The Best Indoor Cycling Apps: Which is the Right One for You? – Sports Illustrated
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The best indoor cycling apps can help you get fitter and faster, whether your goal is to maintain your training until you can get back on your outdoor bike or to make heart-pumping cardio routines a regular at-home habit. Even better: Today’s apps, thanks to terrain simulations and hyper-realistic video content, can make riding indoors feel more engaging—and more like cycling outside—than ever before. And the more engaged you are, the more motivated you’ll be to a) stick with your habit and b) push yourself to new levels.
Whether you prefer exploring real-world routes, joining virtual races or a boutique studio-style riding experience, there’s an app for you. With that in mind, we’ve rounded up the best indoor cycling apps you can download right now. Find out who each one is best suited for, how each one can help you maximize your performance—no matter your goals—and what to consider before subscribing.
Our top pick for best indoor cycling app overall is also one of the most comprehensive personal training and fitness apps currently on the market. And it offers so much more than indoor cycling workout programs. Future connects its members one-on-one access to their own personal trainer who will create a custom workout plan designed to help them reach their fitness goals.
If you want to build a fitness plan around specific goals—such as improving your endurance while cycling—your Future coach can help with that. If you want to add other types of workouts to your cycling training, just let your coach know and they can set you up with a regimen that will help keep you conditioned even when you’re out of the saddle. What makes Future so incredible is that the app is fully designed around your needs, goals and schedule. Travel frequently? Your Future coach can arrange workouts on-the-go and even call your hotel to see what type of stationary bikes and other fitness gear they have on hand. This way, your coach can build your weekly workout routine based on what equipment is available.
If you want a fully customized experience, access to a certified top tier trainer and the option to adapt your fitness routine to sync with your schedule, signing up for Future may be the perfect fit for you.
SunnyFit is a great entry-level app for anyone who’s new to indoor cycling. This free app grants access to 500-plus workouts—and not just on the bike, but for strength, cardio, running, stretching and more, too. During classes, the app tracks real-time metrics like distance, time calories and average heart rate (and you can connect it to the Sunny Bike Cadence sensor for more workout data); it also pits you against the SunnyFit community on the leaderboard if you thrive on competition while riding. You can also create customized training plans to focus on specific goals like distance traveled or calories burned per session, or let the AI Recommendation tool recommend workouts after you fill out a questionnaire. If you’re the kind of rider who prefers to do your own thing without an instructor cheering you on, choose to ride along with thousands of videos filmed all over the world and explore gravel roads shaded by leafy trees or snowy alpine routes.
iFIT covers the whole spectrum of indoor training. Ride through charming European villages with real-time coaching from a trainer in your ear; join studio-style classes with infectious playlists; follow a progressive program (like cycling for beginners) that helps you build up to an end goal; participate in monthly fitness challenges where you can win rewards; or create your own custom routes via Google Maps complete with Street View images. The best part: If you are using a NordicTrack bike, iFIT trainers can make real-time, automatic incline and resistance adjustments to your machine to push you further than you might push yourself or simulate the terrain you’re virtually riding on—you don’t even have to think about it, all you have to do it keep up. But even without an iFIT-enabled bike, you still get unlimited access to workouts (on and off the bike) plus holistic health options like mindfulness practice, sleep improvement sessions, cooking classes and nutritious recipes.
The Echelon Fit app delivers 40-plus live daily workouts, with thousands making up its on-demand library. And you can choose to ride along with 19 different instructors, like Susanna Barrett, who teaches from the UK studio; Manny Lopez, who is originally from Ecuador; and Dani Dellarco from Miami (there are 30-plus total instructors for additional classes in rowing, running, and functional training). During classes, the interactive Leaderboard shows who you’re sweating with and how your performance ranks compared to riders. For even more of a global experience, try a scenic ride through the streets of Rome, the rolling hills of Spain, or the jungles of Hawaii. If that’s totally not your thing, pedal along to your favorite Netflix, Hulu and Disney+ shows. Of course, you’re going to get more out of the app if you pair it with any Echelon connected fitness equipment, but you can ride along to any of the classes on your own bike, too.
The Sole Studio app is packed with thousands of boutique-style workouts—ranging from 10 minutes to 60 minutes—designed for their affordable cardio equipment, including indoor bikes. With Bluetooth-enabled SOLE equipment, you’re going to get real-time metrics (including speed, incline, revolutions per minute and power) displayed on the community-driven leader board to motivate you to compete against other riders who’ve already done the class; your position is determined by your heart rate, which is pulled from any compatible heart rate monitor, including an Apple Watch. Even without the connected data, you can try new classes added every day or join dozens of programs to stay motivated, and multiple reviewers have called out the great music selection curated by over a dozen trainers. You’ll also earn FITCOIN during every workout that can be redeemed for prizes, offers and rewards—and the harder you work, the more you’ll earn.
Zwift gamified the indoor riding experience, bringing cyclists into 11 different virtual worlds for live and on-demand group rides and races. It’s pretty simple: The harder you pedal on your indoor trainer, the faster your avatar rides around a virtual course. Zwift requires a compatible smart trainer or smart bike, and automatically connects to those devices using Bluetooth or ANT+ to simulate in-game terrain and adjust the resistance during power-based workouts designed by world-renowned coaches. It’s not just the immersive gaming experience that makes it so much more exciting than staring at your wall while you ride, it’s the global community—and the fact that you can ride with friends from all over the world—that will keep you motivated. More serious cyclists can choose from a number of training plans (including those for specific events, like a century ride) or sync Zwift with the coaching platform TrainingPeaks so your scheduled workouts will show up on the app.
