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6 reasons outdoor cycling is the best, even in winter (or a lockdown)

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. 

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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.

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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?

Acknowledged by the Telegraph as a leading cycling journalist, John Stevenson has been writing about bikes and cycling for over 30 years since discovering that people were mug enough to pay him for it rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work.

He was heavily involved in the mountain bike boom of the late 1980s as a racer, team manager and race promoter, and that led to writing for Mountain Biking UK magazine shortly after its inception. He got the gig by phoning up the editor and telling him the magazine was rubbish and he could do better. Rather than telling him to get lost, MBUK editor Tym Manley called John’s bluff and the rest is history.

Since then he has worked on MTB Pro magazine and was editor of Maximum Mountain Bike and Australian Mountain Bike magazines, before switching to the web in 2000 to work for CyclingNews.com. Along with road.cc editor Tony Farelly, John was on the launch team for BikeRadar.com and subsequently became editor in chief of Future Publishing’s group of cycling magazines and websites, including Cycling Plus, MBUK, What Mountain Bike and Procycling.

John has also written for Cyclist magazine, edited the BikeMagic website and was founding editor of TotalWomensCycling.com before handing over to someone far more representative of the site's main audience.

He joined road.cc in 2013 and these days he lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.

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