Cycle classes have zoomed into popularity in the recent years as a form of cardio that gets your heart pumping. Whether you’ve never tried it before or are a seasoned pro, consider these tips for the best biking experience possible:
Sit pretty in the saddle
It’s ideal to arrive 10–15 minutes early to allow yourself enough time to get comfortable on the bike and start warming up. The bikes are adjustable in multiple places, and the most common adjustment is the height of the seat. Standing next to the bike, raise or lower the seat until it’s in line with your hips. You should be able to sit comfortably on the bike with your arms naturally on the handlebars with a slight bend. If it doesn’t feel like you can bike for 45 minutes to an hour in that position, it’s going to be a long class (and probably a painful one).
Choose the shoes
Depending on the class and studio, you can either wear normal athletic shoes or cycling shoes. Some studios have straps that hold your regular shoes in, while some require you to have or rent cycling shoes that clip in. Check ahead of time if they specify.
Form a firm foundation
From start to finish, it's crucial to have the proper form. Not only will it maximize your ride and results, by it will also prevent injuries. Riding a bike may seem all about the legs, but your core and arms are equally as important to pay attention to. The core is your secret powerhouse that helps you push and climb your way to a stronger version of yourself. Avoid tensing up your upper back and wearing your shoulders as earrings. Take a second to check out your arms—they shouldn’t splay out towards the side, elbows stay close to your body and slightly bent. Focus on keeping your core rock-solid, upper body loose, back straight and shoulders down throughout class. It seems like a long list, but checking in helps keep you safe and strong.
Resistance is rad, not bad
Each bike has a knob under the handlebars that controls the resistance or "road" for your workout. Your instructor will call out when to turn it up or down, simulating hills or flat road throughout class. Some bikes have visual representations of the level you’re on, some are just a dial. If you don't have a visual way to see where it's at, go by the feel of it. It's important to remember that, though the instructor gives you cues, listen to your own body first. Don’t feel pressured to keep turning the knob just because you are told to—push yourself to your edge, but don't push it to the point of injury or pain.
Although it’s tempting to take off all your road when class gets tough, make sure you aren’t riding with no resistance at all. Sure, it’s a lot easier, but in the end it can be detrimental to your hips and knees. How can you tell if it’s not enough? Hips don’t lie. If you’re pedaling with too little resistance, your hips will bounce all over the place and your knees will look like they’re doing a crazy legs dance. Don’t let the bike do all the work, this is your time to shine and make a positive change.
Stretch yourself, don’t wreck yourself
After all the pushing and pulling, hill climbs and sprints, jumps and hovers, it’s no secret that cycle classes are a killer lower body workout. As with any intense class, it’s absolutely vital to stretch it out at the end. This not only protects your body, but helps build the muscles you just worked. Don’t skip out on the last five minutes of class saved for stretching and cool down—take some time to reward your body for the work it just did, and save yourself from some pain and soreness later. Although it seems like you mostly used your lower half, be sure to indulge your upper half by stretching your sides and core, as well as your neck and upper back. When it comes down to it, your entire body can benefit from cycling and could use a good recovery so that it can recharge and be ready for the next ride.