ABCs of Indoor Cycling

ABCs of Indoor Cycling

Common Terms and Phrases to Feel Like an Expert at Your First Class      

Trying out indoor cycling for the first time can be intimidating! With lots of new equipment and unfamiliar words and phrases, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed or out of place during your first class. But don’t let this stop you from experiencing the energy and excitement of pushing yourself to the limit and feeling the success of a challenging workout.

Start by asking your indoor cycling instructor to help familiarize yourself with the bike and how to set it up. Also, don’t hesitate to ask questions throughout the class if you don’t understand something that’s been said, we’ve all been there.

Shimano SH-IC501 Indoor cycling shoes

Here’s a quick cheat sheet of some of the terms you might hear during a class or session. There is a great deal of variation between studios and teachers so make sure you’re following the form and instructions of your specific class. Most of all, have fun!

Operating Your Bike

Resistance: Indoor bikes typically have a knob that adjusts the pressure on the wheel, making it harder or easier to pedal. You’ll twist this knob often during the class to create different levels of resistance or different effort levels. Listen to the instructor and they’ll call out how hard or easy to ride throughout the class.

adjusting the resistance on an indoor cycling bike

Gear: The same knob that changes resistance can also be called a gear. Turning the knob to the right will make pedaling harder, turning the knob to the left will make pedaling easier.

Brake: The knob that rotates for resistance can also stops the wheel from spinning, providing a brake so you can safely stop riding. Push down or pull up on the knob to slow the wheel and allow the bike’s pedals – and your feet – to stop spinning.


Riding Technique and Styles

Cadence: Cadence is how fast the pedals, and your feet are spinning, and is typically measured in rotations per minute (rpm). In an indoor cycling class, you can expect to pedal anywhere from 40 to 150+ rotations per minute.

Power: This is the calculated measurement of how hard you are pushing on the pedals and is based on your cadence and level of resistance.

Climbing: On an indoor bike, climbing means adding resistance to mimic pushing hard up a hill outdoors.

shimano indoor cycling RC100

Sprinting: A combination of high cadence and high resistance, typically a short and challenging burst.


Body Position

Seated Flat: Staying seated on your bike, keep resistance relatively low and cadence generally between 60 and 80 rpm

Standing Flat: Lift off the saddle, maintaining a flat back and engaged core, keep resistance relatively low and cadence remains between 60 and 80 rpm

Seated Climb: Staying seated on your bike, add resistance for various levels of difficulty on the climb, keep cadence between 60 and 80 rpm.

Standing Climb: Lift off the saddle, add resistance and pedal hard, keeping cadence between 60 and 80 rpm.

Jumps: Start sitting on the seat, then move your body to hover over the seat, return to a seated position, then continue lifting and lowering.

Tap Back: With a flat back, move your body forward and back, just brushing the seat as you move backwards without fully sitting down.


Hand Position

First Position: Hands are directly in front of you on the handlebar and are close together in the middle of the bars.

Second Position: Hands are placed in front of you but out on the wider part of the handlebar.

Third Position: Hands are at the top of the handlebars, farther forward with palms facing in. This position is often used for the more challenging parts of your session.

Spin class with shimano ndoor cycling

Bike Components and Gear

Shimano Indoor Cycling SH-XC300 spin shoes

Saddle: A saddle is another name for the seat of a bike. You can expect to sit on the seat as well as hover your body above the seat during an indoor class.

Cycling Shoes or Clip-Ins: Some indoor bikes require specific shoes that clip into the pedals. These pedals keep your feet secure and allow you to pedal harder by pushing down as well as pulling back up. Often, you can rent these shoes at an indoor studio or use your tennis shoes if you prefer.

Shimano Indoor Cycling SH-XC100 spin shoes

Sweat towel: Bring a small towel to leave on your bars for sweat during class.

Electrolytes: Electrolytes are an addition to a drink that helps your body absorb water. Many indoor cyclists benefit from adding an electrolyte to their water bottle while in class.

Shimano Indoor Cycling Head band and water bottle

While there are lots of terms and phrases to learn for your indoor cycling experience, these will get you started. Remember, don’t hesitate to ask your instructor or other people in the class if you don’t understand something. Be patient as you ease in and get excited to be part of the growing indoor cycling community. You’ve got this!


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