat properly.

It seems to me that controlling a skidding / sliding bike , or pushing against a wet headwind (with a soft landing on mud / grass etc if it goes wrong) - is brilliant fun and works your reflexes and adds more variety of movements etc to more muscle groups than sitting on a trainer - but I'm not a pro or a sports physio / medic so maybe that's factually wrong.

I Appreciate not everyone has access to nice bridleways or a suitable bike to do that, but I would have thought even in the most urban envronment you're never that far away from a park /bridleway / quiet cycleway / byroad that's usable.

 

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SingleSpeed [378 posts] 10 months ago
6 likes

I went out today. 4° cloudy

No Gears, No Gloves, No Garmin, No Worries

Nobody died.

I also have a turbo trainer, I sometimes sit and watch a movie, but mostly it gathers dust

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drosco [415 posts] 10 months ago
6 likes

Why does everyone have to make cycling so macho? I spent yesterday morning on the turbo as it seemed a more fruitful way to get fit than freezing my arse off and getting my bike plastered in assorted road grot again this weekend. Do I feel less of a cyclist for doing so? Nah, not really.

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arfa [855 posts] 10 months ago
3 likes

Rather glad I spent the day on the trails today.

Comments from me about zwift (or any other virtual) trainer boring me senseless are my own personal opinion (the clue was in my opening statement, "each to their own"). That's why I agree with the sentiments of the article which is an "opinion piece" at the end of the day folks.  I really don't want to spend my spare time on a static bike chasing an avatar on screen when I can be riding a bike, i.e. outside, experincing motion with all of your senses engaged. Doesn't make zwift wrong or a waste of time for its fans but it's not for me if it's all the same to you.

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Leviathan [2864 posts] 10 months ago
2 likes
ianrobo wrote:
Leviathan wrote:

{I've also had debates with people claiming they don't take winter tights of until it is 20C, life/summer is too short, get outside.}

really ? my tights come off anywhere north of 5C !! being British is meant to make us hardy, something tells me become too wimpy ... 

Indoor training plays a part but thinking Zwift in anyway makes up for the road is nonsense ! 

Really, I've seen riders in the summer 24C wearing black tights and hiviz yellow jacket as if it is some compulsory uniform (sweating their blx off.) One regular poster here suggested that he didn't take off warmers until it was 16C+ and anything less was inviting knee cancer.*

Crashboy, this is really mild compared to a typical helmet debate. With a name like that, perhaps it is best if you stay inside.

*I mean tendonitis

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ianrobo [1213 posts] 10 months ago
0 likes

some people are strange, 16C and because I sweat like a pig most is off ...

In some ways I love the cold because for once I am not having to continually wipe sweat off my face and not having to refill all the time ! 

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CXR94Di2 [1856 posts] 10 months ago
3 likes

I have no issues with anyone going outside versus turbo work. What I objected to, was the OPs negative and misleading comments about turbo work. I enjoy MTB in the winter months. I personally prefer to do 80℅ of my cycling on a turbo and choose nice days for outdoor work. I suspect there as many who prefer the percentage reversed

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