I get this question all the time, and as I have a wee break between sessions today, perhaps it is a good time to jump in and offer some detail.
The question is what is the difference between spinning and training with the CompuTrainer?
It is a good question. I think it is important to determine what your goals are before selecting the indoor cycling format that best meets your needs and aspirations. After that it is pretty much a matter of preference.
Spin Classes are conducted in a group, across the fitness spectrum, choreographed to music with the explicit goal to get in a workout through the incendiary consumption of calories in aerobic zones as gauged by rate of perceived exertion. Class instructors can vary as much as checkers at the supermarket. It is often considered a sign of success if there lies a pool of sweat beneath the spin bike post session. Many times the music is too loud, the bikes in need of repair and the instructor on thin emotional ice. You take your chances and hope for the best. More ride than train.
CompuTrainer is an electronic cycle ergometer that allows you to use the precise fit and special geometry of your bike to train with power. The CT measures all data that you produce. The CT is the polar extreme of RPE, as all data is accurately measured in real time as your perform. One does not need the motivation of a snarling drill sergeant to produce enough wattage to climb a 7% grade. You either do or you don't. As a result of this advanced technology, accurate and valuable data can be measured and managed to effectively create a fitter and faster cyclist, in the shortest amount of time. More train than ride.
Here is the cheat sheet:
Spin Class Pros:
Anyone can spin regardless of skill level.
Great social interaction and motivation (accountability)
Usually fairly economical.
No bike, gear, expensive equipment necessary.
There are some outstanding spin instructors out there.
Better than watching Leave it to Beaver reruns.
Spin Class Cons:
Bikes are always a challenge for proper fit and optimum operation condition.
Fixed hours aren't always at ideal times of day.
RPE is, well, your perception of the work, extremely unscientific.
There are some very poor instructors out there.
If any data at all, it is inaccurate, misleading and inconsistent.
The music can seriously suck.
Will make you faster.
Using your bike, fitted and race/ride specific.
Data is accurate, real time, peak and average.
Data is stored for later reference and to set training values.
Maximum use of your training time.
Removes the RPE in favor of wattage.
Coach, or self, replaces instructor.
Also available in Multi-Rider format, adding race and social applications.
Start-up costs. $1,600, plus computer, big screen, dedicated bike, home space.
Accountability is solely on you.
Please allow me to executive summarize for you.
If you are looking for a fun, group oriented, easy to use, socially engaging indoor cycling work-out primarily for weight control and or quality of life issues, by all means find a spin class near you and check it out. Most gyms these days offer some type of studio cycling, call and ask. Ride and burn. Here is ours.
If you are already an experienced cyclist looking to enhance your skill set trough the use of power, have time constraints, are targeting a specific event or want to add speed, strength and endurance to your profile, use a CompuTrainer. Train and Race.
If you want to do all of the above in a group setting, riding, racing, testing and training find a CompuTrainer Multi-Rider Center near you and get stared. Here is the Domestic and International listing from RacerMate and here is what we offer at the BAC.
Hope that helped muddy the water. If you need additional information or have questions. comments or suggestions, I am glad to assist.
For the record I agree with everything coach Tony D'Amato (Al Pacino) says in his famous "Inch by Inch" speech from Any Given Sunday. You can get motivation from a coach or instructor, or from power and humility.
For the record, I do both.
Pix: Tony (Al) delivers his motivational address to the troops. Bernie shows his dedication on the CompuTrainer training solo as the spin bikes sit idle.