Health Nut: Spin to Win

By Kelly Turner

Photo: Take the benefits of your indoor spin class outside to the open road. © Chach Photography

You’re a star spin-class pupil. You are such a regular, the instructor not only knows you by name, but knows not to let anyone use your favorite bike. During class, you handle those imaginary hills and sprints with ease and enthusiasm and crank up the resistance unprovoked just to give yourself an extra challenge.

You are a spinning pro, but is your stellar performance in class enough to translate to an equally successful ride on the open road?

Spin instructor and road warrior Rena Smith says yes, spinning can properly prepare you for pavement.

“Form, pedal stroke and resistance changes on an indoor cycle are very similar to the open road experience,” explains Smith, who teaches Group Ride classes at Highline Athletic Club in Burien, Wash. “Seat set-up, posture, knee-over-toe pedaling and controlled breathing are all benefits to take outside.”

If you’ve ever run on a treadmill, you know there is a big difference between that and running outside. On the treadmill, the machine itself helps propel you, making the workout easier. But with bikes, there is little difference. While indoors, everything is simulated, but classes still take participants through various road terrains. This gives the rider a sense of confidence and a general knowledge of what outdoor riding can feel like.

There are a few key differences, however. The great outdoors provides more variables with which to compete, including wind, weather, traffic, and terrain.

“In a cycling class, the physical atmosphere is controlled,” says Smith. “When riding outside, there are many factors to consider, but in an indoor cycling studio, you are guaranteed perfect weather and well-maintained equipment every time.”

While you can bow out of a simulated hill in class by lowering your resistance, in the real world, if you can’t reach the top, there is only one way back down.

While your selection of spin bike is limited to front row or back, or whether or not to sit next to Stinky Steve or Chatty Cathy, your choices when it comes to road bikes range drastically in terms of brands, features and expense. Thankfully, most reputable cycling retailers have the knowledge to fit all riders to the perfect bike for them.

Don’t be intimidated by taking the step out of recreational exercise and in to sport. If your only experience with cycling has been in a group fitness setting, consider giving the open road a try. Nothing beats the wind in your (helmet) hair, the sun on your cheeks and the pride you will feel showing the world how great you look in your bicycle shorts.

Kelly Turner is a professional fitness writer from Seattle. Her no-nonsense, practical advice has been featured on,, Yahoo! Shine, and she has a regular fitness column in The Seattle Times. Follow her on Twitter @KellyTurnerFit

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