Piggybacking on a conversation we had on The Paceline this week, I’m curious how you feel about the various incarnations of bike riding available to us, riding indoors alone (on a trainer or some other device), riding indoors in a group (could be virtual group rides or spin class or other), riding outdoors alone, or riding outdoors in a group.
I have the strong suspicion that outdoor riding is more popular than indoor, at least among the TCI readership, but I’m prepared to be surprised. More than that, I’m curious how closely you associate them, like is one just a little better than the others? Maybe you have some trainer routine that is actually really important to you, or you’ve gotten into Zwift racing deeply. Each one might be quite different, but equally enjoyable in its own way.
Here’s my rough take:
Indoors Alone. For me, this is a desperation move. I have to be sorta mad at myself to get on the trainer, and it works best if I’ve had the time to assemble a playlist of really over the top music. Then I’ll go down there, turn the lights off, climb on the bike, and go for it. Sometimes this turns out to be exactly what I needed.
Indoors in a Group. I’ve only ever done this in a spin class, because my wife was a spin instructor, and because there was a lot of snow. Having said that, once I got past the bike not fitting very well, relative to a “regular” bicycle, I didn’t hate it.
Outdoors Alone. I wrote a piece about this earlier in the week for the site, so you could read that. I think Outdoors Alone is maybe my favorite, when it works, which is to say when it goes well.
Outdoors in a Group. I ride best in a group. I take more risks, because I’m not alone. I have more laughs usually. I go faster. It scratches the riding itch AND the social itch, and it does it in a way that is compatible with my introverted preferences.
So, this week’s Group Ride wants you to rate them out of 10 AND rank them 1-4 for yourself. That way we understand your preferences, but also how you like them relative to each other. Extra commentary on each is welcome.
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Great pull this week, Robot!
1. Riding outdoors in a group
2. Riding outdoors alone
3. Riding indoors in a group
4. Riding indoors alone. I just don’t get this. Cycling isn’t about making my heart beat faster. It’s about moving through space. Yes, this is a space-time continuum comment. Regardless of what we do we are all moving through time at the same rate: 60 seconds per minute, 60 minutes per hour. That is true on the couch, on a surfboard, or at a funeral. The difference maker is how we relate to space. Riding a bike is the fastest and most elegant way I know to propel myself through space. No motor but my own legs, no engine save lungs and heart. And to speed and swoop – yes, to fly – with others at the same pace and vector is sublime. Icarus fell from the sky not by going too close to the sun, but because he was alone. Not one was there to share their shade with him. Image how close to heaven the rotating paceline of Icarii would have come! Yes, that is our task in the peloton. To reach Elysium while still on earth.
Outdoors alone – this is most of my riding because I like it and it’s just easier than trying to connect with people much of the time.
Outdoors in a Group – can be the most awesome thing if everything goes well and everyone is on the same channel. I don’t mind slowing down for the sake of the group. I hate having to kill myself to stay with the group. So it can be a crap shoot.
Indoors in a group – okay enough to get through the winter in some sort of decent shape.
Indoors alone – NOPE.
1. Riding outdoors in a group – I really enjoy this, but max of 1 time per week. More than that and I start to get tired of following wheels.
2. Riding outdoors alone – I really enjoy this and this is my most frequent spring/summer/fall mode of riding. I tend to go very early in the morning when the roads and trails are quiet.
3. Riding indoors alone – I really enjoy this but I haven’t always enjoyed this. My current setup makes this an activity that I look forward to. I ride on InsideRide rollers with the SmartResistance unit and use Wahoo Systm (formerly Sufferfest)videos with a dual sided power meter. The rollers give me an “outdoor” road bike feel and the videos are immersive enough that I get lost in focus and even find flow state on occasion. I have a big TV set up in front of me with a great sound bar. It’s still March in Minnesota and we have more than 2 feet of snow on the ground outside. Roads are an icy mess so this indoor setup is my main go-to for riding from sometime in November to sometime in March or April. I will also ride this setup if I want to get really specific training in to prep for an event or to do an easy recovery ride. I have to admit that I like the challenge of hitting specific power targets and holding them for a pre-defined period of time at a specific cadence. It’s a physical challenge that I like. I know I’m strange 🙂
4. Riding indoors in a group. I will do an occasional spin class at the YMCA but I find these to be annoying at best. The music is too loud, the instructor doesn’t articulate any “plan” so it just feels like random intervals with no info shared about how many or how long or how hard to go. This is my least favorite, but if I found the right instructor I might really enjoy these.
