Indoor Cycle Basics

Spin Locals- Germantown, MD

Are you a local Germantown, MD indoor cycle rider?  Visit Spin Locals – your class resource page.

Indoor cycle Sunday Class at ACAC in Germantown Maryland.


Walking down a hallway towards “the room with the mirrors” or some small dark room marked “studio” can be intimidating as hell.  Most people question their sanity and judgement the first time they attend an indoor cycle class.  Your first class can be rough if the bike isn’t fit right and you may have a sore rear end.  If you stick with it, indoor cycle can be an excellent cardio vascular workout with less impact on your joints than running.

If you’ve never taken an indoor cycle class of any kind before, here are a few tips to build your confidence hopping on the bike in class or at home:

  • Dress appropriately
  • Wear the right shoes
  • Wear a heartrate monitor
  • Bring water and a towel
  • Bring a bike seat cushion if you need one
  • Arrive 10 minutes early to select a bike that meets your needs. Check where fans are location and select a bike near or far from a fan, depending on your body temperature.  Check that you can see the instructor directly from your bike or through the mirrors.
  • Ask the instructor to assist you with setting up your bike or if you are riding at home follow these tips.
  • Play with the monitor on the bike- if your bike has a monitor, find the Revolutions Per Minute or RPM and how to track miles and time working out.
  • Drink lots of water before class, throughout class, and after class.

Cycle the Stress Away

You may be asking yourself, “indoor cycle seems intense, how can it possibly help me de-stress?”  Indoor cycle is lower impact than running while providing a cardiovascular workout that can be tailored to your fitness level.  Classes give you the opportunity to meet new people, gain energy from other riders, and challenge yourself as your fitness level increases.  Outside riders training for an event or coming indoors from the weather can also enjoy indoor cycle classes.

However, classes aren’t the only way to enjoy good music and a good workout.  Riders with indoor bike trainers or stationary bikes at home can benefit from cycling any time.  The workouts on this blog are designed for instructors to be inspired to create new workouts with a similar format or riders who want to follow a workout at home or at the gym on an phone or tablet.

Do I need Bike Shoes?

Depends on the bike you will be riding. They aren’t necessary on bikes in most gyms but they can help keep the correct form.  Cycling shoes clip into the bike pedal allowing more a powerful, efficient pedal stroke than regular gym shoes.  Specialty cycling studios may require specific shoes, make sure to call ahead or plan to rent shoes.

If you are thinking of buying cycling shoes, read this article first.

Practice the Positions

All the workouts on this blog follow the basic positions in different sequences.  If you need a refresher on the correct form for each of the basic positions check out these resources: on form and an overview video of the bike fit and positions from Coach Juliet Burgh.  With every class I generally include a lot of form ques and reminders about proper foot positioning.  I don’t always include them in the class overview, so home riders will need to intentionally work on proper form.  Some songs will say “with form”, I use this que to ask riders to stop just “riding” as they would normally and to really think about the positioning of their hands, feet, and the engagement of each muscle group used while cycling.  Each song gives a new opportunity to challenge yourself and to improve your form.  The workouts are much harder when practicing proper form.

How long should I ride for the first time?

Each workout is 60 minutes long, with an additional amount of time including a warm up and cool down. For a 45 minute class I skip the songs in blue and also tailor the class to the energy of the riders.

If you’re cycling at home or new to cycle, you may not want to complete the entire 60 minute workout.  If it is your first time riding you also may not want to complete the 45 minute workout either! That’s OK!!

I always ask new riders to focus on getting the right bike fit and how the various levels of resistance feel. It is important to learn flat road vs. muddy flat vs. a hill vs. large hill before worrying about staying for the entire workout.  If you are just starting out, 30 minutes is a good amount of time to practice form, positions, cadence of the pedals, and adding resistance to the bike. 

If I’m teaching a class that says they have had a stressful day, I might swap out a free ride or cool down song for a working song in blue.  If I’ve done a very hard workout or a run the prior day, I sometimes use a cycle class for a recovery workout to ease the soreness.  Every day is different, every ride is different, every rider is different, every bike is definitely different.  The length and strength of your ride should be tailored to how you feel today.

Warming up,  working hard, cooling down

Every workout is designed to move through power training intervals from warming up and getting the blood flowing to the muscles to cooling down and increasing the intake of oxygen after a tough workout.  The workouts generally start with a lower intensity and increase in power in different patterns.  Each 6-week session is a set of classes of a similar style or type with every other week being more intense and the following week focusing on recovery from the prior week.  To learn more about power and rates of exertion and perceived exertion see this resource.  Cool down periods include a few minutes of recovery riding at flat road followed by a series of stretches on and off the bike lasting 7-10 minutes.  I highly recommend additional hip opening and other leg stretches after each workout

How Do I Read the Workouts?

Each workout includes a general overview called the Class Profile at the top to tell you what kind of spin workout you will complete in that particular Session and week and how to adjust the length for a 60 minute class or a 45 minute class.  Each Song or set of songs has a purpose within the workout and are organized by Levels and song profiles.  Song profiles includes information about how to cue each song if you are teaching a class.  Generally I use the following symbols to cue myself how to instruct the moves for each song:

  • ^gear = add resistance by turning the knob to the right. Riders choose what gear to add, depending on their fitness level and how hard they would like to workout that day.
  • _ gear = Reduce a gear by turning the knob to the left. The amount of the reduction is generally included in the cues
  • 1st; 2nd; 3rd = positions on the bike going from seated flat to standing flat to standing climb is generally demonstrated at the beginning of class.  2nd and 3rd position should always have resistance on the bike before standing on the pedals.
  • 1/2; 1/3; 2/3 = Jumps from position 1 to position 2; position 1 to 3; position 2 to 3
  • pick up/pull back =  pick up speed or pull back speed (go slightly slower)
  • % increase = increase in rate of perceived effort

Free Indoor Cycle Workouts You Can Do At Home!

Do you own your own stationary bike or trainer at home? Want to mimic an indoor cycle class with a playlist and workout made for you?

This library of indoor cycle workouts ranges from skill building to aerobic base building workouts. You will find power rides, themed holiday rides and more in the indoor cycle workout archives.