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Indoor Trainer Cycling vs. Indoor Spinning: The Similarities and the Differences

Indoor Trainer Cycling vs. Indoor spinning: The Similarities and the Differences

Recently I was asked, “Does traditional indoor road cycling differ from spinning classes?” I gave the question some consideration, and realized that while there are quite a few differences;  there are also a number of similarities. For ease of understanding, let’s start with the basics.  First, I want to give you some brief information on the different type(s) of equipment used for both. Road cycling involves the use of carbon fiber, aluminum, or a steel framed bike with thin tires and gears established at the crank (near the pedals) and the cassette (the cogs attached to the back wheel).  The resistance is established by what gear is set in the front (crankset) and the gearing on the back (cassette).

Indoor Bike Trainer

 A stationary trainer is a piece of equipment that supports the rear wheel by a secured clamping system and allows the rider to remain stationary while pedaling. The wheel rests upon a spinning cylinder that offers resistance. Often this is done in the winter months, during inclement weather, or when safety can be compromised. Additionally, road bikes can be specifically fitted to one’s body type enhancing comfort while indoor spinning bikes have limited adjustments. Indoor spinning classes use a stationary bike with a front fly wheel. The resistance is established by a knob. To make the resistance harder one would turn the knob clockwise. To decrease the resistance the knob is turned counterclockwise.  Some spinning bikes now offer a very objective measure of effort, power output (watts). Individuals that use power as their intensity measure can be very specific.

Spin Class

Technical equipment aside, one of the major differences between indoor road cycling and spinning should be in your expectations from either of these workouts. Spinning classes are usually intense, upbeat and last anywhere from forty five minutes to an hour. The workout is choreographed based on a song’s beats per minute (BPM). The higher the BPM, typically the higher revolutions per minute (RPM), and higher HR (heart rate) ranges. Most spin classes will incorporate a number of different techniques that target both the anaerobic and aerobic energy systems. A class may encompass hills (standing/heavy resistance), sprints, flat stretches, jumps, isometric standing, drills, etc. Each song may incorporate one of these or a few of these.

Like indoor spinning, traditional cycling can be performed indoors on a stationary trainer. With advancements in technology trainers can now provide a similar “road like feel”. You may find that individuals riding stationary trainers also follow structured workouts and training philosophies similar to the ones used in spin classes. However, one workout is often geared towards one concept: aerobic ride, anaerobic ride, tempo ride, strength/hill ride and the intervals within the workout are time dependent, not song/BPM specific like an indoor spin class.

Both types of riding have their benefits and are enjoyed by many! It’s great to mix things up and challenge the body in different ways. Many people that enjoy cycling will do spinning as a way to keep fit in the winter months—it’s a social, exciting and fast paced environment! If you enjoy both, you’re getting the best of both worlds!

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