Real Bicycle Exercise vs. Stationary Bike

Stationary bikes are relatively simple pieces of exercise equipment. They provide a convenient and flexible alternative or supplement to road biking for exercise, training or racing purposes. Consult your doctor before undertaking any new training plan or exercise regimen.

Climate Control

In very cold or hot climates, a stationary bike allows you to exercise indoors at a comfortable temperature. In northern parts of the United States, bike racers and triathletes commonly use indoor bikes to continue training through the winter months when snow and ice make road biking dangerous or impossible. However, in temperate seasons, it is often motivating to get outside in the fresh air and exercise on your road bike.


Stationary bikes allow you to control the resistance at which you are pedaling, and this can be either an advantage or a disadvantage in comparison to road biking. On a road bike, you have little control over the hilliness of the terrain. If you live in a hilly area, riding a stationary bike may be easier overall, but a less intense form of exercise unless you push yourself to include hill simulation. Conversely, if you live in a flat part of the country, a stationary bike can provide the high-resistance workout you won't get from road biking in the natural terrain.


With any physical exercise regimen, motivation is key to continuing to exercise regularly and meet your goals. For some people, road biking is more motivating than stationary cycling. The outdoor scenery, variety of terrain and potential to use road biking as a form of transport can all provide motivation. Conversely, stationary bikes can be motivating as they are easier than road bikes to use in a group exercise setting. Also, the ability to watch TV or read a book while riding a stationary bike can be a motivational factor.


Road biking carries inherent dangers, such as falling off due to rough road surfaces or accidents involving other vehicles. When biking on the road, always wear safety gear including a bike helmet and high-visibility clothing. Stationary bikes can safely be used when it is dark, and without interaction with road traffic. Stationary cycling is also easier and safer for those with limited limb mobility, or people recovering from illness or injury. If you have an injury or health condition, or if you are pregnant, stationary biking provides a safer and supervised exercise alternative to riding on the roads.

Use of Muscles

The ergonomics of a stationary bike are usually different to those of a road bike. Stationary bikes do not have any brakes, or the ability to free-wheel as you would on a road bike. If you suddenly need to stop pedaling while riding a stationary bike, you must take your feet off the pedals or risk injury as the pedals continue spinning. Your hamstring muscles work harder in general on a stationary bike in response to the way the pedals turn without free-wheeling. Your cadence -- the rate at which the pedals turn -- is typically higher on a stationary bike than on a road bike. This means you burn more carbohydrates for fuel on a stationary bike, while feeling less physical exertion.

author: Jae Allen

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