Gear Prudence: I love biking, but I hate winter. Come springtime, this means that I’m going to be extremely slow and out of shape unless I ride indoors. But spin classes seem like such a commitment and the idea of buying an exercise bike feels a little over-the-top. What should I do? —Snow Persists. I’m Neutralized
Dear SPIN: One of the more amazing things about bicycling is that it’s an outdoor activity that doesn’t necessarily require the outside. The outside makes it more pleasurable—you can pass by miles and miles of natural terrain and finish a ride with a sense of accomplishment. But nature isn’t strictly necessary if your sole goal is to turn over the pedals ad infinitum. This can be just as well accomplished with a bike that doesn’t go anywhere, and a large number of people experience bicycling this way exclusively. In GP’s estimation, this is not nearly as satisfying as riding outside, but unless you want to buy the requisite amount of merino and neoprene to cope with the cold, you’ll have to pedal to nowhere indoors.
Signing up for spin classes or embarking on a home exercise regimen are serious commitments, so be sure to pick the right one.
There are a lot of things to like about spin classes. They are inside. They are scheduled. They are led by an instructor. They are full of other people who have also decided to ride a stationary bike inside, making your decision seem like less of a character flaw. If you’re the kind of person who needs structure in order to exercise, classes are a great way to guarantee that you actually do the indoor bicycling that you intended to do. The downsides of this rigidity are also manifold. You have to pay for the classes, and that adds up quickly. And you have to leave your house to actually get to the class. If you have other obligations and/or are good at coming up with excuses, good luck.
So instead you can buy an exercise bike or a trainer (to which you attach your bike) and ride the miles in the comfort of your own home. There are countless downloadable workouts and apps if you’re into that kind of thing. You’ll need, of course, sufficient room to get this set up and steely mental determination to ensure that you actually get on the trainer and do the workout. Both trainers and stationary bikes will require some upfront investment money. And, of course, there’s a reasonably good chance you’ll never actually use it: Climate change is making winter exceedingly short and podcasts maybe aren’t as distracting as you’d hope they’d be. But if you beat the odds and hold yourself accountable, come spring, you might only be a little slow and out of shape, instead of very, and that’s nothing to sniff at. —GP
Gear Prudence is Brian McEntee, who tweets @sharrowsdc. Got a question about bicycling? Email email@example.com