Do you feel that burn in your thighs while riding your bike every day? This is a guarantee when you are a cyclist. You’re always going to get a great work out in the process of enjoying your favorite hobby. Everyone knows how good cycling is for your health. However a lot of people who want to stay fit (or get there) don’t choose cycling as often as they do the gym. When you think about it, though, this is the same as cycling, so why not ride instead?
What is the first thing anyone does when they go to the gym? Well, cardio of course. Cardio exercises are important right at the start of any workout, no matter whether you are looking to lose fat or build muscle. It is important that you use cardio exercises to give your body a warm-up before you begin the rest of your workout.
Some people take a run on a treadmill, while others do a high-intensity aerobic training. However, for the most part people take a ride on the stationary bike or exercise bike. This is a common sight at nearly any gym across the country: a bike with one front wheel that is not touching the ground. It usually features an adjustment knob for different difficulty levels as well.
People are constantly debating the benefits of one versus the other. Some people argue that the stationary bike is way better for a grueling workout, while others say that real bikes are the way workouts were always meant to be done. Each has its own perks, and also its own cons. While there can be no straight-up contest between the two that will ever yield a clear winner, you can choose one or the other.
However, you will be basing this choice on personal preference. Different options allow you to have different workouts. For example, road bikes and mountain bikes have different health benefits because of the terrain and riding style. Although they are generalized in this article, you really should look into which is more suited to you before you buy a bike.
The benefits of real bikes
Real bikes are taken by most of us cycling enthusiasts to be the classics. While it is great to stick to tradition, it isn’t really that great an idea for you to just vehemently oppose exercise bikes for no reason at all. Even “real” bikes have a bad side. Set your titanium baseball bat aside, and let’s talk about the good bits of real bikes when it comes to working out.
1 – Impact
Stationary bikes are great for exercise, as long as it is focused solely on your legs. The whole point of a stationary bike is to make it a hard, intense workout for your thighs and buttocks. You won’t get much of an upper body workout, that’s for sure. When using a stationary bike, you are going to have to think about other exercises as well, because just having toned legs is not going to be enough.
Real bikes, however, include every part of your body in the ride. While legs still play the biggest part, your entire core is going to get a workout because you are going to be using your body to maintain balance, streamline yourself, and stand or sit to gain or reduce speed. In addition to this, you will also get something of a mental workout, all of which are great to increase calorie consumption.
2 – Boredom
Thinking about heading over to the gym to pedal on that stationary bike till you drop? The chances are that you will “drop” a little earlier than you thought you would. It is very easy to feel exhausted faster when cycling indoors rather than outdoors. This isn’t your body’s fault. In fact, your body could probably go on for an extended period of time. Rather, it is your mind that is playing games with you.
Since you are going to be on the inside, you are going to have a hard time staying focused for that long on the same task. When riding a real bike, the workout is the same (and sometimes more), but you find yourself caught up in the scenery and in life in general moving past. Boredom is very common in indoor cyclists, and this can lead to your brain deciding that it needs to do something…more.
3 – Seats
Standard bike seats are the norm when it comes to most exercise bikes. These are small and are usually very uncomfortable. Why the manufacturer can’t change this feature, no one knows. The fact remains that exercising on a stationary bike can lead to health problems if done too often for extended periods of time. The habit of leaning forward because of the seat can also put stress on the lower back.
The good thing about real bikes in comparison is that they have easily replaceable seats. Not many enthusiasts keep the stock seats for their bikes, unless they have picked them for their comfort or versatility. This ease of customization means that you will be able to ride on them for far longer without much discomfort, leading to a better workout and not many post-workout health issues.
4 – Setting
Indoor bikes are used quite often by amateurs training for races and triathlons. The standard reason that is given for this is that the weather conditions at the time aren’t suitable for outdoor training. However, it is highly recommended that if you are training for an outdoor race you do it outdoors. This will allow you to become accustomed to the weather conditions and terrains, so that you have a better shot at the title.
While exercise bikes are great for increasing stamina, they really aren’t as effective as real bikes if you use the real bike for proper hardcore training routines. You can always be sure of increasing your endurance and adaptability by training for the outside on the outside. If you have to train indoors due to risk of injury, make sure that you push yourself much further than even you think you are capable.
