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Indoor Cycling 101

Learn the basics of indoor cycling.

Stationary bicycles have been around for a long time, but indoor cycling has exploded in popularity in recent years. There are spin classes, cycling studios, fancy indoor bicycles, and more.

Wonder if it’s time to hop on a bike in the great indoors? Here are the basics to help you decide.

Why Indoor Cycling?

Whether at home or at the gym, a stationary bike provides an effective cardio workout that targets your lower body. It’s also low-impact, making it an ideal exercise for those with joint problems. But if you’re looking for extra motivation, guidance, and excitement, you’re not left out. It’s easy to push yourself to get a good workout no matter your fitness level.

Whether working on your own or with the guidance of a trained instructor, you’ll climb hills, perform interval training, and more. All from the comfort of a roofed, walled building. That’s one of the major perks of indoor cycling. It’s possible and safe no matter what the weather is like outdoors. And there are no traffic lights or pedestrians in your way to slow you down. That means you can push yourself as hard as you want without worrying about external factors.

Helpful Hints

If joining a spin class, come prepared. Dress in cool, comfortable workout clothes. Go with those made with moisture-wicking fabric in case you sweat a lot. Bike shorts may be helpful if you’re prone to chafing. Athletic shoes are fine, but seasoned cyclists may prefer special spinning shoes that clip to the pedals. (Yes, these are available for stationary bikes as well.) Be sure to bring a water bottle. And don’t forget to bring a small towel to wipe away sweat.

Plan to arrive a few minutes early to find a spot and adjust your bike to the right settings. Your seat and handlebars should be in the right position for your height. The seat should be at hip level when standing next to it, and the handlebards should be slightly above your seat. Adjust the pedals so your knee is only slightly bent when your leg is fully extended. Move the seat forward or backward so your elbows are slightly bent and your shoulders relaxed when holding the handlebars. Ask your instructor for help adjusting your bike if needed.

Hand Positions

There are three basic ways to hold the handlebars. Your instructor may tell you to change hand positions during the class.

For position one, your hands are on the handlebars, directly in front of you, and close together.

Position two may be the most natural way to hold the handlebars. Place your hands as if you were riding a regular bike, on the front of the handlebars with your hands spaced apart.

For position three, place your hands on top of the handles so your thumbs are over the ends of the handlebars.

The Lingo

During an indoor cycling class, you’ll likely hear a lot of instructions. To do a standing flat or run, place your hands in position two and stand on the pedals while keeping your feet flat. Ride the bike as if running.

For a seated climb, put your hands in positions one or two. The resistance will increase as if you’re riding uphill. Drop your heels down toward the floor as you pedal.

The standing climb is also high resistance. But for this one, your hands will be in position three, and you’ll lift off the seat.

If you’re told to jump, transition between a seated and standing position.