If you think indoor-cycling classes like SoulCycle and Flywheel are just for celebrities and SoHo socialites, think again. The performance perks are legit. Not only can you gain plenty of fitness that will translate to regular cycling, you also burn as many as 600 calories in a 40-minute session. Here's how an indoor class can take your outdoor riding to the next level.
You Get Fitter
On most indoor bikes, you can't brake or coast. That kind of constant effort is hard to do outside thanks to traffic lights and terrain changes, says SoulCycle instructor and track racer Christine D'Ercole, who trained exclusively inside prior to the 2009 Masters Track National Championships, where she won the match sprint.
You Go Harder
With a stationary bike you obviously don't need to worry about balance. Less obvious? "You can really bury yourself on a sprint because you don't have to worry about losing control of the bike or crashing," says Gary Gianetti, former coach of the University of Colorado cycling team.
You Have Control
On indoor bikes, you simulate climbs and flats by adding or removing resistance with the turn of a knob. This means that even flatlanders can build the kind of strength that comes from climbing. Just be sure to keep your revolutions per minute (RPMs) up. "A good instructor will keep the cadence high enough to mimic riding outside," says D'Ercole. "You don't want to drop below 60—otherwise, you might as well be doing the leg-press machine."
You Can Groove
One thing you can do indoors that you can't on the road (at least not safely): pedal to a beat-thumping soundtrack. A pile of research concludes that exercising to music distracts you from fatigue and increases endurance, so you can push beyond what you thought you were capable of, D'Ercole says. "Once you break through a physical or mental barrier indoors," she says, "it directly translates to riding outside."
Top 3 Spin Classes Out There
Created in California by South African endurance cyclist Johnny Goldberg, Spinning spawned the first stationary bikes designed with the geometry of a road bike. The company also produces a line of bikes for home use.
Since its introduction in 2006, the company's New York- and California-based studios have developed a cult-like following thanks to charismatic instructors, candlelit classes, and a focus on the mind-body connection.
FlyWheel gained momentum in 2009 with stadium-style seating, music curated by an in-house DJ, and high-tech custom indoor bikes that display resistance, speed and power—plus a big-screen digital leaderboard.Search for a cycling event.