How to shift from indoor training to outdoor riding

How to shift from indoor training to outdoor riding

By Molly Hurford

If you’re a new cyclist, you may have spent the last few months riding indoors. For veteran riders, maybe you’re used to the shift from inside to outside, but there might be a way to make the transition from indoor trainer to outside speeding down the roads more effective and more fun this season. Here’s what you need to know:


Check your tires and your tools

If you’ve been riding your bike on a trainer all winter and you don’t have a direct drive trainer—meaning your rear tire has been spinning against the trainer all season—you may need to change your tire, since the friction with the trainer may have caused a lot of wear and tear. Check it over and make sure that it’s still in good shape, or swap it out. The night before your first ride, pump your tires up and check them in the morning to make sure they’re still holding air. And before you head out, check your saddle bag for a spare tube, mini-pump, multi-tool, patch kit, and any other tools or tidbits that you might want on your ride—it’s amazing what gets taken out or used up during the offseason.


Remember that your effort is going to change

Plenty of longtime cyclists get tripped up this time of year because the indoor training months provide one huge benefit: Consistency. Every workout can be done to perfection, down to the last watt. By comparison, riding outside is messy. There are stop signs, hills that you didn’t plan for, potholes, headwinds, and all those darn corners. The first few rides you do outside might feel sloppy, like you’re struggling to get your workout accomplished. But that’s just reality, and that’s what your group ride, your race day, your fondo, and frankly, every single outside ride that you do is going to look like. Riding away on a virtual race course is a great way to stay motivated in the winter, but unless you want to be an e-sport racer, it’s time to embrace the less-than-perfect interval sessions and enjoy your time outside.


Give yourself more time

The other benefit of an indoor trainer is that it’s just a lot faster. Throw on shorts and shoes, and start pedaling! Getting outside with your bike requires more layers, filling water bottles, checking tire pressure, packing tools and snacks, charging lights and computers, putting on your helmet and glasses, taking those glasses off to clean them because they’re disgusting… The list goes on. While getting outside is absolutely worth the extra steps, if you’ve been used to getting in your 60 minute workout in exactly 62 minutes from the time you start getting ready to the time you hop in the shower, you’re going to need to shift your expectations. Plan for a few minutes getting ready, a few minutes of unpacking, wiping your bike down, and disrobing post-ride, and if possible, leave a few minutes of padding in your total ride time in case you get a flat, take a wrong turn, or that hill is a lot steeper than you remembered. If you leave yourself more wiggle room, you’ll be able to enjoy your ride with a lot less stress.

Take it easy on day 1

Whether you’ve been riding for years or you’re brand new to cycling, on your first ride out, take it easy. Make it a little shorter than usual, and opt for endurance over intervals. Remember, on a trainer, you’re pedaling in one dimension and don’t have to shift your body to corner or stop at traffic lights, so even though riding a bike is… well, just like riding a bike, you may need to refresh yourself on how to speed through a corner smoothly. This is especially true for mountain biking if you haven’t been out in a while: It may take a ride or two before you’re feeling confident on logs and roots that you used to clear easily.


Check what your local clubs are up to

Especially in the early season, it can be nice to get out with a local cycling club to learn new routes in your area, meet fellow riders, and get tips about which roads have the worst traffic or the best tailwind. (You can get a full list of Saskatchewan cycling clubs here.)


Remember to put on sunscreen

Even on cooler, darker days, you still need sunscreen on exposed areas. Get in the habit in the early season so when the summer sun hits, you’re already used to lathering on lotion before heading out the door. Make sure that you put plenty of sunscreen on your face and neck (and anywhere your skin might show if you unzip your jersey for extra airflow). And don’t forget small areas like your hands, behind your ears, and the back of your neck.


Enjoy it

Remember, you’ve spent all winter pedaling inside so that you could enjoy yourself outside!

About the writer:

Molly Hurford is a journalist in love with all things cycling, running, nutrition and movement-related. When not outside, she’s writing about being outside and healthy habits of athletes and interviewing world-class athletes and scientists for The Consummate Athlete podcast and website, and most recently launched the book ‘Becoming A Consummate Athlete.‘ She’s the author of multiple books including the Shred Girls, a young adult fiction series and online community focused on getting girls excited about bikes. Molly is a little obsessed with getting people psyched on adventure and being outside, and she regularly hosts talks and runs clinics for cyclists and teaches yoga online and IRL… And in her spare time, the former Ironman triathlete now spends time tackling long runs and rides on trails or can be found out hiking with her mini-dachshund DW and husband, cycling coach and kinesiologist Peter Glassford.