7 Indoor Cycling Myths Debunked

As great an exercise as indoor cycling is, there are so many misconceptions enshrouding its relevance — leading to avoidance and skepticism in the hearts of intending cyclists! Admittedly, starting a workout you are not accustomed to can breed one too many reservations, especially if you find it difficult to trust “word of mouth” or glowing online reviews. It doesn’t help that there are all these “rumors” out there that disseminate the wrong information or impression about Indoor cycling.

But don’t be too quick to believe the barrage of negative things you might have heard about Indoor cycling — it is always good to get a second expert opinion and this article provides just that. Read on as we debunk all the unhealthy myths surrounding indoor cycling. At the end of this read, you will be rushing to register for a class or purchase an indoor magnetic resistance spin bike!

7 Indoor Cycling Myths Debunked

Indoor Cycling is Reserved for Seasoned Athletes


This is absolutely false! Contrary to this misleading myth, indoor cycling caters to all skill levels, beginners and professionals alike. As a matter of fact, it is perfectly built for beginners. It is a low-impact exercise with zero to a little learning curve. Typically, indoor cycling bikes such Keiser M3i are equipped with knob while more advanced options such as NordicTrack S22i comes with buttons that adjusts the intensity of the exercise. Thus, users can exercise according to the intensity they can manage, be it easy or hard.

So don’t be deceived by the myth that says “you have to be an experienced athlete to try indoor cycling”. There is no such thing as that. From setting up the bike to the intensity to the included workouts, you are sure to find it suitable for your skill and fitness level. Ultimately, when it comes to your cycling experience, your energy level is the primary deciding factor. Remember not to push yourself too hard, listen to your body, and only do what you can handle.

Indoor Cycling Only Targets the Lower Body


Now, this is the biggest myth of them all! Indoor cycling is one of the few exercises that target both the lower and upper body muscles. It is reputed and favored for providing full-body workouts. Naturally, you’d feel the burn in your glutes, quads, calves, and thighs, but your core will also get a dose of the “burn” as it is used to power through the bike’s resistance.

The core is also used for stability — it is needed to achieve overall body balance when cycling in a standing position. The muscles of the upper body are also involved as you use them to support yourself on the bike. And incorporating upper body workouts with dumbbells, weights, or resistance bands will get you the same result.

Adds Substantial “bulk” to the Thighs


No, indoor cycling doesn’t make your thigh bulkier or bigger! This is because cycling is fat and calorie-burning exercise that makes fat-prone body parts slimmer and leaner. The indoor exercise bike is designed to burn calories and tone the muscles, so your thighs are highly unlikely to become bulkier from taking a ride. If you find that your thighs are adding unwanted weight, it is probably because of other factors outside of cycling such as diet, stress, and genetics.

Granted, your legs may appear a little bigger after a cycling session, but that is usually due to higher blood pressure and more blood flow to the muscle beds of your legs. And this noticeable change will fade as quickly as it appeared. So before you gain any appreciable weight in your thighs, you’d have to combine cycling with other activities like weight lifting. Otherwise, indoor cycling in itself won’t make you have “hulk” thighs!

It is You Against the Class


Contrary to the claims, indoor cycling does not encourage unhealthy competition. The only person you are competing against is yourself and not the rest of the class — It is you against your workout metrics and not the class or your instructor. You only need to keep tabs on your performance metrics; heart rate, distance, speed, calories, and wattage to gauge your progress or non-progress. Yes, there is the leader board that appears to pit riders against each other, but that’s a harmless technology that portrays anything but competition. Instead, the leaderboard which displays the riders’ stats seeks to encourage motivation. Nonetheless, this could be a major deal-breaker for some riders.

Besides the metrics on the leaderboard are not entirely meaningful — your neighbor’s heart rate being higher than yours doesn’t mean they are performing better. Wattage readings on the leaderboard can also be wrong in relation to size. For instance, a rider weighing 200 pounds versus one weighing 100 pounds will have different power measurements because of the difference in muscle mass. If you are not comfortable with the leaderboard, it won’t hurt to let your instructor know so they can keep your data away from public view (if the technology permits that).

