One of the many, many debates in cycling is the debate over indoor vs outdoor cycling.
On one side you have practicality of staying indoors on a bike trainer and Zwift. On the other is the outdoor crowd, those who will ride outdoors regardless of the temperature or conditions.
I am one of the latter but can appreciate that there is also a middle ground.
Being outdoors is one of the highlights of cycling.
Otherwise you may as well go to the gym.
Riding in all weathers helps you handle your bike in different conditions, adapt training to the wind, the rain, slippery roads, low temperatures and anything else mother nature throws at you.
I think this makes for a more rounded cyclist.
Here are 10 reasons why outdoor cycling is more enjoyable than indoors.
1. Go Longer
One reason is because of comfort, the other is boredom.
While Zwift, TrainerRoad and other indoor cycling accessories have done wonders for indoor training, they cannot completely alleviate the boredom. Watching Netflix or listening to Spotify might make things slightly better.
But still, four walls are four walls, no matter what’s going on.
Riding outside exposes you to all the things you miss when driving a car. You can enjoy the scenery, the ascents, descents, the views and the weather. It is easily possible to lose 5-6 hours to a ride when you’re outside.
2. Explore New Routes and Places
With a bike computer preloaded with your planned routes, you have the freedom to explore your area, or other areas at your own pace on your own terms.
I have learnt more about my area in a couple of years cycling than a couple of decades driving.
You can use software like RideWithGPS to plan and download the routes, then use the turn by turn navigation provided by Garmin or other bike computers to explore new routes.
We all have a tendency to drive to where we need to go and not explore. Riding a bike is the perfect excuse to do the opposite.
3. Improve Bike Handling Skills
I mentioned earlier that riding in all weather can help improve your bike handling skills and this is a prime reason to ride outdoors whenever possible.
You have to cope with the conditions, wind, rain, other road users, road hazards and all those things that demand your full attention and bike handling skills. If you’re not very comfortable on your bike now, spend a few months riding outside and you soon will be!
Bunch riding is a skill no turbo trainer could teach. It takes a group of riders out on the road to perfect those skills.
Riding together in all conditions, in all wind directions, in all traffic conditions is the only way to master riding in a bunch. It’s an essential cycling skill that every rider of every level needs to know and there is only one way to learn it.
4. Socialise in Person
We are social animals and need some level of contact to maintain a healthy psychological state.
Add a little friendly competition and closely matched Strava times and you have some compelling reasons to ride outdoors with others. Some days are perfect for a solo ride but riding with a bunch is another level.
You learn new skills and techniques, you learn many cycling facts you never wanted to know and some bike handling while you’re there.
If you take turns in outlining a route, you’ll also learn some new places to ride too. There is a reason cycling clubs are so strong around the world, because they add to the enjoyment of the entire experience.
5. Psychological Benefits
Expanding on the above point, being in the fresh air where you can see the sky, feel the sun on your face and be at one with your surroundings is known to have a profound psychological benefit.
Exercise is now being prescribed in the UK as part of a social prescription program as the health benefits are well known. We can get it all for free while doing something we love.
Simply getting some vitamin D from the sun is beneficial enough. But if you add Seasonal Affective Disorder, depression, anxiety and all manner of mental challenges we face, exercise and being around other people or just getting some sun can help with all those things.
Even if you don’t suffer from any psychological challenges, it’s good to clear the mind!
7. Make Fond Memories
Ask any cyclist you know about their top 3 best and epic rides, I’ll bet anything you like that it will feature riding outdoors somewhere or an outdoor event.
Different things will be memorable for different reasons.
It could be the route, the weather, the temperature, your Strava PB, a particular segment, the people you’re with, the crash you avoided or whatever.
Nobody remembers indoor training but every seasoned cyclist will have fond memories of riding outside.
8. Outside is Cheaper
Indoor training is not cheap.
You need a bike trainer, a mat for your bike trainer, TV, laptop or computer, a fan and some space, most likely in your garage.
A smart indoor bike trainer can cost more than a thousand dollars. Considering you would only use it when you have absolutely no choice but to stay indoors, that’s quite the investment with limited return.
You already have everything you’ll need to ride outside. No further investments. The only expense is the coffee stop and that’s purely optional.
Save your money for your N+1 and don’t buy a turbo trainer. Spend your money where it will benefit you most, taking you out into the world.
9. Inside can be Boring
Training inside is boring.
Nobody really wants to train indoors, if given a choice.
It is something we do because we have to. I have never heard a cyclist say they didn’t want to come on a Sunday ride because they would rather use their turbo. It just isn’t done.
Read More : 10 Indoor Bike Training Mistakes to Avoid
Turbo training is ideal for structured training and for achieving specific goals but interesting it is not.
Indoor training is for FTP tests, intervals, fasted training, physiological testing and for the coldest, rainiest days where it would be dangerous to hit the road.
For everything else, the outdoors is where it’s at.
10. No Coasting Downhill
A long, fast descent is the perfect reward for that uphill struggle.
You’ve gone through the hurt, the burn, the ache and the sheer hard work of the climb, now it’s time to enjoy. The freewheel down the other side in the tuck position to see how fast gravity can take you is the ideal payment for the hills.
Forget podium girls, forget segments or PBs, the sheer joy of the wind in your hair and hitting 70kph on the downhill is all the reward you should need.
Coasting to catch a breath is also an underrated benefit of riding outside. Sitting in a group drafting while pedalling easy is not something a turbo trainer can simulate.
So there you have it. I hope I have convinced you enough that riding outdoors is much much better!