Top trainers break down the basics of the bike.
Signing up for your first indoor cycling class can be mega intimidating. But big names like SoulCycle and Flywheel have cult followings for a reason: Adrenaline-infused rides filled with feel-good camaraderie and bumpin’ playlists make great low-impact cardio workouts — and provide a major endorphin boost.
Before you get in the saddle (that’s cycling lingo for seat), here’s everything you need to know about tackling your first indoor cycling class.
1. Register online well before your desired class date.
Studios open online booking one to two weeks in advance, which means you need to be on top of your reservations game. Classes can fill up pretty quickly, especially if they are at prime pre- or postwork times for the 9-to-5 crowd. For almost every boutique offering, registration is also the point where you’ll choose which bike you want. “I always recommend that new riders sit where they feel most comfortable!” says Cyc lead cycologist Steph Dietz. “If you can, pick a bike where you have a clear view of the instructor so that you can be sure to easily check in with their form and instruction.” Another pro tip? Look for a bike that’s close to a mirror (often around the perimeter of the room). This will allow you to check your form during class.
2. Most studios have shoes you can borrow.
Most cycling studios offer cycling-specific shoes that clip into the pedals for riders to wear during class. The purpose? Clipping in creates a more efficient pedal stroke, and ultimately a smoother experience. Instead of worrying about your feet spinning out of a plastic cage, you can focus on keeping the right RPM (rotations per minute). Give your local studio a ring or check the website beforehand, and know that while many offer shoes for free (NYC-favorite Swerve, Flywheel, Peloton, Cyc, and Boston’s Recycle Studio), others charge $2 or $3 a pop (Revolve, SoulCycle).
3. You’ll want to wear clothes that are good at wicking sweat (especially on the bottom).
You’re going to work hard, which means you’re going to sweat… a lot. “I usually suggest sweat-wicking leggings or crops, because nobody likes a bike seat all up in their…ahem, space,” Jamey Powell, instructor at Swerve Fitness, tells SELF. “Up top, I lean toward a sports bra with a loose-fitting tank to keep things breezy but supported.”
4. Make sure to arrive at the studio 10 to 15 minutes before class.
Most popular studios have lockers for you to store your stuff, as well as locker rooms for changing and gettting cleaned up before or after class. Getting to the studio early gives you time to get organized, fill your water bottle (you’re going to need it!), and set up your bike before the show gets on the road.
5. The right bike setup is critical for a great ride — and to avoid injury.
“Spin classes are known for being a killer cardio workout that’s easy on your joints — that is, if your bike is set up correctly,” says Powell. “Every body is different, and a lot of bikes are, too.”
So what are we looking for? Make sure your seat is at about waist height and allows for a slight bend in your knee when extending through the pedal stroke. Handlebars should be either level with the seat or slightly higher to prevent any low-back tension, and the distance from your seat to the handlebars should a forearm’s length. “Don’t feel like you need to be bent over, racing the Tour de France,” says Powell.
Still not sure you’ve got the right positioning? You can always ask an instructor or studio staff to give you a hand. Don’t be shy, that’s what they’re there for!
6. There are three different positions that instructors call out during class.…
And they’re simply called position one, two, and three. First position is when you’re in the saddle. Second position is when you stand and ride upright. Third position is a core scorcher, also standing, when you bend forward, maintaining a flat back, and reach out to the front handlebars.
7. Do not freak out if you don’t have rhythm. We repeat: Do NOT freak out.
Cycling class is supposed to be fun. Part of that fun is riding to the beat of an instructor’s jam-packed playlist. Just because you may not have the skills to join Jennifer Lopez on tour as a backup dancer doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy every music-fueled minute of class. “Although it may feel like a challenge the first few rides to find the beat, your body will adjust as you gain strength in new muscles that will help coordinate your body to move to the rhythm,” says Dietz.
Still not getting the hang of it? “Pick a favorite song and simply practice walking on the beat of the music,” suggests Powell. “Once you master the ability to put one foot in front of the other, it’s the same thing on a bike!”
8. No matter how much you love it, you’re going to want to supplement riding with other activity.
Although super strong quads and glutes are pretty rad and high-energy playlists can be addictive, it’s important to mix up your fitness routine to show all your muscles some love. “Incorporating different types of exercise into your routine will help your body recover and balance itself properly from cycling,” says Dietz. It will also help you avoid overuse injuries, which can happen when you work the same muscles over and over again without sufficient recovery time in between. “I definitely recommend including yoga in the mix. It’ll help build strength and balance while stretching your body.”
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