The birds are chirping, the sun is shining, and attractive people are breezing by on bicycles with well-toned legs and fashionable gear. If you've always wanted to start cycling but haven't had the guts to take your spin routine outside, summer is truly the perfect time to get started.
One of the main differences between indoor spinning and outdoor cycling is, clearly, dealing with the elements, which impacts how hard your workout is. Celebrity trainer Lacey Stone says that indoor and outdoor biking involve two very different mentalities: "When you're spinning inside, you can bang it out in 45 minutes. When you're outside, you have wind and hills, and it's mostly out of your control." According to Stone, in a spin class, things like wind and hills are represented in the challenges built into the workout. When you're outside, "You might have to ride for two or three hours to equal that intensity." But, Stone doesn't recommend riding for two or three hours at first: "Take baby steps," she says. "Don't try to ride for two hours or you'll get burned out and feel defeated, because it's definitely challenging."
Switching gears to the world of outdoor bicycling also means you have to pay attention to your surroundings, as opposed to being able to zone out on a stationary bike. Kirsty Medlock, the editor of Total Women's Cycling, suggests easing into it: Rather than jumping on your bike and heading downtown, pick a quieter neighborhood, and "ask an experienced cyclist friend to join you on your maiden voyage. Follow their lead; mimic how they cycle and where they position themselves on the road."
For new cyclers as well as experienced ones, wearing a helmet is a must. Luckily, you don't have to sacrifice style for safety: Medlock recommends helmets from Bern, and we're partial to Nutcase. Other safety precautions you should definitely adhere to? Always carry a bike light, even if you don't think you're going to be out after dark, and make sure you actually ride your bike on the road. "Don’t feel you have to cycle in the gutter. Remember, you have as much right to be on the road as vehicles do," says Medlock. "Try to stay a yard away from the curb: This will help you avoid drains, potholes and those pesky car doors that have a habit of swinging open."
If you're a first-time bike buyer, it's essential to make sure you are picking a bike that fits your particular needs. If you live in a relatively flat city, Medlock recommends getting a bike with a fixed-wheel: "There’s no need to concern yourself with maintaining brakes, or worry about gears slipping as you pull away from intersections or lights. Just enjoy zipping around the city on a lightweight, reliable, speedy steed," she said. If you're the kind of person who likes to schlep their things around, then a hybrid or shopper bike is an ideal solution, says Medlock. "Opt for bikes that include fixings allowing racks to be attached to carry your important cargo."
So, if you have a few extra hours and want to feel the sunshine on your face, consider hopping on a bike that'll actually take you somewhere. As Stone said, " If you’re in a time crunch, spinning is great. But if it's a beautiful day, why not take it outside? Do you what your heart tells you." Now that's a workout philosophy we can get behind.
Photo: Courtesy of C. Wonder