It is More Painful than Beneficial


Yes, cycling tends to leave you with a sore butt, back and knees during the first few rides. But the more sessions you take, the more the pain fades until it disappears completely. Luck you, I created a list of what to do to get rid of spin bike saddle sore. Generally, all sorts of cycling-induced pain are expected to subside after three to five classes. If you still feel sore after a great many rides, then you are doing something wrong — It is either your outfit or the bike’s setup. Endeavor to set up your bike properly, especially the seat. Follow the assembly instructions to the letter and invest in a gel replacement seat if need be. Also, if you are looking to establish uber comfort, padded bike shorts should be your shorts of choice.

Truth be told, there’s nothing quite like a perfect bike fit to maximize your comfort. Ask your instructor to help you adjust the bike and note down the adjustments for the future times you’d be using the bike. You should take special note of the saddle height, the position of the fore-aft, the handlebar height and fore-aft position as well as the angle of your knee as you execute pedal strokes. Once these adjustments are accurate, you shouldn’t feel any pain in your knees or back. Also, steer clear of unconventional moves that aren’t suited to a bike. Think weight lifting, push-ups, or crunches. And yes, tap-backs are in vogue but they may not be for you, so better safe than sorry.

It is too Exhausting and Intense


Again, indoor cycling workouts are not a one-intensity-fits-all activity! It is super flexible and can work with any energy level and effort dispensation. Usually, instructors vary workout classes by alternating easy spinning activities and difficult intervals. This helps strike a balance and results in desirable performance output. Working out at your maximum effort capacity is an invitation to burnout. Regardless of your belief, a great workout isn’t determined by how breathless you get at the end or during the activity.

This is why you have your metric display to guide the pace of your workout. You should gauge how you feeling, what you are doing, and how long each session should last — and complement that with your desired effort. You can use the resistance button to match the pace of each workout without compromising your effort capacity. Even if your instructor is running ahead of your pace, stick to what you can manage. Better still, let your instructor know when you are struggling to keep up so they can adjust accordingly.

Indoor Cycling is the Same as Outdoor Cycling


This screams false and baseless! While they both use similar muscles and modus operandi, indoor and outdoor cycling are not the same. For starters, indoor cycling is the better alternative for harsh weather conditions such as rain, snow, storms, and what have you. Indoor cycling provides a much lower impact than its counterpart, thereby minimizing potential injuries and enhancing safety. And need we mention that outdoor cycling gear can cost a pretty penny than indoor cycling gear.

Furthermore, you are likely to pay more attention to your workout when the only thing staring you in the face is your metrics. The same can’t be said for outdoor cycling where there are lots of distractions from pedestrians, cars, and landscapes. Finally, indoor cycling isn’t as difficult as outdoor cycling. Hence it is more beginner-friendly than the latter. So there you have it, riding indoors isn’t the same as riding outdoors!

Final Words

Many people have avoided indoor cycling because of certain myths that are nothing but unfounded. These so-called “truths” have birthed unwarranted dislike for the otherwise exhilarating and beneficial exercise. We have taken great pleasure in demystifying these claims in the hopes that you re-evaluate your impression and reservations about the activity. As opposed to the negative claims making rounds, indoor cycling is a brilliant and beautiful cardio exercise that guarantees robust physical and mental health and calorie burn. It is the gateway to stronger muscles and a toner physique. So nothing should dissuade you from giving indoor cycling a try!

Robbie Ferri
Robbie Ferri

Robbie Ferri from “Riding with Robbie” has been cycling for almost ten years. In that time, he has broken World Records, Bikepacked all over the World, and also raced ultra distance at a top-level. Robbie picked up a bike and started cycling when he was about 25 years old and said it was the best thing he ever did. The experiences and the fun he’s had have given him a huge passion for helping inspire others to ride further, farther, and get fitter.