You love to exercise and you love to bike, but which one is better—taking a class or getting outside?
Some folks may like the set schedules and camaraderie of a spin class, while others may prefer biking in the great outdoors. The faceoff between spin class vs. biking outdoors has many advocates on both sides. Before I dig into the benefits of both, the real question to ask yourself is what appeals to you most?
What are the Benefits of Bicycling?
You’ll get numerous health benefits from biking, no matter which form you choose. Some of them include:
- Improves cardiovascular fitness
- Builds stronger muscles and bones
- Increases flexibility
- Improves joint mobility
- Improves coordination
- Decreases stress
- Burns calories and body fat
- It’s fun
What is a Spin Class?
Spin class is a group exercise class that uses stationary bikes for the instructor and participants. The bikes are equipped with a flywheel that provides resistance as you pedal, which can be adjusted to increase or decrease the level of difficulty. Since a flywheel provides the bulk of the resistance, exercise is focused more on your lower body. When you bike outside, on the other hand, you get more muscles involved because the bicycle is not stationary and requires you to use arm and core strength for stability.
Spin classes are usually held in a group format with loud, pulsing music in a dark room. You’ll often see classes that have strobe lights as well to provide a fun and energetic atmosphere. There will be an instructor with a microphone at the front of the class, usually on an elevated platform, and the instructor will let you know when to adjust your bike level to increase or decrease the difficulty of your pedaling. You’ll often see people standing up on the pedals during the toughest portions of the workout.
Spinning is a great exercise option, and you can really get your heart rate high when you participate in a spin class. Keep in mind, however, that the amount you’ll benefit is all up to you as the level of difficulty is self-regulated. So as with most things in life, you get out of your spin class the amount of effort you put into it.
What Are the Pros and Cons of Spin Class Biking and Outdoor Biking?
Both spinning classes and bicycling outdoors have their advantages and disadvantages. But both forms of exercise are wonderful ways to work up a sweat and burn some calories, so whichever form of biking you choose, it’s sure to be a win.
The Pros of Biking Outside
- In contrast to spin class, which is done in a group setting, biking outdoors allows you to get away. It’s a great opportunity to clear your head and just enjoy the great outdoors.
- If you want more of a full body workout than you can get with a simple spin class, then you’ll want to incorporate more outdoor biking into your routine.
- Cycling outdoors allows you to enjoy the sunshine and fresh air.
- There is typically no charge for biking (after the cost of the bike and gear), so it’s a great way to get in a free workout.
- You can bike just about anywhere, anytime (within reason). No need to wait for a specific class time.
The Cons of Biking Outside
- Outdoor biking can be dangerous. There is potential for real injury when you ride a bike outdoors due to uneven terrain, too much sun, animals, and more.
- You also have to be extra careful if you’re riding alongside a main road or anywhere you are sharing the road with cars and trucks. Always be on the lookout for drivers who may not be paying attention or may not see you.
- Weather can prohibit your outdoor bike rides.
Pros of Spin Class
- Being able to stay on track with your workouts year-round is a definite benefit to participating regularly in spin classes.
- Group classes may have you feeling a camaraderie you typically don’t experience when biking outdoors by yourself. If you love working out to music with friends, then spin class is probably for you.
- If you are trying to use “bad weather” as an excuse not to do your spin class, it won’t work! Cycling classes are immune to the weather!
- The pumping music and instructor-led classes, along with peer pressure to perform, can have you getting in a solid workout and keep you highly motivated.
- There is no uneven terrain to navigate, and you don’t need to watch out for distracted drivers.
Cons of Spin Class
- Spin class will usually have you confined to a room.
- Spinning classes can get expensive. Depending on where you choose to do your classes and how many times a week you go, class fees can add up quickly if you’re not careful.
- You never get a change of scenery and you never get anywhere. If you’re good with the same scene, songs, and people, then consider this a pro.
- You won’t be breathing in the fresh air from outdoors but instead will have recycled air indoors.
- You may experience boredom. Going to the same place and riding the same bikes in the same way every time can get tedious.
- You utilize less muscles, overall, when using a spin bike versus biking outdoors, and because you’re always using the same muscles, you could overtax them.
Try Biking for Yourself
If you’re new to the cycling world and want to try out cycling to see if it’s for you, you may want to investigate some of the following:
- Local gyms—many gyms and fitness centers offer classes.
- Cycling memberships like Cycle Bar which offer nothing but cycling classes and are dedicated solely to the sport.
- Home use—you can also invest in a spin bike (or a trainer for your outdoor bike) and use it at home on your own. And of course, there’s an app for that (there are actually several, like Cycle Cast, Peloton Digital, and Studio Sweat).
- If you’d like more information on cycling outdoors, you can check for local bicycling clubs or with Parks and Recreation in your city.
- Many city and counties around the country are opening up more bike paths and trails. Check for local options for a trail that fits your fitness and skill levels.
Whether you’re looking for group camaraderie and a fitness community, you just want to explore the great outdoors, or you want a great cardio workout in the privacy of your own home, you can find fun biking options just about anywhere you go!