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Home » Cycling » Spin/Exercise Bike Vs. Trainer. Which Is Better?

Spin/Exercise Bike Vs. Trainer. Which Is Better?

February 2013
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Joseph Lampen and The All Seasons Cyclist are heroes, of sorts, to me. They ride in conditions that most people refuse to run in. I’ll run in deplorable conditions (snow, ice, frigid cold, it’s all good after you warm up) but when it comes to cycling, when the temp dips below freezing, I’m done. I don’t like the fact that my muscles don’t work properly at speed and that the cycling clothing required to make them do so comfortably costs more than most big-box bikes so I relegate myself to the indoor trainer four days a week to keep myself in shape through the winter months. Many other bloggers choose to take spin classes – and the owner of my LBS leads classes to stay in cycling shape.

Terence, over at Jesus Was A Roadrunner is doing yeoman’s research on the difference between spin bikes and running on a treadmill that really got me to thinking about the differences between spin bikes and riding your own bike on a trainer.

First the pros for riding on a trainer:

Cost effective: At a mere $100 used or $250-$600 new (computerized versions up to $1,500-$2,000), trainers make a lot of sense for those, like me, who would prefer to spend the big bucks elsewhere (like on more cycling shorts, jerseys, jackets, lights, etc., etc.).

Comfort: While it is possible to dial in an exercise bike or spin bike, nothing can compare to riding your own bike, which is assumed to be fit properly to you (crank arm length, stem length, bar height and saddle height just to name a few).

Space, mobility and weight: A trainer, by comparison, is tiny and ultra-light when viewed against an exercise bike or spin bike. I can pack my trainer and my bike into my small SUV in a matter of minutes. Try that with an exercise bike or spin bike – without a help and a pickup truck.

No membership required.

Bikes make a lousy clothing rack: If you even like your bike a little bit, you’ll loath to drape clothes over it. Exercise bikes, on the other hand, frequently find themselves relegated to becoming a $6,000 clothing rack.

Pros for the spin/exercise bike:

Superior workout resistance: Trainers are great for maintaining fitness but they lack in the resistance department, something that the exercise/spin bike has in abundance. With a spin bike it’s “easier” to get stronger – if you’re willing to put in the effort.

Calorie burn: You can expect to burn between 600 and 800 calories an hour on a trainer. With the increased resistance you can burn much more on a spin or exercise bike.

Classes: Being a part of a fitness group has too many benefits to list. Though a group could gather with their bikes and trainers at someone’s house, it’d have to be one big house! Actually, that gives me an idea for next winter (my house is rather smallish, just under 2,000 sf, but my living room is huge. The point is, it’s easier to pack a small bag and hit the gym for a spin class than it is to get a bunch of people to bring their bikes and trainers to your house for a weekly jam.

Eye candy: While I have heard of people choosing some rather interesting viewing material during their spin time, real-life eye candy is much more interesting.

Wrap up:

If you happened on this post to investigate the best choice, celebrate the fact that you have willingness – follow that up with action and build the you that you’ve wanted.

Having done so myself, I can tell you there is little in life as rewarding as liking what you see when you look in the mirror.



  1. Great post, I don’t think it’ll be long before I grab myself a road bike in favour of the stationary ones. Whilst I love the comfort of the indoors, there’s only so much looking at yourself in the mirror you can do.

    • bgddyjim says:

      Indeed! Chuckle. Yours was an excellent post as well… I thought about reblogging it but feared damage to the space-time continuum – the ramifications for reblogging a post that links one’s own post is not known… πŸ˜‰

  2. elisariva says:

    My friends actually do both. I have been leaning toward spin classes for convenience. I have a gym membership for so much more – swimming, yoga, weights, and multiple treadmills. The classes are not extra so it is a “capitalized” cost. Several local bike shops also host spin nights. It is free to participate, bring your bike, trainer, mat and water. The shop offers discounts sometimes too. One of the riders is the workout leader. I am going to try one soon. The biggest challenge to this is lugging the bike and trainer around, set up and take down.

    A for challenge – several trainer workouts I have seen suggest putting books under the front wheel holder at times to mimic up hill while increasing resistance and going to a big gear. I haven’t tried it yet. Next up, though.

    • bgddyjim says:

      Excellent points. Sadly I have a good chance of maxing out on the trainer – I was in the middle gears (big ring) last year and I’m in the high gears this year. From here all I can do is increase cadence or buy a fluid trainer (I have a mag now).

  3. scorpioscott says:

    Thanks BDJ. Interesting subject this one. I’m a home trainer (turbo) man myself.

    Your point about classes, my club runs trainer classes at a local sports centre through the winter. You can bring your bike and trainer, or just your bike and use one of the club trainers or rollers. I’ve really enjoyed this and learnt a few new session plans along the way. Point being, it IS possible to trainer on a home trainer with friends. And if you decide to hold classes at your house next year, give me a shout, I’ll see if I can make it πŸ˜‰

    Sent from my iPhone

  4. Laura says:

    Full disclosure, I have only been to one spinning class and was meh about it. I’ve been on my trainer only two or three times, and the experience was also meh.

    I will say the next outdoor ride I did after spinning felt much easier though. So there is something to be said for the value of a spin class in terms of strength and overall power output. I’m sure if I were to try a spinning video with my trainer (as opposed to simply pedaling along at a high cadence to a movie or TV show) the results would be similar.

    All that being said, I’m investing in winter-specific gear because I’d rather be outside than inside as much as possible. πŸ™‚

    • bgddyjim says:

      I’ve never ridden in a spin bike, I’m just going by what I’ve heard and read. Thank you for the perspective. On the desire to ride in the cold, hat’s off to you. πŸ˜‰

  5. We actually own a spin bike. Put it in our home gym a couple years ago for those days that it’s too miserable to get out. Went that route over a trainer for a couple reasons. First, felt like it was a better workout. Second, it saves wear & tear on a good bike and tire. We’ll never get our money’s worth out of it because we just prefer to be outside but it’s sure a nice option to have.

    • bgddyjim says:

      The wear and tear on the good bike isn’t such a bad deal – We know what happens when the old one wears out…

      That said, I think you did it the right way.

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