Indoor Cycling Class


An indoor cycling class is the term used for exercise activity involving specially designed stationary exercise bicycles, usually with weighted flywheels, within an indoor classroom setting. With a certified instructor leading a group of exercise cyclists, each class provides a high-energy workout, an efficient way to burn calories (lose weight), and a effective method to improve endurance, power, and strength.


While contemporary, high-spirited music is being played, the class performs various bicycling techniques in order to stay physically fit. Such programs are also offered for home workouts. In both cases, the instructor-led programs are suited for various levels of personal abilities and fitness goals at a selfimposed pace.

The indoor cycling class is performed to build strength and endurance within its participants. The class, usually 40 to 50 minutes in duration, involves riding a stationary bicycle while listening to exhilarating music and voice commands from the instructor as one rides through simulated terrains such as flat countryside, hills and valleys, and mountains. Each part of the class includes such activities as interval training, high-intensity racing, time trials, and recovery.


Indoor cycling classes were first developed in the 1980s by endurance cyclist Jonathan (nicknamed “Johnny G”) Goldberg, from South Africa, who wished to train indoors after sustaining a nighttime injury while cycling outside. Subsequently, Goldberg opened his first “Spinning Studio” in Santa Monica, California. The trademark “Spinning” was established in 1994, which was then developed through the company Madd Dogg Athletics, a collaboration of Goldberg and businessperson and fellow cyclist John Baudhuin.

In addition to the brand Spinning, another type of indoor cycling class is RPM, which is an abbreviation of Raw Power in Motion. New Zealand athlete Les Mills first introduced the RPM brand and, in May 1997, he created Les Mills International. Within 15 years, in 2011, the company had 13,000 licensed clubs worldwide. Besides the RPM brand, the company also has other types of exercise programs, such as the branded BodyPump and BodyStep.

Indoor cycling classes provide high-energy workouts that burn calories and improve endurance and strength.

Indoor cycling classes provide high-energy workouts that burn calories and improve endurance and strength. During a typical class, various types of terrain—such as hills that riders have to climb—are simulated to increase the intensity of the workout.
(Simone van den Berg/

An instructor in an indoor cycling class typically leads a group of participants though a virtual bicycling course laid out similar to being outside on the road. The bicycles used for the classes are specially designed stationary bicycles made to imitate the non-stationary bicycles used outdoors. Each bike has fixed gear handlebars (that are adjustable) for the hands, pedals with clips or cages for the feet, and a horizontally and vertically adjustable bike seat for the buttocks. The intensity of the bike can be changed with a resistance knob or lever attached to a flywheel on the bike.

The program includes inspirational music while riding from various positions and speeds associated with different terrains such as hills, valleys, and flatlands. The instructor is positioned in front of the group and facing them. At the start of the class, the pace is slow, and the resistance from the bike is low. This allows the leg muscles to warm up gradually. As the class proceeds, the speed of the bikes and the intensity of the class increases, while the instructor guides all individuals in the various types of riding. For instance, a series of hill climbs may be performed during the class, with brief time to recover between each simulated climb. Another challenge follows, one that may provide strength or endurance to the exercise routine. Such movements and positions include interval training.

While music and choreography motivates the cyclists, the voice of the instructor guides the group along on the ride. For instance, an interval ride may include climbs, jumps, runs, and sprints. Such rides provide an intense cardiovascular workout that simulates conditions outside, such as wind. At the end of the class, sufficient time is provided for recovery and stretching.

The following are the basic movements used for indoor cycling classes:


The suitability of indoor cycling class is for people of all ages and fitness levels who wish to have a nonimpact workout involving a stationary bicycle. Professional cyclists and those who regularly participate in marathon and long-distance races use indoor cycling classes to train, especially if weather conditions are bad outside. However, people just wanting to get a good workout use them, too.


Anyone can begin an indoor cycling class with little or no preparation. It is generally advisable to know how to ride a bicycle, but even that is not strictly necessary with a little training on one of the stationary cycles provided for fitness center classes or bought for home use.

Make sure to drink enough water to replenish sweat expelled from the body while exercising in an indoor cycling class. A towel is recommended to wipe off sweat. Wear bicycling appropriate clothing. Some participants wear bicycling shoes, but any type of gym sneaker or athlete shoe is suitable for such classes. Helmets are not necessary because participants will be stationary on the fixed-mounted bicycle. The handlebars are cushioned so bike gloves are not necessary, although some people still wear them.

The tension on the flywheel can be adjusted with the use of a knob or lever. It causes the brake on the flywheel to engage from a wide range that provides basically no resistance to pedaling (other than the flywheel itself) to full resistance (so the flywheel cannot move).The tension knob allows for a variety of workout intensities for each individual cyclist.

