Here’s our guide to how to make spinning work for you – and what classes to avoid – as well as advice on when it’s time to get out of the gym and onto the roads
Posted: 2 December 2009
by Ant Smith, Selene Yeager, Ruth Emmett, Alison Hamlett
✔ Spin bikes have multiple adjustments that allow you to closely replicate your real bike position.
✔ Spin bikes are sturdy and remain stable under heavy-pedalling loads and when you stand on the pedals.
✔ The music and the encouragement you get at the gym will help you train harder.
✔ You can fit in spin-cycle training when you cannot go out for a ride. For instance, at lunchtimes during the week.
✘ Many classes offer high-intensity intervals week-in week-out, which neglect the all-important endurance element of your training.
✘ Classes are usually between 45 to 60 minutes – too short to develop endurance for all but sprint triathlons.
✘ Spinning studios often become hot, even during lower intensity sessions, leaving you feeling drained for your next training session.
✘ Spin bikes have fixed-wheel-style flywheels that build up momentum and can mask any deficiencies in your pedal stroke.
Look for instructors who are cyclists. If none fit the bill, ask your gym to put on triathlon training-targeted classes.
Decide how hard you want to train and use a heart rate monitor as a guide. Even an intervals class can become more endurance-focused if you reduce the intensity of the intervals and avoid easing back so much during the recovery phases.
Back-to-back classes may build endurance, but watch out for dehydration and drink plenty before, during and after classes.
Practise pedalling in circles, not just stomping on the pedals. Pull back slightly with your foot at the bottom of the stroke (think: wiping your foot on a doormat) and up on the upstroke to reduce the dead weight of that leg. To develop smoother pedalling, try some spin-ups in your warm-up: use a lighter resistance and increase your cadence to as fast as you can manage without bouncing in the saddle. Do repeats of 10 to 30 seconds.
A spin class or two a week can benefit your training, but in addition to road riding, not as a replacement. You also need to hit the roads to learn how your bike handles, discover a comfortable racing position, and find out when to change gear on hills.