Which is better? Indoor Vs Outdoor Cycling

As cycling enthusiasts, we’re all familiar with the thrill of riding outdoors, feeling the wind in our hair, and the freedom of exploring new roads. Some swear by the turbo trainer and the allure of Zwift, whilst others will brave the elements year-round… Let’s delve into the benefits of them both!

The Positives of Indoor Training

Pro Skier Dave Ryding (pictured above) told us his training frequently incorporates indoor rides to get those ‘extra gains’ and really push against other riders on Zwift. Many indoor training platforms, offer structured workouts tailored to your fitness level and goals. These guided workouts help you track your progress and make the most out of your training sessions. Many of our staff members also use both indoor and outdoor training hand in hand, more so in the autumn and winter. Here’s why…

(Pictured above: Dare2Ride Fuego 1.0 Smart Trainer)

Efficient Time Management: Indoor training allows for efficient time management. You can hop on your bike and start your workout without any prior prep. This makes indoor cycling a great option for those with busy schedules or limited daylight hours. You can also hop on the stationary or watt bike at the gym to keep your legs ticking over if you have a few spare minutes to add to your fitness. Whilst riding indoors doesn’t completely replicate the real feeling of riding outside you won’t have to stop at lights or weave through traffic which means more time spinning!

Weather Worries: The convenience of indoor training eliminates the worry of heavy rain, snow, or extreme heat interfering with your ride. With a stationary trainer or a smart indoor cycling setup, you can stick to your training plan without compromise. You can also save wear and tear on your bike in the harsh conditions of the rainy and icy seasons. You don’t have to worry about traffic, road hazards like dreaded potholes, or unpredictable drivers… Of course, if you rely on indoor training too much you will lack the real-life skills of riding, so don’t neglect your outdoor bike too much… It still needs love and attention!

The Positives of Outdoor Training

Fresh Air and Scenery: There is nothing quite like the feeling of the wind in your face and the sights and sounds of the great outdoors. Outdoor training provides a direct connection with nature and a sense of adventure that indoor cycling cannot quite replicate.

Variety of Terrain: Outdoor training offers an infinite variety of terrain, from flat roads to challenging climbs and thrilling descents. This variety can help improve your bike handling skills and overall riding experience. Bored of the roads, hop on a gravel bike and explore the country paths, trails and see what hidden gems you can find. Seeking some thrills? Take a mountain bike for a spin and tackle challenging descents or rocky climbs. Apps like Strava and Komoot are now full of recommendations for routes, meaning you have no excuse to be bored riding the same route every weekend!

Mental Resilience: Cycling outdoors can build mental resilience as you adapt to changing conditions and overcome the elements. It is an excellent way to test your determination and fortitude, which can be beneficial in competitive or long-distance events. You don’t have the option to just hop off the bike and be in the comfort of your home like you would on a turbo trainer, so wherever you cycle to, you have to make your way home which often results in a longer time on the bike. Haven’t we all said we’d go out for a quick ride and ended up losing track of time?

Social Interaction: Many cyclists enjoy outdoor training for the social aspect. Group rides, chaingangs and cycling clubs provide an opportunity to connect with like-minded individuals and make new friends who share your passion for cycling. You could argue indoor cycling can offer this benefit in a gym or on Zwift, but being outdoors with your mates is what made many of us start riding in the first place! After all, a bike-packing trip on the turbo trainer just isn’t possible, neither is a thrilling MTB or Gravel Trail to bring some excitement to your riding. And don’t forget about the essential coffee and cake stops en route!

Finding the Right Balance

Ultimately, the choice between indoor and outdoor training comes down to your personal preferences, goals, and lifestyle. Many cyclists find that a combination of both types of training is the ideal solution. For instance, you might use indoor training during the week for structured workouts and outdoor rides on weekends to enjoy the benefits of fresh air (and rare sunshine in the UK). Most of us also have more time on the weekend to commit to a long ride, exploring scenic routes old or new.

Whether you’re riding under your roof or beneath the open sky, remember that every pedal stroke counts… Enjoy the ride!

You can check out our range of indoor bike trainers here and bike rollers here!


  • Alex Cowie

    Outdoor Leadership and Coaching BA (Hons) Keen cyclist, runner, and outdoor enthusiast. I have been cycling since I was very young and always had a love for the outdoors. I have completed many long distance events including ultra marathons such as the Chester 100, Berkeley Marathons UK and Gravel Century rides.

2 comments to “Which is better? Indoor Vs Outdoor Cycling”
  1. I just wanted to say a huge thank you to the folks at Merlin Cycles for their brilliant blog post on indoor versus outdoor cycling. The article used to be super handy to understand, and it helped me figure out which kind of cycling may be best for me. I admire the clear information and tips; you guys honestly know your stuff. Keep up the brilliant work.

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