1. Outdoors alone – This describes almost all of my rides at this point. I usually need to fit my rides in on my own schedule. Cycling is a meditative thing, and that’s more easily done alone. Also, interactions with cars are less likely to be confrontational when riding alone, so it’s less stressful.
2. Outdoors in a group – I enjoy a group ride on occasion, and used to do this much more in the past in my racing days. The additional adrenaline usually makes these some of my best rides, physically.
3. Indoors alone – I have old-school rollers that are used on occasion through the winter to maintain fitness. This winter in PA has been uneventful, so I’ve been able to ride outdoors the whole time and have been lucky to avoid the mind-numbing rollers.
4. Indoors in a group – I’ve never done this and can’t comment on it other than to say that it doesn’t sound like a blast. I’m glad it works for some people though. Whatever keeps the pedals going around!
#1 Outdoors with 1 other person. With just two people I find that agreeing on ride details like length, intensity and destination are pretty easy to work out resulting in a great day.
#2 Outdoors alone. Ahhh, introverted solitude!
#3 Indoors alone. Deep in winter I watch other people ride bikes (European CX then AMA SX) without sitting on the couch.
#4 Outdoors in a group. I love how fast a large group of roadies can eat up the miles!
#5 Indoors in a group. Never tried it. Sounds fun. Maybe next winter.
Sorry about exceeding my allotment of categories.
Indoors Alone: 2
Indoors Group: 1
Outdoors Alone: 3
Outdoors Group: 4
If the scale had been 1-10, OA would be 9 and OG 10. IA and IG unchanged. If the scale had been 1-100, OA would have been 99 and OG 100. IA/IG unchanged.
I ride my Indoors Alone Jan-Apr for structured winter training. Not a fan, but pays off in Apr. And Netflix helps. I tried Indoors Group once. Once. This introverts says “No. Hard no.”
Outdoors Alone is great, but I wouldn’t want to do it all the time, or even often. Outdoors Group, especially since I’m riding mostly off road, is perfect because the groups aren’t big, but they are my tribe.
Alone outside. I prefer to roll out from my house whenever; doesn’t work well when trying to corral a group. I’ll join a group on a charity ride but only if it gels after 50 miles or so. I’ve been crashed out by others who can’t paceline, so make that a distant second. Riding “indoors”, which isn’t riding, doesn’t rate at all.
Best: Outdoors group. For reasons you mentioned and it is some of my best ever memories on a bike
2. Outdoors alone. This allows the stress to leave and for me to do whatever the hell I want whenever the hell I want to.
3. Indoors group. I’ve done peloton recordings and I guess I like being shouted at, cajoled, cheered, encouraged. Have also done spin classes and liked the loud music (when I like the music and I don’t always) and the ability to just put my head down, blast away and not worry about a car killing me (or hitting a tree)
4. Indoors alone sucks. I rode indoors twice this year and have let my fitness wane. I ran some. Outside. This category will always be the worst for me.
1. Outdoors alone
2. Outdoors with a group
I’m slow due to my cancer treatment and current weight/conditioning. So I prefer to ride alone. It’s less pressure and I’ve really learned to enjoy it. I am too slow to really ride with a group and I hate making people have to wait for me. Irish Catholic guilt.
I like riding with a friend who doesn’t mind hanging out and riding slow.
Can’t ride inside. Just not my thing. I’d rather ride in snow and cold.
1. Outdoors Alone: It started with Covid and I really haven’t had the social energy to start group riding regularly. Plus dad responsibilities trump rides.
2. Outdoors Group: If it’s a good group and a good loop, then yes. I despise out and backs and seek to find the golden loop that has yet to be found.
3. Indoor Alone: Only when it’s absolutely necessary to quiet the inner monster.
4. Indoor Group: I’ve tried it once and would rather go back to scrotum cheese grating.