Fighting off indoor bike training boredom probably feels like a regular occurrence. But here’s the catch: You don’t need to spend hours riding indoors to gain benefits for your fitness. So you can skip tuning into hours-long Netflix shows knowing indoor cycling workouts that help you build strength and speed can be done in a much shorter amount of time.

In fact, indoor cycling workouts can actually be harder than riding outside because you’re fighting the resistance of the trainer, says coach Andy Applegate, pro-level coach at Carmichael Training Systems. That’s why he recommends short, hard efforts with indoor bike training. “You’ll build your aerobic energy system—in less time,” he says.

To start riding through intervals and to improved performance, try these three indoor cycling workouts. They can be done on either a stationary bike or an indoor bike trainer. But before you start pedaling, you’ll want to make sure you’re set up for success to ride indoors. And we have the scoop on that, too.

More From Bicycling
preview for HDM All Sections Playlist - Bicycling

Choose Your Indoor Bike Trainer

First, be real about your budget. If money is no object, Applegate recommends rollers, which best simulate outdoor riding. Otherwise, go with a resistance trainer. “Fluid trainers are the smoothest, but they’re more expensive than magnetic,” Applegate says. You can also equip your space with a stationary bike instead of a trainer.

Then, assess how much space you have at home—certain trainer models and bikes aren’t easily tucked away in a closet. Others are more compact or fold for simple storage. Some trainers (including wind trainers) are oppressively loud, so give it a try or do your research before you buy.

4 Great Rollers and Trainers
Tacx Antares Retractable Rollers
Tacx Antares Retractable Rollers
$160 at Amazon

Simple, durable, and designed to help you stay on, these rollers are affordable and great for riders looking to try out rollers.

Kreitler Alloy 4.5 Rollers
Kreitler Alloy 4.5 Rollers
Credit: Kreitler

Simple and durable, these traditional rollers will stand the test of time.

The most affordable, fully immersive smart trainer for those wanting the virtual riding experience.

Kinetic Road Machine Smart Bike Trainer
Kinetic Road Machine Smart Bike Trainer
Credit: Kinetic by Kurt

This is a reliable trainer that lets you get into the virtual world for far less than most.

Set Up Your Indoor Bike Training Space

indoor cycling workouts, indoor bike training
Zach Kutos

Get set with these essentials:

  1. Water: Expect to drink more than you would outside.
  2. Fans: Keep your body (and your back tire) cool.
  3. Rubber Mat: You’ll drip sweat, and your trainer might skid as you hammer.
  4. Towel: Drape it over the frame and handlebar to protect it from moisture.
  5. Book or Riser: You can buy bike-specific risers to level the wheels, but a thick book also works.
  6. Entertainment: A TV, iPad, phone, or training buddy will help prevent boredom.

4 Indoor Cycling Essentials
16 in. Oscillating Pedestal Fan
Lasko 16 in. Oscillating Pedestal Fan
Tacx Sweat Cover, Black
Tacx Tacx Sweat Cover, Black
Indoor Bike Trainer Floor Mat
Kinetic by Kurt Indoor Bike Trainer Floor Mat
Now 29% Off
Credit: Kinetic by Kurt
JoeBlow Sport III
Topeak JoeBlow Sport III

3 Indoor Cycling Workouts to Add to Your Training

Applegate suggests doing one of the indoor cycling workouts below twice a week; choose a different one for a third hard day if you can’t get outside. After three weeks, try one of the more challenging variations. Allow one day of rest, cross-training, or easy riding between sessions. Each workout includes a 10- to 15-minute warmup and a 10-minute cooldown.

The workouts below were designed for an indoor bike trainer, but you can also perform them on a standard spin bike. Just adjust the resistance accordingly.

1. Speed Intervals

This workout will improve your power and speed and help you recover from repeated hard efforts. For the fast pedal intervals, use an easy gear and as high of a cadence as possible, but keep your rate of perceived exertion (RPE) low: 5 out of 10.

indoor cycling workouts
Zack Kutos​

Total time: 47 to 59 minutes

Make it harder: Add one on/off interval (30 seconds at 95 percent effort with 30 seconds of easy spinning) up to 20 intervals total.

2. Climbing Bursts

This workout is designed to help you attack hills. Simulate a hill by raising the bike’s front wheel or adding resistance. Stand and attack for the 15-second intervals. A rate of perceived exertion (RPE) of 8 or level 8 is about 90 to 100 percent of threshold power, and RPE 10 or level 10 is 115 percent of threshold.

indoor cycling workouts
Zack Kutos

Total time: 83 to 88 minutes

Make it harder: The main workout is 3 x 10 minutes (total) with 15-second stand and attack intervals every 2 minutes. For a challenge, try 2 x 15 minutes total with 10 minutes recovery, then 3 x 12 minutes total with 6 minutes recovery, then 2 x 20 minutes total with 10 minutes recovery.

3. Ladder Intervals

This workout simulates the demands of racing. A rate of perceived exertion (RPE) of 8 or level 8 is about 90 to 100 percent of threshold power, RPE 9 or level 9 is 100 to 110 percent of threshold, and RPE 10 or level 10 is 115 percent of threshold.

indoor cycling workouts
Zack Kutos

Total time: 72 to 87 minutes

Make it harder: Add 30 seconds to each rung (levels 8, 9, and 10) of the ladder, then add 1 minute.

Headshot of selene yeager
selene yeager
“The Fit Chick”
Selene Yeager is a top-selling professional health and fitness writer who lives what she writes as a NASM certified personal trainer, USA Cycling certified coach, Pn1 certified nutrition coach, pro licensed off road racer, and All-American Ironman triathlete.