5 – Cost
Stationary bikes cost more than standard road or mountain bikes. While the actual device itself will only set you back a few hundred dollars, there are other factors to be thought about. Stabilizing mechanisms along with performance monitoring devices and the software they require all are going to come together and cost you quite a pretty penny.
On the other hand, getting on a real bike is only going to cost you a few hundred dollars, period. Of course, if you are going for a high-end bike then you will have to pay more, but the standard bicycle costs less overall than its stationary little brother. You will only need to buy an odometer if you want to check your stats, and you will be ready to go!
6 – Color
While you may be thinking that this means your ability to pimp out your ride, it is more about the impact that it has on the environment. Bicycles, real bicycles, have little to no adverse effects on the environment. They are completely green. In fact, the only CO2 emissions that you will see in a normal bike are the breathing output of the person riding it. This is extremely desirable, because it is after all one of the main reasons to buy a bike in the first place.
Stationary bikes, on the other hand, usually use power. This can be either to charge up all the monitoring devices and software, or even to power up the bike itself. This means that every time you work out, in addition to your own CO2 emissions you are also going to add the power consumption of the bike during your workout. This can lead to quite a bit when it adds up over time!
7 – Crowds can be a bad thing
There is a dark and a light side to cycling indoors. When you go to classes for this activity, you end up cycling with a group of people. While this does help push you to newer heights, you are also going to run the risk of feeling left out. People aren’t going to slow down or stop for you, so if you have to get off early, you might wind up feeling like the odd one out.
Riding a real bike with your group can actually be better for you. It becomes more of a social activity than one that is all about the workout. People are generally friendlier on real bikes, mainly because it isn’t the harsh indoor setting of the gym, but the wonderful outdoors!
Just because you have seen the benefits of real bikes against exercise bikes doesn’t mean you should jump in bed with a mountain or road bike. There are other things that you need to consider, factors that the real bikes simply don’t seem to have the upper hand in:
1 – Not great for average enthusiasts
A real bike makes use of pure leg power to steer, propel and drive. When cycling outside, you find yourself facing a whole range of problems, the biggest of which is bad weather. The thing is that if you really want to get a proper workout on an outdoor bike, you are going to need to be motivated. Unlike indoor cycling, you won’t have a crowd to spur you on.
Instead, you have to rely on your own motivation to get you to that level of strain. Because of this, you are going to need to do something other than simply cruising around. To get a real workout going, you will have to push yourself onwards to greater heights on your own. For serious, professional cyclists and athletes, this shouldn’t prove to be a problem. For the regular Joe however, indoor cycling may actually be a better bet.
2 – Technical know-how
When you are an outdoor cyclist, you need to be able to focus your workout on different muscle groups. Unlike in indoor cycling, upping the difficulty isn’t as simple as turning a knob or tapping an upwards facing arrow on a display in front of you. Instead, you are going to need to have a lot of technical knowledge about how cycling works, if you want to get the best workout.
Simply cycling down the streets to work every day is good for your health, for sure. But it definitely isn’t a workout. If you go to an indoor cycling class, you are definitely going to feel like you have been shoved into the deep end. If you really want to get to the same level of intensity, you will need to get onto different terrain, longer distances and more obstacles. All of these will require technical knowledge on your part, so as to keep safe during these rides.
3 – Inconvenient
While outdoor cycling is usually classified as fun, it definitely isn’t the best way to have a focused workout. You will have to think about a lot of other factors too, like the right clothes to wear. This isn’t a problem inside a nice, cozy gym of course. However, on the outside you will have to deal with things like bad weather conditions, tire blowouts, traffic, and other factors as well.
The risk is also very high with real bikes as opposed to their stationary counterparts. You don’t really stand a chance of getting rear-ended when you are inside. However, riding a bike on the streets today can lead to a whole world of car crashes that are just waiting to happen. Avoiding this would be as easy as getting an indoor bike instead, especially if you live in a crowded area.
Real or stationary?
Ultimately, there can be no clear winner in this debate. Sure, real bikes can be absolutely amazing as aerobic exercise machines, and they definitely have a lot of advantages over their fixed counterparts. However, you must also realize that there is bad mingled with the good. The final decision comes down purely to personal preference. What do you want to be doing? How do you want to be doing it? Choose wisely, and you just might have the best workout ever.