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GUIDE: Gym versus outdoor cycling – which is better?

Which is a better workout, an exercise bike in the gym, or an outdoor ride on a proper bike? For us at Ribble, there’s no contest – getting out in the elements on your favourite route beats quite literally going nowhere on a trainer bike every time!

Sure, the weather or darker winter months may force you to cycle indoors, or you could use an indoor trainer for specific interval training, but our preference is nearly always to get outdoors.

Is there any science behind the idea that outdoor cycling is better for you? We’ve taken a look:

Outdoor cycling uses a wider range of muscles

One factor people tend to forget is that when you’re riding a bike on the road, you’re not just using your legs to pump the pedals – you’re also using your whole body to keep the bike balanced, particularly when you’re going fast.

Core muscles like the stomach, back and abdominal muscle groups get a greater workout when you’re keeping a bike balanced, and if you stand, lean or duck while you’re negotiating hills, your shoulders and upper body are taking the strain too.

While you might get some degree of the same workout on a fixed-down exercise bike, you don’t have the same impetus to do so – i.e., keeping yourself upright! So you’re less likely to use as many muscles as you do on the road at the gym.

Riding outdoors pushes you harder

Some argue that you’ll train harder in a gym setting, inspired by the other people around you, than if you were out on the road on your tod – however, at least one study suggests the opposite’s true.

The University of Nebraska at Omaha asked 12 keen cyclists to ride 40km on two separate days: one indoors on a training bike, the other outdoors on flat roads. Although they were asked to put the same amount of effort into both, researchers found they exerted up to 30% more power and worked up higher heart rates on the outdoor ride.

It’s unclear why this is – maybe riding outdoors, with the scenery rolling by, cycling harder doesn’t feel like as much work as it does in the gym, where you’re more focused on your energy levels. Either way, it’s another point in favour of the great outdoors.

You’ll feel the benefit in cold weather

Most gyms maintain the same air-conditioned temperature all year round, but Mother Nature isn’t quite so forgiving. But do you actually burn more calories in cold weather training?

There’s no clear consensus on this. We know the basal metabolic rate (the calories you burn while doing nothing) increases slightly in the cold, but this is hardly likely to make a noticeable difference. It’s also thought that people have more “beige fat” (which burns more easily) in the winter months than in summer.

However, researcher and endurance athlete Michael Joyner MD says cold conditions help your body regulate its temperature better, enabling you to exercise longer and harder than you would otherwise. So while the cold might not do the work for you, it can help you push yourself further.

Finally, it seems intuitive that exercising in the freezing cold outdoors helps develop greater resilience and mental toughness than pedalling away in a climate-controlled gym… but we might be biased.

Best bikes for your improved workout

So hopefully we’ve made our case for why you should ditch the gym membership and get out on the open road for your daily workout or commute to work. With that in mind, here are some of Ribble’s recommended bikes for fitness training and getting out there out on the road:


Ribble Evo Pro carbon road bike

The Ribble Evo Pro (pictured above) is our popular entry-level carbon sportive road bike. This model has often been a first step into the world of cycling or maybe a cyclist’s first experience of the lightweight responsiveness of a carbon bike so we have acknowledged that by increasing the head tube for a more upright and comfortable position. The Evo Pro is the perfect weekend bike but could also be used for fast commuting and riding sportives and challenge rides.

Ribble CGR bike

The Ribble CGR is a light yet robust 7005 aluminium bike with disc brakes and clearance to take 35mm tyres. The key to to the CGR (above) is it’s versatility as a road commuter and all-round bike capable of everything from winter riding to summer trips along the towpath. This cleverly designed frame could easily become the key do-it-all bike that you are looking for.

Ribble 7005 Winter Audax bike

This is a design classic we’re rightly proud of. The Ribble 7005 Winter Audax (above) is the bike that thousands of UK club racers turn to for their training sessions. With a 7005 aluminium frame and carbon bladed fork, together with mudguard and rear pannier mounts, it’s also a popular choice with commuters and tourers.

 

GUIDE: The Crossing – A Multi-day Fuelling Plan

When taking on multistage events, your nutrition and fuelling plan becomes even more important. For a one day event you may be able to just ‘wing it’ but when riding back to back, a bad day on the nutrition front can seriously catch up with you the next day. When taking on such a challenging event, preparation is key.

