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Beginner’s guide to cycling indoors

Discover essential bike setup tips, accessory recommendations, and exciting cycling apps to make your ride smooth and efficient.

Indoor cycling has gained immense popularity, especially since the COVID-19 pandemic. It offers a convenient and effective way to improve your fitness, and help you manage your weight, from the comfort of your home. This guide is your entry point, providing essential bike setup tips, gear recommendations, and insights into top cycling apps that will elevate your indoor cycling experience.

Is cycling indoors better than outdoors?

While there’s nothing like breathing fresh air and exploring diverse terrain when cycling outdoors, indoor cycling offers several advantages, including:

 

Accessibility

 

Indoor riding doesn’t depend on traffic and weather conditions. It’s much easier to fit in a short cycling session even into a busy schedule when you have an exercise bike at home.

 

Time efficiency

 

Riding indoors cuts the time that you spend on preparations for the ride, traffic, downhills, and other interruptions outside. According to training coaches, this can reduce training time by up to 10-15%.

 

Various workout types

 

Indoor cycling bikes make it easier to structure your workout with the help of pre-programmed options. It is more convenient to perform high-intensity interval training (HIIT) and sprint interval training workouts when you ride indoors as you get granular control over resistance levels and interval lengths.

 

Progress tracking

 

Indoor cycling bikes give you a more detailed insight into your key workout metrics including speed, heart rate, cadence, and calories burned, and how they evolve over time.

 

Safety

 

Unlike riding outdoors, indoor cycling has one of the lowest injury rates. It completely removes the possibility of road accidents that constitute a large share of all cycling injuries.

 

Entertainment

 

You can combine your indoor training with watching videos or listening to podcasts and make the most of your time. For instance, CAROL Bike allows you to immerse in your favorite shows on YouTube, Netflix, or Disney+, and keep up with the outside world on apps like ABC, CNN, or Fox.

Choosing the right exercise bike

Selecting the perfect exercise bike depends on your budget, fitness goals, and available home gym space. Options range from adapting your existing road bike to dedicated indoor cycling equipment:

 

Adapting your road bike

 

If you aren’t ready to invest in an indoor bicycle, you can always make a trainer setup for a road bike or a mountain bike you already have. It can also be helpful if you are preparing for a cycling marathon or a triathlon and you need to mimic outdoor cycling. You can choose one of the indoor trainers to lock the position of your bike:

 

Basic turbo trainers

 

A basic turbo trainer mounts your rear tyre so that you can ride against air, fluid, or magnetic resistance. You can choose from 2 options: wheel-on trainers and direct-drive trainers. A wheel-on trainer is the cheapest solution: it presses a roller against your rear tyre. If you choose one of the direct-drive turbo trainers, you will have to remove the rear wheel and connect your chain directly to a cassette mounted onto the flywheel.

 

Smart trainers

 

Smart turbo trainers work in a similar way but they also have WiFi and Bluetooth connectivity so you can use your tablet or phone during an indoor ride. They also give you more workout options. Smart trainers will adjust the resistance based on your power output to replicate HIIT and hill workouts. ERG mode continually adjusts the resistance so you always ride at a given power output, regardless of your cadence.

 

Rollers

 

Rollers mount your bike on 3 cylinders – 1 for the front wheel and 2 for the rear. Most rollers don’t have options available in smart trainers but they can additionally challenge your balance.

 

Exercise bikes

 

Exercise bikes designed specifically for indoor cycling are more practical than indoor trainers. They are ready to go and provide you with a smoother and more comfortable ride. Their flywheel is heavier than a mountain bike giving you extra stability.

 

A simple exercise bike is suited for a basic cycling workout. Most bikes in this category have a resistance knob that you have to manually adjust, a bottle holder, and a device holder allowing you to stream on-demand or live cycling classes.

The budget-friendly options start from around $250.

 

Smart bikes

 

A smart bike comes with an interactive display and personalization options that make your workouts more effective and give you a better insight into your progress. They offer you a set of pre-programmed workouts, display your progress, heart rate, and calories burned in real time, and some even automatically adjust the resistance for you throughout the workout. Some of them may also offer live spin classes and interactive leadership boards, feeding your competitive spirit.

 

Smart indoor bikes aren’t cheap—they start at $1,000 and can range up to $3,500. However they can offer an excellent return on investment as  they enhance your training experience and help you achieve greater health and fitness results.

 

CAROL is the smartest, most effective exercise bike, scientifically proven to improve your fitness and health. With AI-powered resistance automatically adjusted to your personal maximal capacity, CAROL is the only exercise bike that offers you unique Reduced Exertion HIIT (REHIT) training—the shortest, most effective, and most accessible way to exercise developed by scientists.

