How To Avoid These Common Exercise Bike Riding Mistakes
Most people probably don’t get into cycling to ride indoors. One of the great benefits of cycling is how much it allows you to explore your surroundings with other riders. Scenic routes are everywhere, and there’s nothing like the feeling of riding downhill at top speed with the wind carrying you along.
When you ride indoors on a stationary trainer or another exercise bike, you miss out on the scenery, the fresh air and the general refreshment of exploring the outdoors. Still, sometimes indoor cycling on the stationary bike is your best option. Maybe it’s the cold season, or maybe you’re recovering from an injury. Maybe you bought a Peloton for indoor riding during COVID-19. Whatever the reason, it’s good to know some exercise bike riding tips and tricks to make your stationary training experience more enjoyable.
Longtime cycling coach Darryl MacKenzie has taught hundreds of stationary training classes over the past few decades, and he’s put in 9,700 miles indoors since the start of the pandemic. He knows a thing or two about cycling indoors, so we asked him about some of the most common indoor cycling mistakes and how to avoid them.
Not Planning for Sweat Control
This is probably the biggest difference between cycling indoors on the stationary trainer vs. riding outdoors. If you don’t plan properly, you’ll likely be shocked by how much you sweat riding inside.
Outside, you have natural ventilation and airflow pulling moisture away from your body and cooling you down. Even when you’re riding into the wind and working harder, you won’t sweat much compared to other activities. But take it inside on your exercise bike with no airflow and ventilation, and you’ll be soaked before you know it.
To avoid this unpleasant fate, there are three things you can do for better sweat control on your stationary trainer:
- Wear moisture-wicking clothes. Some cyclists don’t bother putting on their usual cycling jersey and gear when they’re riding indoors. But a regular cotton T-shirt will get saturated with sweat. Wear your usual moisture-wicking clothes to help you stay dry.
- Set up a fan. You need airflow, so either set up your trainer under a ceiling fan or place a good high-speed fan next to it to keep air moving.
- Have a towel handy. If you naturally sweat a lot, you may want to have a towel ready to soak up some of the perspiration from time to time.
Failure To Stay Mentally Stimulated
If you’re used to scenic outdoor rides, the view of your office walls or basement surroundings might get old fast. With nothing to capture your attention, the indoor cycling experience can feel dull and arduous.
“When you’re on the road, you pick the views that you want to see,” says Coach Darryl. “And the views that you see are changing minute by minute.”
That means you have to be proactive to keep things interesting on the stationary trainer. Set your trainer up by the TV so you can tune into your favorite program. Darryl loves to browse the news or catch a Penguins hockey game when he’s riding inside. It’s also a great time to listen to a podcast or sync up for an online workout or Peloton session.
The point? Do anything you can to stay mentally stimulated.
Surrounding Yourself With Bad Distractions
That being said, you must choose the right type of stimulation for your training area. When Darryl first started cycling indoors frequently during the pandemic, he set up in the garage. Despite trying to watch movies and stay entertained, he couldn’t help but notice everything in his garage that he “should have been doing but wasn’t doing.” He couldn’t make it more than 30 minutes.
Soon, though, he moved his trainer indoors, where the only distractions around him were a wall, a window and a TV. He was back to 90-minute rides in no time.
There’s no one-size-fits-all rule for this. The garage might be perfect for you. Maybe it’s the office and the stacks of paperwork on your desk you need to avoid. The idea is to dodge the distractions that will make it difficult for you to get absorbed in the ride and enjoy the workout.
Poor Saddle Setup
This may be less of an issue if you’re using your usual road bike on a stationary trainer. But if you’re trying a Peloton or other exercise bike, you may find that this indoor cycling mistake can make a long ride rather uncomfortable.
The saddle that comes on an exercise bike isn't made for long rides, so it’s always a good idea to replace it with a tensioned leather saddle right out of the box. But there are also some other key steps you should take to ensure maximum comfort, including using the right bike shorts, adjusting your posture and planning for breaks. We’ve covered these tips at length in another post.
Being Unprepared To Track Your Miles
Assuming you’ve been riding outdoors with a Garmin or another GPS tracker, then you’ve probably been connected to the satellite to track your miles. Inside, you’re not actually moving, so you can’t record your miles in the same way.
“If you get off your stationary trainer and have no idea how many miles you pedaled, it’s going to be nowhere near as satisfying,” says Darryl. You’ll need to make some adjustments to avoid this disappointment.
If you’re using an exercise bike with a built-in system for this, then you’ve got no issue. These bikes come preprogrammed to record plenty of data about your ride. However, if you’re using your road bike on a stationary trainer, you’ll need to make sure you have a magnetic device set up on your rear wheel that will connect to your GPS tracker so it can record miles based on wheel rotations.
Forgetting the Little Things
There are a few other little exercise bike riding tips you may want to keep in mind for the best stationary training experience:
- Set up a small end table or another surface near your bike where you can keep things like your sports drink, TV and fan remotes, towel and phone.
- If you’re using your road bike on a stationary trainer, keep your tires pumped up to their normal maximum pressure level. This provides proper resistance when you change intensity settings.
- Also on a stationary trainer, you’ll need devices for changing your elevation to practice climbing. Darryl recommends the Saris CycleOps climbing risers, which allow for three different climbing angles and can be stacked for steeper climbs.
Stationary Training Doesn’t Have To Be a Drag
Most people come to cycling at least in part for the outdoor experience, so you may not be as excited to try cycling indoors on an exercise bike. But stationary training can be a great way to keep getting your rides in when it’s too cold or wet — or when you need a break from normal riding. It doesn’t have to be a dull riding experience.
Now that you know the ways to avoid the most common indoor cycling mistakes people make when stationary training, you’re ready to give stationary training a try. Good luck!
Look for more insights from Coach Darryl over at his website.
Photo courtesy of Peloton