How to Make Indoor Cycling More Comfortable and Engaging
Cycling has continually gained in popularity over the years. And it’s not just pedaling outdoors that’s popular — the use of indoor trainers has also surged, especially since the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to research, the market for smart indoor trainers like Peloton and NordicTrack will grow from $125.86 million in 2021 to $236.4 million in 2030, for a growth rate of 6.51% a year. That’s a lot of people turning to indoor cycling, either as an alternative or a supplement to outdoor riding.
Whatever the reason for trying indoor cycling, many people encounter two key issues when they start doing it, particularly if they’re used to road riding: It’s uncomfortable and not incredibly engaging. If you’re going to stick with it, you need a strategy for dealing with both. Thankfully, longtime cyclist and coach Darryl MacKenzie can offer a few pointers.
Why You Might Turn to Cycling Indoors
Nowadays, many road cyclists turn to indoor training at some point or another, for a variety of reasons.
"Under ideal circumstances, a cyclist is pictured as a solo peddler in a gorgeous rural setting with green vegetation, blue skies, perfect temperatures and flawless roads,” says Coach Darryl. “But that is not always the case.”
The weather may not cooperate. You may be sick or worried about exposure when there are a lot of viruses circulating. Or life may just get in the way. And when it does, you may not want to miss out on riding entirely.
Enter the stationary trainers and exercise bikes. These options are easy enough to set up for indoor cycling and get going, whether you buy a mount for your regular bike or purchase a dedicated smart trainer. Without much effort, you can get up and riding indoors.
Keeping Your Mind Engaged
Yet, once you start pedaling indoors, you’ll quickly notice that it’s not as captivating as pedaling outdoors. Gone is the changing scenery. Your fellow riders are likewise nowhere to be found, and the refreshing breeze is replaced by stagnant indoor air.
If you’re going to keep it up, you’ll have to find ways to fend off the boredom.
“What keeps one person’s mind engaged, will not work for all,” says Darryl. For some, it’s setting up a TV to watch the news, sports or a movie while they ride. Others like to use their tablet or a computer to set up virtual rides all over the world, pedaling on their trainer as if they’re riding the Tour de France or other famous routes. Still others like to connect to community and engage with others on screen while they ride.
Whatever it is, the point is to distract yourself from the monotony of riding in your living room or office. And the trick is to find what works for you.
How to Keep Your Indoor Ride Comfortable
Cycling indoors isn’t just hard on your mind, though. It’s also rough on one particular part of your anatomy — your butt. Many seasoned riders who are new to stationary training are surprised to find that they’re not able to ride nearly as long as they’re accustomed to riding without experiencing saddle discomfort.
There are three reasons for this, and each has a fairly simple solution:
- You’re too upright: Because you’re not fighting the wind on the stationary trainer, you tend to sit more upright. This puts more weight on your saddle and increases your chances of discomfort. The solution? Lean forward like you would outside, even if you need to lower the handlebars a bit to make it work.
- You’re not taking breaks: Unlike road riding, indoor cycling doesn’t include any natural breaks for stop signs or traffic lights. Without these stops, your butt never gets a break. The solution? Stop and get off the saddle every now and then.
- You need a better saddle: Many bikes — whether outdoor bikes or indoor exercise bikes — don’t come with a saddle that’s built for distance riding. They’re mostly made to look good and sleek. If you’re serious about long rides, however, you’ll need to make an upgrade. The solution? Tensioned-leather saddles relieve the pressure on your perineum by acting as a supportive hammock for your buttocks, enabling you to ride for hours pain free — whether you’re indoors or outdoors.
Get Comfortable for Your Indoor Rides
If you make these adjustments to your routine and your stationary trainer, you may be surprised to find how satisfying it can be. It’s no replacement for cycling in the great outdoors, but it can be a decent way to keep riding, no matter what life throws at you.
Looking for a new saddle for your stationary bike? Selle Anatomica’s tensioned leather saddles take all the pressure off your butt from the very first ride. Check out our full lineup to find the right saddle for you.
You can find more of Coach Darryl’s thoughts over at his website.