Strava is one of the most ubiquitous fitness apps, not just because it tracks over 30 activities, but because all you have to do is connect your tracker (or cycling computer) and it will aggregate your training data—think: route data, distance and elevation, speed, calories and power and heart rate (with additional sensors). With the subscription, though, you can dig into more advanced performance metrics and see how your fitness is building over time; match rides on the same route so you can see how your performance changes; and plan your own routes or get suggested routes based on past activities from other athletes. There’s also a supportive team environment on Strava, with users being able to “kudos” each other on their activities, join a club (it could be a local group or a group of cyclists training for an event together) and participate in challenges with rewards for discounts from your favorite cycling brands.
TrainerRoad takes all the guesswork out of training. Complete a recommended workout, and the app’s artificial intelligence analyzes your performance just like a coach would (the app was actually designed by a cycling coach with nearly three decades of experience). Then, the app quantifies your current cycling fitness across seven metrics to recommend the right workouts that will make you faster over time without pushing you past your limits. Basically, if you absolutely crush a workout, the app will recommend a tougher one; if you struggle on a ride, your next suggested workout will be slightly easier. There are over 1,000 different workouts on the app, and 100-plus training plans for all types of cycling, whether you’re intro cyclocross, triathlons, crits or more. The interactive training calendar even automatically adjusts when you miss a workout because, well, life happens. PS: You can stream Netflix, Spotify, YouTube and more while riding to help pass the time.
Wahoo X is actually a two-for-one deal that gives you access to two virtual training platforms. Wahoo X SYSTM offers immersive training rides in along iconic cycling routes (led by expert guides), pro rides that put you in the middle of a peloton experience, and studio-style classes led by Global Cycling Network presenters; plus, it uses a fitness test to assess your abilities and tailors your workouts and training plan to help you optimize your training so you can make more gains in less time. You can customize training plans based on your goals and fitness level, too. Wahoo X RGT, on the other hand, lets you create and schedule group rides and races (or solo explorations) along realistic routes, and uses an advanced engine to simulate drafting, braking and cornering. If you have a favorite route, you can also upload your own GPX file to create a virtual version you can ride along to in the app.
Peloton revolutionized at-home cycling, turning any room into a boutique studio riding experience. But you don’t need the Peloton Bike or Bike+ to access thousands of live and on-demand classes—which you can filter by length, instructor, difficulty and music genre—that you can stream on your phone, tablet, or smart TV. (If you do have a Bike or Tread, access to the app is included in your All-Access Membership; separately, the Horizon IC7.9 Indoor Cycle also works with the Peloton app). With the app subscription, you can take unlimited classes, track basic metrics (with a compatible smart watch), and join live group workouts. The community aspect of the Peloton aspect is huge, with trainers reaching cult-like status and live classes drawing tens of thousands of riders in real time. Plus, you’ll get access to off-bike classes for strength training, yoga, stretching and more—all of which will help you maximize your performance in the saddle.
Choosing the best indoor cycling app is going to depend almost entirely on two factors: what equipment you have access to and what type of indoor riding experience you’re interested in. If you already have an indoor bike that has a partner app, you’ll likely be best served by subscribing to that particular app, because it will provide the most cohesive riding experience. Otherwise, your choice will come down to personal preference: Are you more interested in trainer-led studio-style classes or do you want adaptive training generated by artificial intelligence that acts as a coach? Do you want to zone out to videos of beautiful destinations, or would you rather stream your favorite show while riding? Do you want a live community environment, or do you prefer riding solo? Different apps cater to different needs, so figure out what elements are most important to you and narrow down from there.
We chose these indoor cycling apps because they are either the most popular apps among indoor cyclists, appeal to cyclists of all levels or work with the most popular indoor cycling bikes.
Of the apps listed here, Strava is generally considered the most accurate because it is compatible with practically every device that records GPS. Of course, the accuracy of the app will depend on the accuracy of your device.
All of these apps track a number of cycling metrics. For example, Peloton tracks power, cadence and resistance; and Sole Studio tracks speed, incline, revolutions per minute and power. Zwift tracks FTP, or Functional Threshold Power, the wattage you can stay below and sustain for longer durations, while Wahoo X tracks 4-Dimensional Power via four key performance metrics: Neuromuscular Power, Maximal Aerobic Power, Functional Threshold Power and Anaerobic Capacity. Several of these bikes also sync with heart rate monitors for additional data. If you have a piece of equipment that syncs to an app, you’ll get access to even more data.
Whether you’re riding at home or at the gym, there are countless apps that can make indoor cycling more entertaining. Anyone who missed in-person studio workouts can join virtual trainer-led classes; cyclists preparing for events can maximize their fitness with adaptive training; and anyone craving the outdoors can simulate real terrain with smart features. The key is deciding what aspects of indoor cycling are most important to you, and choosing the app that best fits your needs. There’s one for every budget and every style—and no matter which one you choose, you’re going to get a great workout.
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Ashley Mateo is an award-winning journalist and editor whose writing has appeared in outlets including The Wall Street Journal, TIME, Runner’s World, Women’s Running, Men’s Journal, Health, Women’s Health, Bicycling, and more. She is also an RRCA- and UESCA-certified running coach based in Denver.This author is writing sponsored content paid for by Pillar4 and not affiliated with Sports Illustrated.