Complete Tri

Shifting from Indoor to Outdoor Cycling

You’ve been training indoors, getting your conditioning up and doing structure bike workouts. You probably have a decent base built, but are ready to get outside and work on your endurance. How do you known when is the right time? And what do you need to know before you hit the pavement or trails?

Indoor cycling is often full of shorter workouts, interval training, and other structured work that can really improve your VO2 max and FTP threshold. Outdoor riding is more often longer endurance riding with less focus on power output. One can definitely translate to the other.

Indoor Cycling to Prepare for Outdoor Biking

Bike training indoors is a great way to prepare for your outdoor ride and race season. By using indoor cycling as a tool for conditioning and improving your cycling capacity, cyclists can train year-round regardless of the weather conditions outside. The goal of indoor cycling should be to get you ready for the real, outdoor rides and races — and to keep you in excellent shape, of course.

Indoor Cycling Periodization

Cycling indoors requires some precision, and can actually provide a more structured type of training than your outdoor rides. One way to add precision is by intentional periodization. Periodization is an important concept in cycling training. It involves breaking up your training into different phases or cycles, each with a specific focus. Indoor cycling can be used to help with the different phases of periodization.

For example, during the off-season, indoor cycling can be used for base training, with increasing load levels is you get closer to your outdoor training season. This involves structured rides that might include phases of riding at specific power ranges. As the season approaches, indoor cycling can be used for more intense training, such as intervals and hill repeats.

Speed Work vs. Endurance Work

Take advantage of your indoor cycling season to focus on both speed work and endurance work. Speed work involves shorter, high-intensity efforts to improve your ability to generate power. Endurance work involves longer,indoor bike trainer lower-intensity efforts to improve your aerobic capacity.

Some of the best indoor training weeks are a combination of longer sweet spot sets, right below the functional threshold power (FTP) mixed with other, shorter workouts that have high power output, for 30-45 seconds at a time. These higher power workouts might resemble sprinting down a road during an outdoor race.

Training Programs and Apps

Indoor cycling isn’t what it used to be, and that is a very good thing!  There are so many training programs and apps available for indoor cycling. These programs and apps can provide cyclists with structured workouts and training plans, often with actual coaching behind them.

Some popular indoor cycling training programs include TrainerRoad and Zwift. These programs offer a variety of workouts and training plans to help cyclists improve their fitness and performance. They by far work best when used with a smart bike trainer, which will help you dial-in on specific power levels and be incredibly precise with your rides.

Shifting Gears to Outdoor Riding

So it’s time to transition to outdoor riding. If you have had a productive indoor riding season, this transition should be a welcomed one that you are very ready for.

For someone who has been cycling indoors to get themselves into shape, transitioning to outdoor riding can be an exciting and challenging experience. Here are some of our first-hand tips (from experience) to help make the transition smoother and more enjoyable.

Get your cycling gear ready

That bike that has been hanging in the garage for the winter, or mounted on your trainer?  Yeah, it needs to be checked-out before you start whipping around corners at 20mph.inspecting a used bike

As you should regularly do, check your bike for any necessary repairs or maintenance, and while you are at it, take a good look at your clothing and accessories.

On the bike, put the bike up on a bike stand so it is easier to inspect, and take a close look at:

  • Did any screws or metal parts corrode? This is especially important for people who used the bike on their trainer. All that sweat accelerates corrosion.
  • Are your spokes and rims in good shape?
  • How are your tires?  Sometimes we finish a season with tires that are well-worn. Might want to start the new season with fresh ones.
  • If you use tubeless tires, put some new sealant in them
  • Lube everything
  • Take a torque wrench to all bolts and screws, and be sure things are snug up to specifications

As for your other gear, some essential items to consider include:

  • Is your helmet still fitting well, or do you need to upgrade? They are meant to be replaced occasionally.
  • Did you finish last season with clothing that was on its last leg?
  • Are your cycling shoes – and the pedal cleats on them – in good shape?bike shoe cleat
  • Do you have some good sunglasses? That’s something you don’t have to think about indoors.
  • Water bottle or hydration packs
  • Take a look at your bike bag, probably for the first time in months. Do you have tire repair tools and CO2 cartridges, and a multi tool? 

Safety Reminders for Outdoor Riding

For those first few rides outside, you might have a learning curve on safety items, after all that safe indoor cycling. Think about:

  • Always wear a helmet and eye protection
  • Be sure you are adept at clipping-in and out of your pedals, when stopped. This might mean adjusting the pedal tension.
  • Stay visible by wearing brightly colored or reflective clothing and using lights on your bike
  • Avoid distractions such as using your phone while riding
  • Ride with a partner or group for added safety
  • Weather conditions: Avoid riding in extreme weather conditions such as heavy rain or strong cross winds, especially if riding on roads and shoulders.
  • Time of day: Consider riding during daylight hours to ensure visibility and avoid potential hazards. Many bike accidents occur at dusk and dawn.
  • Traffic: Find routes that keep you away from heavy traffic.
  • Terrain: Start with a route that is relatively flat and gradually increase the difficulty as your fitness level improves.  Remember that early spring trails are often unpredictable. They can be soft, have debris on them, or be rutted from the winter.

Leave a Comment