Apple Fitness Plus cycling workouts vs outdoors: Which is better?

Apple Fitness Plus being used by a cyclist
(Image credit: Future / Apple)

Cycling, whether on one of the best exercise bikes for Apple Fitness Plus or hitting the great outdoors, is considered by experts as a great way to get your cardio in. It’s easy on the joints, works your heart, glutes, and leg muscles, and it’s easily accessible for beginners all the way up to experienced fitness enthusiasts. 

Apple Fitness Plus offers a selection of impressive indoor cycling workouts. It’s a great way to get you familiar with the format, but how do Fitness Plus’ cycling offerings compare with the great outdoors? Should you invest in an indoor bike, or go for the real thing? We’ll break down the pros and cons of each below. 

Apple Fitness Plus Cycling Benefits

Apple Fitness Plus Welcome To The Club

(Image credit: Apple)

Apple’s workouts are excellent for beginners. They offer a gentle start with trainer Sherica Holman talking you through the basics of bike setup and getting started on your workouts. From there, Apple’s trainers will take you through workouts ranging from five to 45 minutes, and each one has options to make the ride easier or harder. The trainers will occasionally guide you to up your speed, intensity, and resistance to get a complete workout in a short amount of time. 

This method offers more guidance than riding outside on your own, and the ability to customize your ride. Outside, when you reach a hill, you either go up it or turn back, whereas you can adjust the resistance on your bike to suit your needs. This customization element means Fitness Plus is a fantastic choice for beginner cyclists, but Apple adds new workouts often, so even experienced riders can find a new challenge, using the customization element to make things harder, rather than easier, 

A 45-minute indoor cycling workout takes less time than a steady ride, as most of the workouts follow a high-intensity training principle, which is very effective for burning fat and squeezing maximum calorie burn into a short space of time. At points during the class, you’ll be cycling more intensely than you probably would if you were cycling outdoors, as most people tend to go at steady paces on public roads. 

If you’re using an exercise bike at your local gym, the Apple Fitness Plus subscription probably works out cheaper than buying a road bike, helmet, lock, and all the accessories you need to take up cycling. You’re able to do it in all weathers, too, as you'll be safely indoors. 

Apple Fitness Plus Cycling disadvantages

Apple Fitness Plus Cycle

(Image credit: Apple)

Although the cycling classes are, in many ways, more flexible than an outdoor ride, they’re also more rigid. You’re following along to the instructions on your screen, adjusting your exercise bike based on the prompts given to you, and the class is over after 45 minutes. 

There is the option to “stack” workouts and do multiple sessions, but an outdoor bike offers freedom in more ways than one: you can range as far from your home as you dare, and although you have less guidance in working out, you’re also not confined to the class format. If you don’t have a local gym that has exercise bikes you can use, you’ll need to buy a costly machine (an exercise bike) in order to get started with Apple Fitness Plus’ cycling workouts. 

Then you have to keep paying the Apple subscription on top and plug the bike in to power it. On the other hand, once you’ve got your bike, helmet, and lock, cycling outdoors is completely free after the initial investment (well, until you start getting good and looking at buying a power meter. 

Outdoor Cycling Pros

Top 10 Best Cycling Trackers Hero Source Garmin

(Image credit: Source: Garmin)

Many cyclists commute, using their time traveling to and from work to contribute to their health and travel in for free, and you obviously can’t do this with an indoor cycling workout.  You’re also drinking in sunlight by exercising outdoors, increasing your vitamin D levels (which, coincidentally, science says could make you a better cyclist overall). 

The unexpected element of training outdoors, while less controlled, can help you to push yourself when needed. You’re less likely to go all-out and try to climb a big hill when replicating the intensity of that moment at home, which could encourage you to work harder. One study found cyclists worked, on average, 30% harder when cycling outdoors in comparison to cycling indoors. You have to face wind, cold, heat, and rain on a bike against the elements, and they often come upon you unexpectedly, but they can make you a better rider as a result. 

Cycling can also bring unexpected community benefits. Strava, Zwift, Komoot, and other apps make it easier than ever to meet other riders in your area, but going on low-intensity bike friends with your friends and family to the local coffee shop also suddenly becomes an option, improving your quality of life in ways exercising at home, alone, simply can’t do. 

Outdoor Cycling Cons

Apple Fitness Plus being used by a cyclist

(Image credit: Future / Apple)

We mentioned the elements, and while nothing short of storms can put off some cyclists, rain is unpleasant enough that the casual runner might end up staying home. When you are on wet roads, there is an element of danger and risk, which might not be ideal for beginner riders on public roads. 

Understanding your limits without guidance is another risk: It’s all well as good if you’re trained enough to handle big hills and other obstacles away from home, but beginners might want a more forgiving experience. Every cyclist has had the experience of getting tired while still 10 miles from home and having to drag yourself for 45 minutes back to your starting point.

Many of the benefits of indoor cycling workouts apply here, but in reverse: often, you’ll be cycling outdoors with little guidance and structure, rather than with Apple’s comprehensive, trainer-approved plan. If you’re cycling to get fit, you may want to find a good training plan online - meanwhile, if you’re using Fitness Plus, Apple’s service does all the legwork for you, complete with guided workouts. 

Finally, there’s the aforementioned cost of all the gear: the bike, sure, but the accessories like helmets and locks, inner tubes and a repair kit in case you get a puncture, and time spent maintaining the bike if you use it regularly enough. 


Apple Fitness Plus' cycling workouts are excellent for beginners and those looking for a quick, convenient workout to do on an exercise bike. The HIIT format is great for cramming a big calorie burn into a short space of time, and cycling indoors, while especially convenient if you own a bike, is also cheap to do if you're already a member of a local gym. Keeps you out of the rain, too.

Meanwhile, cycling outdoors can end up more expensive with all the gear you need, but it's more versatile, offering a way to commute to work, exercise outdoors, and go adventuring with friends. The steady-state exercise of outdoor cycling, while not as effective as HIIT in burning fat, is still a fantastic low-intensity workout. 

Of course, you can always try both and see which is right for you. Or, if you have the resources to do so, why choose?

Matt is a freelancer for iMore and TechRadar's expert on all things fitness, wellness and wearable tech. A former staffer at Men's Health, he holds a Master's Degree in journalism from Cardiff and has written for brands like Runner's World, Women's Health, Men's Fitness, LiveScience and Fit&Well on everything fitness tech, exercise, nutrition and mental wellbeing.

Matt's a keen runner, ex-kickboxer, not averse to the odd yoga flow, and insists everyone should stretch every morning. When he’s not training or writing about health and fitness, he can be found reading doorstop-thick fantasy books with lots of fictional maps in them.