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I need to train for an upcoming bike ride and i wanted to see if attending a spin class 1-2 times a week (45 min course) would be appropriate way to prepare for a long bike ride (50 - 75 miles)

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Probably a bit better than your typical "spin class" cycles are some sort of cycle that varies the effort required. A number of different exercise bikes have time-varying "profiles", and bikes like the Expresso can provide a very realistic ride. But, as others have indicated, while these are good adjuncts to training (and a good way to keep in shape through the winter, eg), they don't provide the full bike "experience", and don't train you to handle the dynamics of the bike. –  Daniel R Hicks May 3 '12 at 1:52
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BTW, if you're only a few weeks from this ride you're probably overthinking it. Try to get in a good 60-90 minute ride every 2-3 days. On the bike is best, but if weather or other conditions prevent that then the exercise bike (in or out of "class") is a decent alternative for maybe half your rides. On ride day just pace yourself, take a break every hour or two, and mind your hydration and nutrition. Don't try to set any speed records. Can the anxiety -- relax and enjoy the ride. –  Daniel R Hicks May 3 '12 at 11:24
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You'll get more benefit by a few miles riding to and from the spin class as well. Especially if you push during the class. Riding home when you're tired will help you build those riding skills the gym can't teach you. –  Kohi May 7 '12 at 23:56

7 Answers 7

up vote 19 down vote accepted

Regular aerobic exercise is definitely of value for preparing for a big ride. Spin is a good preparation in conjunction with some outdoor rides, but it is not a substitute for riding your bike on the road.

The feel of the bike, the balance, the momentum, and the environmental and traffic factors will have an effect on your fitness as well, some of which may be purely mental.

If time is limited, try spin 2-3 days a week, and build up your endurance, but also do at least one longer outdoor ride each week. If you're riding 50 miles, you need to plan to be on the bike for 3-5 hours when you do the actual ride.

Build up to where you can handle 3 hours on the bike easily, and you'll do fine.

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+1 in particular, riding on a stationary spinning bike does not by itself promote good, efficient form which is useful for long rides. The only way to do that indoors is with rollers (but you can't use those for a spinning class!). Spin class is still one of the best ways to develop aerobic capacity, however. –  Angelo May 1 '12 at 17:50
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Also spin training doesn't help train with gear selection. –  James Bradbury Mar 11 '13 at 9:54

Yes and no.

Spin classes do help with overall aerobic fitness.

There are shortcomings: the first thought occurring to me is "bike handling". You can do spin classes blindfolded. An actual ride means controlling the bike in various situations. Secondly in a spin class, the "rider" determines the difficulty. Actually riding, the difficulty is determined by the environment.

The upshot is that spin classes are good for aerobic fitness but other skills require different practice.

Spin workouts in general? A good thing. I do spin workouts during the dark, wet, and cold Pacific NW winters. Spin workouts do wonders for your cardiovascular endurance. So, you have that covered.

However, spin workouts generally last 45 minutes to an hour. A long ride is typically longer than that, so little to no help. Another thing in spin workouts is that the instructor will have you increase the resistance for "hills"; believe me, it never matches reality unless you really ramp up the resistance. Another thing, is that spin instructors often don't have actual experience in riding a real bike on real terrain; so not sure that it helps unless the spin instructor is actually a cyclist.

Take away? Usually ramp things up; of course depending on the spin instructor.

...Spin "class" is NOT a "class"...it's a workout...

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+1 Exactly what I was saying. –  zenbike May 1 '12 at 4:40

Spinning is fine if it's a long session but no substitute because your 100Km race is an endurance test for your muscles. So as others have said hydration is more important than your time.

Do the spinning but make sure you've ridden the 100KM on the real bike at least once before you do your trip. Just so you'll know what's coming.

Hope you enjoy it!

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In my experience the saddles on gym spin bikes are often a little more plush than a typical "real" bike saddle. Thus, one part of your body that you will never train, no matter how many spin classes you attend, is your butt's ability to tolerate a bike saddle for 50-75 miles.

I believe the only way to train your butt to sit without significant discomfort on a real bike saddle for 50-75 miles is to sit on a real bike saddle for a significant number of miles. Several times.

I took a coworker on an easy, flat 25-mile route, and he was not accustomed to being on a bike saddle for that long. By the time we got back, he was effectively riding on one cheek, because the saddle was paining him so. His speed had slowed to a crawl.

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its appropriate. i do spinning every winter. great training, really pushes me. you'll do fine as long as its not a competitive event and you can ride your own pace. 50-70 miles is not that long if you're on a racing bike. as others said: dont expect it to be too comfortable tho. cycling is an endurance sport, after all. I'd say do some riding too. it's almost summer in the northern half of the world. perfect time for some relaxed riding. if you dont like that, then why even bother going to the event? if you do like it, then youll probably enjoy it more than sweating in some overheated gym class. its also good (pleasant and safe) to be familiar with your bike and riding, cornering etc when you ride in big groups.

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I SPIN 8-12 hours a week in winter- )Pacific Northwet). I make sure I do one or two 2 hour sessions a week. It has been very effective for years. One key is to have imperial information: watts and heart rate to make sure you are getting benefit. Some call for watts = your weight is good target. I add the weight of my bike to that as well. I also did a test for threshold watts that provides me with targets during training. I do not have it on my bike just trainer and spin bike.

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Your weight in what units? Pounds or kilograms? Also, sorry to be picky, but I think you mean "empirical" not "imperial". –  James Bradbury Mar 11 '13 at 9:51

If you don't have much experience on the bike, in a long event, be ready for pain in your hands, wrists, shoulders, back, and bottom. Especially if your bike fit isn't perfect.

I ride 50-100mi per week (mostly road, some mountain), and my first spin class was really hard for me. I think the reverse is true as well; a good spinner may find that actual road riding is more dynamic and challenging.

Try to get as many road rides in as possible.

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