Studying the event information is always a must before getting to start line. The Crossing, for instance, is three days of off-road fun. The days are long and lumpy and to be able to keep going, paying attention to your nutrition before, during and after is going to be very important if you want to see the finish line in Scarborough and get that well-earned ice cream

To get the best understanding of the diet needed to succeed, Ribble Cycles spoke to Annie Simpson, an expert nutritionist from OTE Sports, to find out what is needed to take on this feat.

Before the event

Your start each day can take place from 7am. Nutritionist Annie Simpson would strongly advise not skipping breakfast despite the early start. Having a meal three hours before you start exercising is the ideal, but in this case it just won’t be practical. Annie advises having breakfast at 6am at the latest as this will allow it time to settle before you set off. Something like a big bowl of porridge is ideal as it is high in slow release carbohydrates to fuel the first part of your day.

1

Fuelling during the event

Each day on The Crossing you will have one pit stop during the day to top up those energy supplies.

Simpson explains that there will be a whole host of snacks and drinks on offer, but having extra food with you is going to be important too. “Did you know that when cycling our body tends to use our carbohydrate supplies, especially when the going is tough. The only problem with this is out supplies are limited, so if we want to be able to keep to a good pace and not ‘hit the wall’ we need to make sure we keep replenishing these carbohydrates stores.”

“How you do this is up to you. Whether it is a banana, an OTE Anytime Flapjack Bar or an OTE Energy Drink, it doesn’t matter. Just as long as you are giving your body the energy it needs” she adds.

Annie confirms that you need to take on board 60g of carbohydrates per hour of moderate to intense riding. Here are Annie’s ideas of what 60g of carbohydrates could look like:

“Work out how long you expect to be riding for and make sure you are carrying the means to get through this or at least have some money to stop and refuel with. Remember you will have your Pit Stop to help and there are also unmanned water stations along the way to top-up your bottle.”

Annie stresses the importance of not neglecting hydration. “Did you know: As little as a 2% loss in body weight through sweating has been shown to reduce performance, so don’t compromise your training by forgetting to drink.

“Approximately 500ml per hour should be sufficient or try and stay just ahead of the feeling of thirst. Using products such as OTE energy drink makes for a much more palatable, lighter on the stomach and enjoyable drink, whilst providing carbohydrates and electrolytes too. Dehydration can not only lead to loss of performance but concentration too, and for 3 days of off road riding, concentration is going to be important for riding safe.”

After the event

Simpson stresses that when riding back to back days, nutrition for recovery or re-fuelling is very important.

“As soon as you finish riding each day, don’t switch off, think recovery! Within 30 minutes of finishing exercising the best way to kick start recovery is to consume a recovery drink. This supplies protein to help with muscle soreness, carbohydrates to replenish the fuel stores you have used and fluid to help you get back on top of hydration. Then resume your usual meal pattern as soon as possible. Each meal needs to be high in carbohydrate (aim for around 50% of your plate) and have a portion of protein if you really want to maximise your recovery.”

Annie continues: “Try having a high protein snack before you go to bed, something like an OTE Protein Bar would be great. This can help with reducing muscle soreness overnight and getting you ready for the next day.

“Then it is just a case of repeating this for three days, until you reach the finish line. Start your preparation and planning now to make sure you get the most out of yourself during The Crossing.”

Good luck in your next challenge!

Team Astana and Limar at the Giro d’Italia

Limar provide helmets to the Astana professional cycling team who during May competed in the 100th edition of the Giro d’Italia. The team use Limar Ultralight+ helmets and also have the option of 007 Superlight Aero helmets (below) for time trial stages. Feedback from the world’s top cyclists help Limar develop and improve their innovative helmets.

Stage ten of the Giro was the first of two individual time trials and Astana’s Luis Leon Sanchez impressed taking fourth place wearing the 007 Superlight Aero which helped him average 46kph (28.59 mph) for the 40km stage.

The eventful queen stage of the Giro was stage 16 (Rovetta to Bormio) featuring a double ascent of the Stelvio. Early in the stage the famous Passo del Mortirolo had been named as the “Cima Scarponi” and it was Sanchez who crossed the summit first and moved into second place in the King of the Mountains classification.

