Training inside vs outside?

There seems to be a few questions recently on finding good roads for intervals or riding to workout (rather than for fun). I’m interested in what everyone does.

In the riding season I would ride the Tuesday and Thursday road club rides but with no company I find it harder to motivate myself to ride hard on my own.

TrainerRoad has the option to do workouts outside but as others have mentioned, to get to the best roads may be a bit of a schlep (at least for me).

So I have been doing a lot of my intervals / VO2 max work on the trainer then doing everything outside at an endurance pace (as per TrainerRoads suggestions for adding extra workouts). However, I feel bad being on the trainer when the weather is so nice but it is very time efficient.

I can think of four options:

  1. Keep going as I am and accept I’m going to miss some outdoors time.
  2. Ride more outdoors and accept the roads might not co-operate with what the workout requires.
  3. Get out to the perfect roads for these kinds of workouts and accept the extra time.
  4. Just ride outside and do what I want (to hell with the workout plan!).

What does everyone else do? I’m thinking I might try option 2 and see how that goes but I’m worried I’m not going to get the benefit of the workouts. Option 3 would be ideal but I am a bit time limited these days so I’m all about efficiency!


Ill do key workouts, mainly Vo2 workouts still on the trainer. I can suffer as i wish, without needing to be worried about cars or dogs. Also i have found going out to my gravel training grounds have fresh gravel which makes Vo2 efforts sketchy, just another distraction. Currently a lot of my workouts couple Vo2 and tempo or SST for fatigue resistance. they can swap where they are in the workout, Vo2 at the beginning, tempo for the second half, or vise versa. I still do those on the trainer. I think anything less than Vo2, almost all roads can be used for that work, tempo/SST, just keep a tight chain down hills. Can’t beat the trainer for time sensitivity. Riding more MTB, is my version of option 4.


I do option 2, but I am pretty close to long stretches of gravel roads without interruptions. I may extend a recovery interval (or shorten one) on the fly to fit in the next effort.

I always prefer outside even though I know it’s not as efficient. I’m OK with this since I think I missed my window to go pro :rofl:


In summer I feel that outdoors is more welcoming and some loss in training perfection is acceptable because I get bike handling and terrain experience.
I do outdoor workouts and accept less than perfect roads or just enjoy the outdoor rides and accept it won’t be perfect for the training plan.
I also try not to feel bad if I choose to do a trainer workout on a beautiful day - ignore the heckling on Strava - some days time is short or I just don’t feel like riding for 30min in traffic to get to quiet roads.


Since I got a power meter on my gravel bike, I’ve been paying more attention to outdoor workouts. However, I still follow #4 on your list! Any ride outside is benefiting me physically and mentally. I’m not training for any kind of event - I’m just looking to be fit and healthy!


I can’t think of anything worse than doing interval training on a trainer inside in the summer. If your a pro racer than I’ll take that as a legitimate reason or if your time constrained/family commitments.

Otherwise go outside. I opt for number 2 or 3 depending on time constraints and workouts. We are lucky enough that once you are 5 minutes out of town most workouts are feasible. If your doing longer intervals then you can always do the take a right on red (safely) it will have little impact on the workout in the grand scheme of things. If your racing then as Dan says just the bike handling aspect can outweigh some of the impacts of workout quality. If your not racing like Steve then the impact of imperfect workouts won’t make a significant impact on your fitness.


Some solid advice. I am pretty time constrained at the moment so that is part of it. I’m also somewhat worried about leaving it all on road when working out. There have certainly been times when I’m at the tail end of a VO2 workout and just had to stop. Easier to leave it all out there when you know you can just get off rather than get home somehow.

Having said that, I’m not racing so just enjoying the outside is probably the right thing to do. I think I’ll experiment a bit to start (maybe some Bamberg loops on Tuesday) and since I have some anaerobic stuff in the plan and see how that goes.

Just got a Cannondale Tandem too which I have been pulling my 11 year old son around on. That is a pretty good workout it itself too!

Are you even training if you’re not pulling 3min VO2 max intervals on the tandem :stuck_out_tongue:

I’m trying to do 2 and 3 as much as possible, especially with nothing on the calendar. If I’m time crunched or there’s a technical workout that I think is worth it I’ll just do it on the trainer.

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I think I’m going to try and do the same.

I did an abridged Bamburg loop on the tandem a few weeks ago with the boy on the tandem and there were times I’m sure we went backwards :smile: my wife was serenely cruising behind us one the hills and I thought I want going to pop something! Hardest ride I have done for a while.

Oliver, your right there have been times where I have gone too deep and you start to wonder on the road. Some of us are worse for that and something to consider.

I’m starting to get a workout in with the cargo bike. My 7 year old is starting to try and exploit any potential weakness so will attack me on hills if I’m fully loaded. My guess is that by next year he may succeed in dropping me :slight_smile:

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A quick update on this, not got the balance quite right trying to train outside. Last weekend (the long weekend) I tried doing a couple of loops of the Bamberg loop and hit the hills pretty hard. HR was right and power was there but overall IF (intensity factor) was only in the low 0.8s. Given the training plan was asking for the workout to be IF over 0.9 I was a bit disappointed (VO2 max stuff). Still I rode everyday over the long weekend and got some solid TSS in (plus the weather was awesome).

I did my Saturday workout inside this week and it was much easier to get the IF I needed. I think part of this was I wasn’t worried about keeling over on the roadside somewhere so could go deeper. Anything much over 0.9 for me is pretty tough on my body! Maybe I just need to give up on a route and just repeat a stretch of road close to home?