Mental toughness used to be a key component to indoor cycling. (Well, that or a Netflix subscription.) Now, there are training apps aplenty to keep the boredom at bay and motivation strong when you need to ride indoors. And there’s a good option for all cyclists, whether you’re into virtual competitions, structured training regimens or quick solo sweat sessions. (Before you get started, you’ll want breathable apparel and perhaps clip-in shoes, and of course you’ll need some kind of indoor trainer—you’ll be able to take advantage of more app features if you have a smart trainer or power meter).
Read on for our selection of the top indoor cycling apps to help you stay in the saddle all winter long.
Inspiration through gamification? That’s Zwift in a nutshell. With 10 virtual worlds to explore and more than 130 routes to enjoy, users can sprint through the French countryside in peak wildflower season or tackle the “Volcano Climb,” a signature course through lava caves in the fictional Watopia. You can even choose routes designed for mountain and gravel bikes, which are made even more realistic when you add in-game steering (extra gear necessary).
With a global userbase 2.5 million riders strong, the community is another of Zwift’s stand-out elements. Saddle up for a daily group ride or race to join stationary cyclists from across the world, and be sure to dole out a “Ride On” (thumbs-up) kudos when you see fellow riders crushing it in an all-out effort.
If you’re committed to becoming a faster and stronger rider, then you’ll want to check out the planning, training and analysis tools available through TrainerRoad. The app helps you create a customized plan based on your goals and schedule. Plus, you can key in your preferred racing style, whether that’s going big with a gran fondo program, practicing your attack with criterium workouts or preparing yourself for the repeated all-out efforts of cyclocross. Nice feature: You can share video, audio and stats with up to 10 of your friends in a group workout—it’s basically a Zoom call but with more sweat and heavy breathing.
Not sold? Try before you buy with the free podcast and 30-day, money-back guarantee.
Cost: $19.95/month; $189/year
Miss your weekly spin classes with that favorite instructor and that wicked song line-up? Then the Peloton app is for you. Two-thousand-dollar bike not required, the app gives you access to live and on-demand classes, including numerous non-cycling workouts (30-minute hip-hop HIIT or 60-minute yoga flow, to name just a couple) for days you’re feeling saddle sore. Many of the classes are livestreamed, so you can work out with others virtually.
As for the cycling-specific workouts, you do not need a Peloton-brand bike. Though you won’t be visible on the leaderboard that ranks riders, you’ll have access to the same community and virtual high fives as you spin a 10-minute climb or 60-minute endurance ride.
Performance-driven riders will appreciate The Sufferfest’s multifaceted approach to fitness. The app features 11 categories of personalized cycling workouts (climbing, speed building, racing simulation and more), as well as yoga, mental toughness exercises and strength training. Power targets in each of your cycling efforts are specific to your individual “full power profile,” as measured by a proprietary metric that gauges your neuromuscular power, anaerobic power, maximal aerobic power and functional threshold. Other nice touches: Video workouts include footage from professional races (take a tour of the Tour de France) and playful commentary (“Get so ugly you break this screen,” they encourage). Choose a different app if you want to ride with others—no virtual pelotons here.
Cost: $14.99/month; $129/year
Download from the App Store. Not available in Android.
Looking to handpick a fitness plan from a top-level cycling coach or a cycling champion? You’ll want to check out TrainingPeaks, a virtual library of hundreds of indoor-cycling-specific training plans (and thousands of plans for other disciplines, too). Select a track workout, FTP booster and more, then get spinning. Note: TrainingPeaks isn’t an activity tracker, so you’ll want to pair it with a fitness watch or app to see your stats. Its plans generally span from four to 40 weeks long, and most can be automatically uploaded into a separate app like Zwift.
Cost: Free for basic; rates vary for premium subscriptions
Get motivated with this easy-to-follow app that lets you spin without fear of losing internet connectivity (since workouts are available offline). This is a great option if you only use your trainer occasionally or if you’re on a tight budget. The free version offers four workouts (one beginner and three intermediate levels) that mimic a spin class, featuring a warm-up, training session and cool-down. The app, which isn’t smart-trainer compatible, instructs you when to manually change your resistance level, cadence and position. You can watch your avatar cycle through a virtual world, which helps to gamify the experience. Fair warning: The free version has ads.
Cost: Free with in-app purchase; $2.99/1 month or $23.95/year