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Cycling or spin - which is better?

Nothing beats the feeling of riding outdoors, the wind on your face, leaving your cares behind as you free-wheel downhill, the feel of endorphins after you scale up a mountain, or the thrill of 'beast-moding' rough terrain. But, if this is not your jam, or not an achievable option for whatever reason, does an indoor cycle class provide the same physiological benefits?

Calories burned:

If you like to measure your workout success in calories, Harvard Medical School recognises stationary cycling as one of the best calorie-burners out there. It’s no surprise, your calorie exertion will be influenced by the ‘intensity’ of the ride, but apparently it’s also affected by a person’s body weight.

  • For a 57kg individual, stationary biking burns 210 to 315 calories in 30 minutes depending on the intensity of the exercise, and outdoor cycling ranges from 240 to 495 calories burned in 30 minutes based on speed.

  • For a 70kg individual, stationary biking burns 260 to 391 calories, and outdoor cycling ranges from 298 to 614 calories.

  • For an 84kg individual, stationary biking burns 311 to 466, and outdoor cycling ranges from 355 to 733 calories.

The average Tour de France rider burns 124,000 calories during the race, (guardian). Over 21 Stages, this equates to a whopping close to 6000 calories per day!

You can enhance your calorie - exertion at class during the 'work blocks' by increasing Torque (force in a cycle) and increased Cadence (velocity in a cycle) together during sprints/races, and adding more resistance on the dial during climb tracks. Really recovering between the work is important so you can push harder aerobically and yield more muscle endurance.

With the help of an energetic instructor and great technique you can kick-up the burn to 400 - 600 calories in a 30min class, or over 600 calories in a 45min class. And, of course outdoors, but choosing big hill trails, upping the cadence and limiting coasting.


Researchers engaged in a 16-week course of cycling with 12 people cycling indoors and 12 outdoors. They acknowledged there was no difference when it came to weight loss, but found spinning had greater effects on physical fitness, body fat percentage, and body mass index (BMI).

In a spin class the fixed 20kg Body-bike flywheel, pushes you to non-stop pedaling with, phew, no coasting breaks! I've heard someone referring to spin classes as a 'sufferfest,' and this is properly because cycling uses our largest primary muscle-groups, gluteus maximus (bum) and quadriceps muscles to drive pedal power. With non-stop pedaling, these require ALOT of energy to fire-up. Spinning also works core muscles for balance, and hamstrings to slow the pedal-stroke of a fixed flywheel.

If you’re looking for a high-intensity workout without pounding your joints, we suggest spin no more than a few days a week to improve body composition, decrease fat mass, lower blood pressure and cholesterol, and increase heart and lung capacity.


If you have a hectic schedule (and who doesn’t?), time efficient workout options and locality are your best-friend. Cycling offers a free and clean exercise option, and it’s a major privilege in the NZ landscape. But what if traffic, time to find a good route, tune your bike, bad weather, joint issues/injury or a flat tyre hijacks your fitness goals?

Rocking-up to a class is for most of us, a-lot less time-intensive, you can even go into a meditative place, shut-your eyes and zone out (not recommended on the road), and have better control over your work-blocks and safety.

If you’re new to spin, ease into it, because once you’re clipped or strapped in, the flywheel won’t stop. The thumping music and enthusiastic vibe will make you want to push harder, but even if you’re a seasoned athlete, it’s easy to overexert yourself, we recommend 40% effort first class, then peg it up 10% max/class from there. Feel free to moderate your pace and intensity (dial the resistance knob left). It takes at least 8 classes to get used to the feeling of the bike and the technique, yes, and the saddle – broken privates will adapt too, promise!

In summary, both have great health benefits, which leaves what's best up to your own personal needs and preference. Vibing to big beats with your sweaty-bros and betty's at class? Or pushing your limits to changing scenery on the road? Each way you're winning!

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