Aerobic exercise—
Exercise of relatively low intensity but long duration, involving aerobic metabolism (providing oxygen).
Anaerobic exercise—
Exercise of high intensity but short duration, involving anaerobic metabolism (not providing oxygen).
The actual term used in the United States for a unit of food energy, which is normally called a calorie; the amount of energy needed to increase the temperature of one kilogram of water by 1℃; one kilocalorie equals 1,000 calories; also defined as the amount of energy that food has the potential to produce when consumed and digested in the body.

The cyclist will rotate the pedals during the class. A range of 80 to 110 revolutions per minute is usually appropriate for flat terrain while seated and at a lower resistance level. For a hill climb while seated, flat terrain while standing, and high resistance while seated, 60 to 80 revolutions per minute is usually used. However, these ranges vary from individual to individual, and on specific circumstances within the class.

Some participants use a personal heart rate monitor or one attached to the cycle to monitor their heart rate. Individuals maintain an aerobic or anaerobic intensity level that is appropriate for their age and fitness level. Aerobic levels usually fall between 50% and 85% of a person's maximum heart rate level, while anaerobic levels are usually between 85% and 90% For instance, a sprint might last 15 to 30 seconds, with a heart-rate that is 85% of the maximum heart rate for that age-appropriate individual.

Instructors use different music or specific types of cycling movements for various parts of the class. They usually ask the participants to coordinate their cadence to the rhythm of the provided music. For instance, different types of music may be used for climbs, jumps, and sprints. Most music is very lively for the most strenuous parts, but is more soothing and relaxed for the cool-down section at the end.



Basically, the vertical height of the seat should be level with the hip when the cyclist is standing upright along side the bicycle. In addition, the seat should be adjusted horizontally so the knee is straight over the ball of the foot when the pedal is pointing forward. When both adjustments are made correctly, the knee is slightly bent at 25–35° angle when the leg is extended and the foot is resting flat on the pedal at the bottom most of its revolution. The handlebar height can be adjusted for individual comfort levels, with most people positioning the handlebar height the same as the seat height.

Sore buttocks are sometimes a complaint of beginning riders. However, bike shorts with gel-seat inserts or padded seats can alleviate the problem. If dizziness occurs during the workout, stop immediately, get off the bicycle, and inform the instructor. Warm-up and cool-down periods (with stretches) help reduce the chances of muscle injuries and other such problems.


Indoor cycling classes are a good way for individuals to control the intensity of the workout based on their age, fitness level, and other such factors. On the other hand, it is also a good way to exercise while in a group setting, which sometimes helps to motivate people to exercise. Indoor cyclists have the ability to control their exertion level by controlling the amount of resistance on the bike. Instructors often tell participants that individuals may ride at any level as they wish, while still being able to follow all the activities of the class.

Most participants burn between 300 to 600 calories over a 40-minute class period, with the variance depending on the intensity and duration of the workout, along with age, weight, and other such factors. In addition, the workout enhances cardiovascular fitness and improves muscle tone. Specifically, it strengthens the muscles of the lower body, including the calves, hamstrings, and hips, along with the abdominals and back. The intensity of each class is dependent on the amount of resistance set on the flywheel, the cadence, and the speed at which the pedals rotate.



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Katch, Victor L., William D. McArdle, and Frank I. Katch. Essentials of Exercise Physiology, 5th ed. Philadelphia: Wolters Kluwer/Lippincott Williams & Wilkins Health, 2016.

Masterson, Portia H. Bicycling Bliss: Riding to Improve Your Wellness. Golden: Self-Propulsion, 2004.

Wiggins, Jonathan. In Pursuit of a Powerful Performance. Gent: Academia Press, 2010.


“Indoor Cycling Finds Its Way Back With Proper Training.” The New York Times. (May 24, 2007). (accessed January 17, 2017).

“Les Mills International.” . (accessed January 17, 2017).

“Spinning.” . (accessed January 17, 2017).


American College of Cardiology, Heart House, 2400 N St., NW, Washington, DC, 20037, (202) 375-6000, (800) 253-4636, Fax: (202) 375-7000,, .

American Heart Association, 7272 Greenville Ave., Dallas, TX, 75231, (800) AHA-USA-1 (242-8721), .

National Coalition for Promoting Physical Activity, 1150 Connecticut Ave., NW, Ste. 300, Washington, DC, 20036, (202) 454-7521,, .

President's Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition, 1101 Wootton Pkwy., Ste. 560, Rockville, MD, 20852, (240) 276-9567, Fax: (240) 276-9860,, .

William A. Atkins, BB, BS, MBA

  This information is not a tool for self-diagnosis or a substitute for professional care.