Do Indoor Trainer Hours Differ from Riding Outdoors?

Wondering why you can go for long rides outdoors but when you try to replicate your training hours at home it seems that you reach your limit more easily? This is actually normal because of the differences between indoor training and outdoor biking.

Do indoor trainer hours differ from riding outdoors? Yes. Indoor training can be a little more intense owing to the fact that you are continuously pedaling. When you are biking outdoors you sometimes coast and stop during traffic so you have moments of rest. This means that indoor training hours are relatively shorter compared to outdoor biking.

One factor that should also be considered is the motivation to keep on going with your indoor training when you are alone (most of the time), in the same environment for a long period. So that could also affect the length of time you can push yourself to the limit.

What is the difference between indoor time and outdoor time?

There is no exact formula for indoor training time compared to outdoor training time. Some say that a 60-minute indoor workout is roughly equivalent to a 100-minute outdoor ride.

I agree to an extent. However, it is important to remember that indoor training, while it approximates riding outdoors is an experience on its own. It will never be the same as outdoor cycling.

Also, each outdoor ride can also be different. We are talking here about different routes, terrain, weather, traffic, and a whole lot of conditions that may affect how we train outdoors. Even if you ride the same route every week, your workout intensity will not be the same each time.

So there will be no exact way to calculate the equivalent time in indoor cycling. The 60-minute vs. 100-minute is just really a very rough estimate.

How much time should be spent on indoor training?

Again, this is relative. Usually, a 60 to 90-minute ride is enough to challenge most riders. But it can vary from as little as 30 minutes to 2 hours depending on the level of the cyclist and his goal for the session.

It would help if you use an indoor training app or watch a professional indoor training video to guide you in your indoor workouts if you are just starting out. Some training apps do require a monthly subscription to be able to access all the features they provide.

Knowing your FTP or functional threshold power can also help you determine the length and intensity of your indoor training. Some training apps also require you to enter your FTP so they can suggest a workout that is appropriate for your level.

FTP is the average highest power you can sustain in an hour. You can test your FTP with the help of some training apps and a power meter on your bike (or if you have a smart trainer, it is built-in). You don’t even have to work a full hour to know your FTP as there is also a 20-minute FTP test that you can do. FTP is also a good way to monitor your progress over time.

All these sensors, apps, and gadgets are helpful in determining the right duration of your workout. But don’t forget to listen to your body. Most likely, your body will tell you when you have reached your limit.

What are the advantages of training indoors?

Many cyclists would argue that nothing can beat the experience of riding outdoors. However, outdoor biking may not always be possible because of inclement weather and other factors.

This is where indoor training comes in. Here are some advantages of doing your training indoors.


Let’s face it. Work and daily activities can get in the way of accomplishing our training goals.

Sometimes all we have is 40 minutes of free time. Going out for a ride or run is just not possible in this scenario. Just packing your gears for the outdoors will consume some of your time already.

The good news is that you can squeeze in a brief indoor bike workout during this short time.

All you really need to do is mount your bike to the trainer which really only takes a few clicks, make sure you have water and a towel nearby, then you can start training.

Don’t worry. The quality of your workout does not rest entirely on the time that you have. As mentioned earlier, a minimum of 30 minutes with your trainer can be enough depending on your goal.

You are in control

Aside from the fact that you are in a controlled environment, you are also in control of your indoor training.

You set the time, the intensity of the workout, the resistance of your trainer, and so on. You can choose to follow a training plan, or come up with your own.

The opposite is true for outdoor cycling. The traffic, the road conditions, the weather, and a lot of factors are beyond your control and may affect how you work out.

Track your progress

With indoor training, you will have a better grasp of how you are progressing since you can keep your workouts more or less consistent.

How to stay motivated with indoor training?

Indoor training can get a little boring, especially if you plan to work out for more than an hour or two. Imagine just pedaling on your bike continuously with no change of scenery or no one to talk to or compete with. If you are just new to indoor cycling, your mind might give up even before your legs will.

But there are ways to add variety and beat the boredom that you may feel while training indoors. Here are my tips.

  • Listen to your favorite upbeat music. This just might make your training a little more bearable.
  • Catch up on your favorite shows. Why not schedule your training in time for your favorite series? Or maybe watch a training video while you cycle.
  • Use a virtual riding app like Rouvy and Zwift. You can ride virtual roads and connect with your cyclist friends online too. Plus you will have access to structured workouts and can join events or races to make your training more interesting. Take note that they require a monthly subscription to access their full features.
  • Keep yourself comfortable. Keep your water and towels nearby. Make sure you have adequate ventilation in your training area. Invest in good fans to keep you cool during your intense workouts. Wear your training clothes so you can move freely and keep your body comfortable.
  • Invite friends over for indoor training sessions if you have ample space in your house.
  • Make sure you have enough energy to burn. Don’t go on your trainer hungry.
  • Track your progress. Seeing how you have improved over time is a great motivation to keep going. Most apps and fitness trackers can help you see your achievements in the long run.

In summary

Indoor training hours differ from riding outdoors. Roughly 60 minutes of your training hours indoors are equivalent to a 100-minute ride outdoors.

In outdoor biking, the traffic, terrain, and weather can affect how you ride. Sometimes you need to stop, or you can coast during your ride. None of these elements are present when you are cycling indoors. That means, you actually spend more time pushing the pedals.

That said, you must know not to go beyond your actual limits especially when you are just starting out with indoor cycling. You can gradually increase your training intensity and duration through a training program that is based on your capacity.

Related questions

Which activity will burn more calories? Indoor or outdoor cycling? When you cycle outdoors, you use more muscle groups than when you cycle indoors. An uphill terrain, wind drag, rough roads, and other factors may cause you to exert more effort. For this reason, many believe that outdoor cycling can burn more calories than indoor cycling. However, this may not be true all the time as going downhill, and coasting can mean you may put in lesser effort during a certain part of your ride. The calorie you burn in indoor and outdoor cycling will depend on your weight and the duration and intensity of your workout.

Adam Johnson

As a middle-aged, 40-something cyclist, my riding goals have changed over the years. A lover of all things retro, and an avid flat bar cyclist, I continue to live off past triathlon glories.

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