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Need to Exercise at Home? Four Great Indoor Cycling Options, Reviewed

Need to Exercise at Home? Four Great Indoor Cycling Options, Reviewed

After recent posts about the simple perspective shift that will make working from home much more productive, and how small business owners&n

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After recent posts about the simple perspective shift that will make working from home much more productive, and how small business owners can create a simple yet effective work from home policy for their employees, a number of people emailed.

To paraphrase them: “Perfect. But what about exercising at home?”

That question makes sense, especially during times like these: Exercise can help improve your energy levels, boost your immune system, and help you manage stress.

Say you like indoor cycling/spinning at a cycling studio, spin class, or other exercise facility. Getting the exercise you need just got a lot harder — and it’s uncertain how long that situation will last.

Fortunately, there are a number of at-home cycling options. Here are four I’m very familiar with; hopefully one is right for you.

1. Trainer Stands

If you already own a bike this is definitely the cheapest option. Just make sure the trainer you buy will accommodate your bike; generally speaking, it needs to be a road bike and not a beach cruiser.

Trainer stands only take a couple minutes to set up, and only require about a foot or so more space than the length of your bike. They’re simple, convenient, relatively inexpensive, and durable — my Blackburn trainer is almost ten years old. 

Plenty of options are available from companies like Saris, Kinetic, CycleOps, Wahoo, etc. Costs range from roughly $100 to $300 and up. If you’re unsure which to buy, ask a cycling friend. Or go at least mid-range to make sure the unit is solid and stable.

Keep in mind a trainer stand isn’t interactive; there are no frills, no digital readouts, etc. To increase intensity you just shift to a harder gear; the experience is similar to riding a spin bike. But you can use a trainer stand to take an online or video spin class; when the instructor says dial up more resistance, just shift to a harder gear.

In short: Great for people who already have a road bike and want a simple, inexpensive indoor option.

2. Fan bikes.

Fan bikes are great for HIIT workouts. Try going at full sprint — actually as hard as you possibly can — for 60 seconds and see how that feels. They work your legs and your upper body (mainly shoulders and triceps.) And they somewhat approximate the elliptical machine experience.

Still: I kind of hate them. They’re boring. And noisy. And cost between $500 and $800, although that’s still a lot cheaper than many full-on digital exercise bikes.

So if you’ve ridden a fan bike before, think about whether you’d like to do that on a regular basis — or whether your fan bike will just be an expensive clothes rack. 

In short: Relatively inexpensive option for people who don’t own a road bike, want a somewhat full body option, and often do HIIT workouts. 

3. Interactive trainers.

Think interactive trainers and you probably think Peloton, if only because of their extensive  (and occasionally meme-worthy) marketing.

But there are plenty of other interactive trainers: NordicTrack, Echelon (with a much cheaper connected option than Peloton), Sole, Wahoo, Horizon, Diamondback… the list goes on.

If you want to be part of a “community,” Peloton could be the right option. Many Peloton enthusiasts are drawn to certain instructors, some enjoy a sense of belonging and connectedness with other riders… if you want an at-home class experience, connected setup may be right for you.

It doesn’t really work for me, though. I don’t particularly like instructor-led classes. And I’m not looking for a sense of exercise community.  Which means the expense of a connected bike and subscription doesn’t make sense for me.

But it could be perfect for you — especially if the experience helps you stick to your fitness regimen.

Because, really, that’s what matters most.

So: If you want to take live classes and want to be part of a community, get a Peloton or Peloton-like bike with streaming capabilities. 

If not, save some money and buy a non-streaming trainer with built-in, adjustable training modes. (If you want, you can still connect to a variety of classes or videos from other sources.)

In short: Best for people who don’t own a road bike, want to cycle indoors, and want a reasonable or even full suite of training, interactive, streaming, etc options.

4. Smart trainers.

Smart trainers are like trainer stands on steroids. Attach your road bike to the trainer and instead of you changing gears to increase or decrease resistance, the trainer adjusts resistance based on external input. 

Basically, a smart trainer comes the closest to simulating an outdoor riding experience.

That’s especially true if you connect your smart trainer to a service like Zwift. Just like spreadsheets were a killer app for personal computers, Zwift is a killer app for smart trainers: Many people who buy a smart trainer do so just so they can use Zwift. (Including me.)

Zwift lets you ride a variety of virtual routes, ride with other people, race against professionals… Zwift turns the hamster wheel experience into something a lot more fun. (And, if you’re into metrics, it will quantify the heck out of your rides.)

Of course that means you need a smart trainer. Plenty of companies make them: CycleOps, Tacx, Elite, Suito, etc.

Based on a recommendation from a pro cyclist, I use a the Wahoo Kickr Climb. The setup was simple and connecting to a heart rate monitor, Zwift, etc. was also straightforward.

And the Climb option, which at first sounds like a gimmick, is actually pretty cool. When you ride uphill, the Climb unit raises the front of your bike an appropriate amount. While it does feel a little disconcerting at first, that, plus the increased resistance (and a small dose of suspended disbelief) can make it feel kind of like climbing a mountain.

But there is one caveat to smart trainers. Most road cyclists I know, including pro cyclists, have shifted to the Zwift/smart trainer combo for indoor riding. The people I know who only ride indoors, either on a Peloton or at a cycling studio, tend not to like smart trainers because they don’t care about mimicking the road experience. They use indoor cycling as a way to stay in shape.

So if you like to ride on the road, consider a smart trainer. If you only want to ride indoors, other options may be better.

In short: Great for road cyclists who want a robust, data-heavy indoor option.

4a. The Combo Option

If you don’t have and don’t want to buy a road bike but want the Zwift experience, a number of companies make full-on trainers that are Zwift compatible; in fact, Zwift currently offers a deal where can try out a Wahoo Kickr bike risk-free for 30 days. 

I haven’t ridden one so I can’t speak to the experience. Or, since it’s fairly pricey, the relative value compared to other options.

But you can return the bike if you don’t like it, which means the only thing at risk is a little of your time.

The Bottom Line

If you like riding outdoors, check out trainer stands or smart trainers. If you only ride indoors, a fan bike (eek!) or an interactive trainer may be right for you. 

Just keep in mind that choice is inherently better or worse than the others. What matters is that the choice you make is one you will enjoy, will benefit from, and will want to stick with over the long term.

Because health and fitness isn’t a destination.

It’s a lifestyle.

Both now, when your exercise options may be limited, and for the rest of your life.

This article is from Inc.com

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