Regular indoor cycling is an effective cardio activity. Doing the same pedalling motion and speed is not enough, though. Still, there are several ways to make exercise bike workouts more challenging.

You can do interval or zone-based training, increase the resistance or cadence, and stretch your exercise time.

Read on to learn how to do these methods with your high-quality exercise bike and make your cycling sessions less monotonous.

Why Make Exercise Bike Workouts More Challenging

You might be asking why you should make your cycling routine harder. Can’t you stick to the same program?

Yes, a workout is better than none at all. Still, working out harder optimises your cycling sessions for maximum and continuous health benefits.

Because when the workout is too easy and familiar, the body adapts, resulting in fitness plateaus.

Keeping your body challenged through tough cycling sessions lets you steer clear of this phenomenon and gain these benefits:

  • It burns more calories within a shorter period.
  • It tones the muscles better.
  • It strengthens your bones.
  • It keeps you focused and motivated.
  • It promotes exercise progression.

How to Make Exercise Bike Workouts Challenging

Doing the same cycling program is suitable for maintenance. However, if you want continuous weight loss and more strength, here are some workout suggestions you can try.

Woman Doing an Intense Cycling Session

1. Switch to Interval Training

High-intensity interval training (HIIT) on an exercise bike means pedalling at moderate and intense paces.

To visualise, imagine yourself pedalling at a comfortable resistance for about 5 minutes to warm up.

Afterwards, crank up the resistance or your cycling speed for 1 minute before shifting to a level slightly higher than your warm-up stage.

Then, repeat a few more times. Cap the workout with a 5-minute cool-down phase, about the same level as your warm-up.

The goal of interval training is to make your heart work hard briefly, pushing your muscles to use more energy and take in more oxygen.

You then follow it up with moderate cycling to help the heart recover in time for another round of intense pedalling.

Interval training is not only challenging for the body. It’s also an effective workout that keeps you concentrated from start to finish.

Finishing such a hard cycling session is greatly rewarding, too. Check out our stationary bike interval training and Tabata training guides to learn more.

2. Increase Your Cycling Workout Duration or Resistance

If you need more stamina for interval training, prepare your body by gradually stretching your exercise time.

For example, if you’ve been doing 30-minute indoor cycling workouts for several weeks, consider adding 10 to 15 minutes more in your sessions.

Smaller time increments like this help the body adjust. Eventually, you’ll increase your endurance enough for more intense exercises.

This article on indoor cycling duration has more tips on scheduling your workouts based on your time availability.

Alternatively, you can also increase your cycling resistance.

For example, try doing your usual cycling program (same distance and time) at a slightly higher bike resistance level.

Doing this should encourage you to pedal harder, boosting endurance and muscle-toning benefits.

Man Adjusting the Exercise Bike for a More Challenging Workout

3. Boost Your Cadence

Cadence is the number of times your knee rises to complete a cycling motion in 1 minute.

Adjusting your revolutions per minute can improve your leg strength, pedal strokes, and cycling speed.

However, boosting your cadence for more challenging exercise bike workouts does not translate to continuously cycling at high speeds.

Similar to interval training, you can do your cadence drills in a gradually increasing or alternating fashion.

For instance, try doing 30-second cycling intervals at 85, 95, and 105 rpm. You can modify this to a 95, 105, and 95 rpm arrangement.

Your exercise bike console should measure and display your cadence for easy monitoring.

4. Consider Heart Rate Zone-Based Training

Cycling within your heart rate zone is another way to make your exercise bike workouts challenging.

To do this, calculate your target heart rate zone. Check out our article on heart rate monitoring during indoor cycling for a step-by-step computation guide.

When done, you can now design a workout that best suits your ideal heart rate zone.

This training type is effective as it gives your cycling program direction.

Rather than cycle aimlessly, the heart rate monitor lets you know how to ride purposefully.

Also, while challenging, heart rate zone training keeps the workout safe and within your fitness capacity.

Here are some zone-based workouts you can try:

  • Tempo workout (84-94% maximum heart rate). This steady and controlled workout type is ideal when transitioning from basic to more intense cycling. It is strenuous without making you feel overly tired, which explains why you can do it for up to 1 hour.
  • Threshold workout (95-105% maximum heart rate). Lactate threshold sessions are good when you have enough stamina and 10-30 minutes to spare for exercise. These shorter workouts are more exhausting, so be ready to feel slightly fatigued.
  • VO2 max workouts (106-120% maximum heart rate). This advanced training type requires significant focus and determination. It’s intense enough to leave you gasping for air within 3-8 minutes. Professional cyclists often do this to improve their sports performance metrics. Regular riders can also try it when ready. Remember to include it only once or twice in your weekly routine.
Woman with Pulse Sensor and Fitness Tracker While Cycling

Final Thoughts

Interval training, adjusting your bike settings, and zone-based cycling are some of the best methods to make exercise bike workouts more challenging.

Most modern bike models will likely have features that let you do more difficult cycling variations.

For instance, you can simulate uphill climbs with incline-equipped machines.

Some exercise bikes work with compatible apps, giving you an extensive library of cycling programs from beginner to advanced.

The key takeaway here is there are plenty of ways to keep your indoor bike rides adventurous and fun.

So, keep on exploring!

FAQs About Making Exercise Bike Workouts More Challenging

1. Should I use an air-resistance bike for tougher workouts?

Assault air bikes are ideal for challenging workouts because of their infinite resistance. The tension from the bike depends on your pedalling speed and effort. In addition, most air bikes have moveable handles similar to an elliptical, which are perfect for a full-body workout.

2. Can beginners also perform high-intensity exercise bike workouts?

Two to three HIIT cycling sessions per week suit beginners. These should help maximise your calorie burn while giving your body enough time to recover. It’s also best to start with short and easy HIIT workouts. Check out our article on beginner-friendly HIIT exercise bike workouts for ideas.