Respecting Scarponi

Team Astana’s Giro d’Italia was tinged with sadness after the team tragically lost their colourful road captain Michele Scarponi, who was set to lead the team, in a road traffic accident two weeks before the tour started. Astana raced with eight riders and as a mark of respect to Scarponi, they did not name a ninth rider replacement for him.

After winning the “Cima Scarponi”, Luis Leon Sanchez said, “I’m honored to receive this special prize in honour of a team mate, a friend and a great person. I took to the podium but I think it is well deserved by the entire team. Each one of us gave 100% and more to honour Michele.”

The Astana team fought hard throughout the three-week Giro to honour Michele Scarponi and for the young, promising Kazakh rider Zhandos Bizhigitov, in his first Grand Tour, it was extremely hard.

Zhandos finished the queen stage a long time after the winner having raced for over 7 hours: “I’m destroyed, really, really tired!” said the Kazakh. “At the moment I’m just focused on rest and recovery, but it has been an important experience for my future. I’m happy that Luis Leon was able to win the award on the Scarponi climb, it is a very good thing for our team,” he concluded.

Sanchez was perhaps Astana’s stand out rider in the Giro – alongside Dario Cataldo – and for much of the three-week race he was in second place in the Mountains classification, but unfortunately couldn’t catch Sky’s Mikel Landa.

Countdown to the Tour de France

Astana, led by Oscar Gatto, also joined Limar’s other professional team Direct Energie racing at the Tour of Belgium. Direct Energie’s Bryan Coquard won the opening stage sprint wearing an Ultralight+ helmet (below) whilst Sylvain Chavanel narrowly missed out on winning the individual time trial using the 007 Superlight Aero helmet.

Both teams now start their final preparation races ahead of the Tour de France in July. Astana are hoping that their Grand Tour leader Fabio Aru is fully recovered from the injury, which prevented him from racing the Giro, and he can challenge for the top honours in Le Tour alongside team mate Jakob Fuglsang. The countdown begins!

Best Bikes and Routes for a Family Cycling Holiday

Family cycling holidays are a fantastic way to spend some time together in the great outdoors on two wheels.

With the warm weather approaching, we’ve put together some recommendations to help each member of the family get the right bike for them – as well as some of the best cycling routes in the UK to try them out on.

For Mum – Ribble Sportiva Carbon Disc

When you’re planning to ride long distances, comfort is paramount – and that’s why we recommend the Sportiva Carbon Disc. Lightweight but strong, with a carbon fibre bladed fork to reduce road buzz, it’s built with female-specific geometry in mind to ensure it places as little strain on your body as possible.

A short wheelbase and top tube makes the Sportiva Carbon Disc responsive and easy to control, while flat mount disc brakes makes quick stops easier than ever. The bike that Total Women’s Cycling loved is more than up to the challenge of a family holiday!

For Dad – Ribble CX5

The Ribble CX5 is a bike for all surfaces, making it ideal for long-distance cycling holidays with the family. From solid asphalt to bumpy mud tracks, it’s built to comfortably absorb shocks from a variety of surfaces so you can keep going for longer. 12mm Thru axles front and rear lend a stiffer feel with tighter control.

While designed as a cyclocross bike, you don’t need to be a competitive racer to enjoy the CX5 – it’s a versatile and practical enough to shine during gentle rides with the family, or just the daily commute to work too.

For teenagers – Ribble CGR

CGR stands for Cross, Gravel and Road, and that kind of versatility is ideal for the teen in your family – who’ll probably want to use it for much more than a family holiday! The CGR is built on a lightweight aluminium frame, with a carbon forks for a comfortable ride, while powerful disc brakes mean safe stopping is always at hand.

With full coverage mudguards ready-fitted, it’s also ideal for keeping teens (mostly) safe from dirt even if they venture off-road. A great, affordable all-rounder, the CGR is a great way to introduce younger family members to the difference a good bike can make.

Best cycling routes for a family holiday

When planning a family cycling holiday, it’s important to choose routes that match the fitness and ability levels of everybody. You probably want to avoid road traffic as much as possible, and unless you’re all experienced and confident cyclists, try to keep hills and challenging stretches to a minimum.

We’ve highlighted a few of our favourite family-friendly routes in the UK below – but do a bit of digging and you’ll find many more!