 

This 5-minute training consists of 2×20-second sprints, in-between recovery, and a cooldown. During the sprints, your body performs at its maximum capacity mobilizing significantly more muscle glycogen and pushing the limits of the cardiorespiratory system. According to research, in just 8 weeks you can achieve a 12% increase in cardiorespiratory fitness and reduce your risk of type 2 diabetes by 62%. You will double the number of calories burned on a 15-minute CAROL ride compared to a 30-minute run.

CAROL Bike delivers superior health and fitness benefits compared to traditional cardio—in 90% less time.

Indoor cycling gear and accessories

If you want to follow an indoor cycling training plan [link to “3 cycling training plans for beginners”] you need to be able to judge and track your efforts. This is the essential gear and accessories that you’ll need for an effective and comfortable ride:

 

Power, cadence, and speed meters

 

Speed, power, and cadence are the primary indicators of your performance. A smart bike or a smart trainer usually has built-in meters. If you have a basic bike configuration, you can buy them as an extra add-on. A power meter also tracks your cadence, but you need a separate meter for speed. Power meter will allow you to follow advanced power-zone-based and cadence-based cycling workouts and intervals while the speed meter will show you how you progress over time.

 

Heart rate monitor

 

Heart rate (HR) is an accurate way to determine your workout intensity. There are 5 training zones calculated based on your threshold HR (this is the maximum HR you can sustain over a longer period of time). You can determine your threshold HR by running an FTP test on CAROL Bike. These zones are designed to achieve different fitness goals be it warm-up, endurance, conditioning your anaerobic system, or improving aerobic power. A heart rate monitor ensures you stay in the correct zone during a workout.

 

Training mat

 

High intensity sessions are not only heart-pumping but also sweat-dripping. A training mat will protect your carpet or floor from a pool of sweat. In addition to that, it will also dampen vibrations making your ride quieter and smoother.

 

Fan

 

A fan is not a training essential but can make indoor cycling sessions more comfortable. Interval sessions are very sweat-inducing so a fan will protect your body from overheating and your smart bike from salt corrosion.

 

Wheel-on tyre

 

If you’re using a wheel-on indoor bike trainer, it will increase your rear tyre wear. A turbo-trainer tyre is made up of a more dense compound rubber so it will last much longer. Using this tyre outdoors is not recommended. If you are using the same bike for outdoor rides, you can get a spare wheel that you use separately for indoor cycling.

Indoor cycling outfit

Quality cycling clothing is lightweight, breathable, and comfortable to move in. It absorbs your sweat and keeps you cool during training. You don’t necessarily have to invest in a specific cycling outfit for your top half, you can use any gym jersey or t-shirt. As for your bottom half, a dedicated pair of cycling shorts may bring extra comfort to your ride. Shorts with a high-quality seat pad will prevent irritation that may be caused by the bike’s seat, especially during longer rides.

 

You need to choose your indoor cycling shoes depending on the types of pedals that your exercise bike has. Exercise bikes can come with toe-cage, clipless, or dual-sided pedals.

 

In the first case, your shoe doesn’t physically connect to the pedal so you can use a regular pair of sneakers. The name “clipless” sounds a bit misleading as this type of pedal uses a cleat that secures the position of your foot. You will need clipless cycling shoes in order to use them. Cleats prevent you from losing power during your pedal stroke. Finally, dual-sided pedals combine both toe-cage and clipless options on opposite sides, which is what CAROL Bike has.

Indoor cycling apps

Some cycling apps immerse you in virtual worlds of augmented reality (AR) cycling routes, while some focus on the social aspect, and others enhance your performance.

Apps like Zwift, Kinomap, and Rouvi offer you a catalog of cycling itineraries worldwide for the most scenic rides. You can choose a group ride option and compete with other cyclists riding in the landscapes of Tuscany or along the California coastline.

 

TrainingPeaks and TrainerRoad are platforms where you can build your indoor training schedule. The apps suggest a plan of structured sessions based on your goals and you can track your progress.

 

CAROL Bike offers seamless integration with Zwift, Kinomap, Rouvy, BKool, and FulGaz.

 

 

 

Getting started with your first indoor cycling session is simpler than you might imagine. While you can certainly use an indoor cycling trainer with your existing road or mountain bike for minimal cost, opting for a smart bike promises a more tailored and efficient experience. It enhances your ability to harness the full potential of interval workouts and effortlessly monitor your fitness progress.

 

Among all smart bikes, CAROL Bike is the only one that gives you double the health and fitness benefits of regular exercise – in 90% less time.Train for just 15 minutes per week and save more than 2 hours a week on your cardio!

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