Camel Trail, Cornwall

This 18-mile trail is great for all ages, with beautiful scenery and plenty of stops for a pub lunch or a picnic. Running along a disused railway line from Padstow to Wenford Bridge, the route is light on traffic and mostly level, making it perfect for families with younger kids.

Along the way you’ll pass two protected areas, offering an opportunity for a bit of wildlife spotting, as well as shaded woodland stretches and the edge of Bodmin Moor.

Manifold Way, Staffordshire

Offering spectacular views of a limestone gorge in the Staffordshire Peak District, this sheltered nine-mile track is mostly level tarmac all the way. The track runs from the sleepy hamlet of Hulme End to Waterhouses. Apart from a 1.5-mile stretch along a B-road, it’s mostly traffic-free.

The route passes by Thor’s Cave, a natural cavern set high up in a limestone crag, as well as an ancient Bronze Age mine and a spooky railway tunnel – great for kids with a taste for adventure!

Hadrian’s Cycleway, Cumbria

A much longer route for more experienced cyclists, Hadrian’s Cycleway (aka Route 72) is still very family-friendly, although caution is advised on the occasional stretches of road. The coast-to-coast route is 174 miles long and can be completed in three days at a good pace, or four or five if you’re taking it easy and seeing the many sights along the way.

As well as the famous Hadrian’s Wall that the route follows, other attractions include Carlisle Castle, Newcastle’s Black Keep, the Bath House at Glannaventa and Lanacost Priory.

Three Parks Trail, South Wales

This trail is 13 miles long, but forms part of the much longer Celtic Trail so it can easily be extended. Completely traffic-free, mostly level and passing through three gorgeous country parks, it’s ideal for families with younger kids or older family members who prefer a gentler, more scenic ride.

The trail begins at Sirhowy Valley Country Park, passing over the mighty Hengoed Viaduct and on through Parc Penallta, where the High Point Observatory offers great views over Caerphilly. It finishes at Taff Bargoed Summit Centre.

Bike to work, get fitter and make a difference with Strava

Now that more summery weather is here there are definitely a few more bikes parked in the Ribble bike shed every morning. Do you cycle to work? If you’ve not contemplated cycling to work it really is a great way to start the day, improve your fitness or maintain some base training miles. You can even see how your fitness is progressing if you record and upload your ride to a social website like Strava to compare your riding with friends.

Tips for your cycle to work

  • Research your route beforehand as the shortest distance is not always the fastest or most pleasant. You can plan routes in the Strava Route Builder (above) or websites like Garmin Connect, Ride with GPS or Plotaroute and route profiles will tell you how climbing there is.
  • Consider having a dedicated commuting bike which you can equip for daily duties. It saves wear and tear on your best bike and you can fit mudguards and lights.
  • Variety makes your commute more interesting so try a few different route variations. Ask any cycling colleagues for route advice as they may know some great, less obvious roads or cut-throughs.

Join us on Strava Global Bike to Work Day

Why not join us in making our cycle commutes count on Thursday 11th May by joining the Strava Global Bike to Work Day. Not only will we all be offsetting tons of greenhouse emissions by being pedal powered but our (anonymous) commuting data will be shared with planners worldwide to help improve cycling infrastructure.

All you need to do is make and record a point-to-point cycle journey during Thursday and upload it to Strava as a commute. You will be part of a global event and contribute to a better cycling future.

Here’s how to play your part and join the Strava community

The hashtag #CommutesCount can also be used on other social media channels in support of a better future for cycling. The challenge is already set to beat the 79,879 worldwide participants in 2016 so make your ride count.

How do you compare?

Strava Insights for the UK show that during 2016 an average of 223,376 bike commutes were uploaded to Strava every week, with cyclists logging an average distance of 13.5km (8.39 miles) and an average of 35 minutes in the saddle.

Bikes for commuting

If you’re looking to do more commuting by bike the highlight of our urban bikes is the popular, new commuting bike the CGR.

Versatility and practicality are at the core of the cleverly designed CGR – this is a bike that will not sit idle for very long. With the advantage of disc brakes, a carbon fork, mudguard mounts and pannier carrying capability this bike just ticks so many boxes.

The all-round practicality of the CGR does not prevent it from being a nimble and enjoyable ride and as the bike’s designer says: “We wanted a bike that was comfortable enough to ride every day, efficient enough to ride all day and even agile enough to take off road.”

EXPLORE THE CGR HERE