Pro Tips for Your First Group Cycling Class


Beautiful women doing exercise in a spinning class at gym

Recently I had a chance to check out a brand-new cycling studio in my neighborhood, BYKLYN Cycle, and I used the opportunity to chat up a first-time group cycling participant named Cherish. Cherish confided to me that she was a little apprehensive about taking her first class as it might aggravate her exercise-induced asthma: “I hear it (group cycling) is very intense so hopefully I can keep up!”

After years of folks posting on Twitter and Facebook about the butt-kicking Soul Cycle and cyle-fusion classes that leave them dripping in sweat and with legs feeling totally like jelly, it’s no wonder that indoor cycling has a pretty intimidating reputation.

When I tell people that I teach anywhere between six and eight indoor classes per week, many say, “Oh my! I hear cycling is the most difficult class to take!” I make a point of reassuring them that not only is it a manageable class for just about every level of fitness but it’s also a ton of fun — pinky swear!

My best advice for a newbie is to arrive 10 to 15 minutes early and let the instructor and classmates know this is your first class. Group cycling is a convivial environment, so don’t feel as if you will be alone on the room. You’ll be surrounded by a bunch of sweaty new friends!

Here are some additional tips from top experts in the field to ensure your first ride is both safe and gets a good, healthy sweat going.

Kat Piola, Instructor at BYKLYN

Your instructor should make sure to introduce themselves and ask if anyone in the class is new to cycling, but just in case yours doesn’t, speak up! Let them know you need help with the bike set-up and ask how the class will proceed to ensure you start off on the right foot. The height of the seat and the distance between the seat and handlebar is so important (and different for everyone) that you shouldn’t try to attempt your own set-up the first time you try the class.

Krista Popowych, Indoor Cycling Master Instructor at Keiser Cycling

I noticed that women ride differently than men in the saddle so I tell them they need to make sure their sit bones are on top of the widest part of the seat. In short — sit with your hips back along with a neutral spine and pelvis to maintain a “bounce-free” ride. The less you bounce in your seat the less pain you will feel pain in your seat later.

Andrew Kalley, Level 2 Triathlon Coach and Master Trainer at The Sports Center at Chelsea Piers

Remember to bring a bottle of water with you (just in case they do not offer them at the studio) and sip frequently throughout the class. It’s also a good idea (if you have one) to bring your heart rate monitor as well to be sure you are working at an intensity that is appropriate for your fitness level.

Julz Arney, Schwinn Cycling Program Director

Unlike other classes where everyone sees the weight you pick up or what level of the exercise you are doing, indoor cycling is more personal. You have full control over how much resistance you apply to the ride and no one else can see! It’s perfectly fine to be more conservative with your effort if you are not ready to work at the higher intensities you may hear the instructor ask for. But, you do need to apply enough resistance to pedal smoothly. The minimum amount of resistance you use should feel like you are pushing down against the pedal at the front of the pedal stroke. For the most effective workout, make sure you are controlling the pedals and not the other way around!

Have you ever tried group cycling classes? What advice would you give a beginner? —Margo

FTC disclosure: We often receive products from companies to review. All thoughts and opinions are always entirely our own. Unless otherwise stated, we have received no compensation for our review and the content is purely editorial. Affiliate links may be included. If you purchase something through one of those links we may receive a small commission. Thanks for your support!


Add a comment
Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. Michelle says:

    I love articles like these! Thanks to all who contributed. My advice – make the commitment but give yourself time. Time to get settled and set-up, time to “feel the road under your wheel” by just riding, time to get used to what resistance works for you. What I mean is…don’t expect anything to life altering to happen in your first few classes because it may not be love at first spin. Ah but when you hit that magical combo…when it all comes together…the resistance, the music, the road and the instructor….it just doesn’t get any better than that!

  2. Julianne says:

    You should be more careful about your use of the word ‘spin’. The facility you reference and even the master trainers you use are not ‘spinning’ instructors. They are indoor cycling instructors (Julz is amazing!). But you should be aware that spinning is a copyrighted word and belongs to the Spinning program which belongs to Mad Dogg Athletics. You are breaching copyright laws by calling the classes ‘Spin’ classes. They are indoor cycling classes. Kat Piola should know better than to reference her classes as ‘spinning’ classes. Just thought you should be aware in case you don’t know and publish other articles on the subject.

  3. Jeanne Ernst says:

    I tell all new cycle participants, to take it easy, go at your own pace, don’t compete with others. This is YOUR ride. Check your posture, and, please see me after class so I can answer any questions. And, drink water.!

    Jeanne Ernst
    Certified Schwinn Cycle Instructor

  4. Lena says:

    Julianne, amen to that!

  5. Terry says:

    Julianne is correct, but in practice they don’t enforce it in that way….only if someone is slandering the spinning brand or making money from the use of the name. When people say Spin instead of Indoor Cycling..it’s brand recognition and free advertising for Madd Dogg. In the 50’s, Frigidaire was the most recognized brand of refrigerator….the term “fridge” was actually a short version of Frigidaire, not refrigerator. It was copyrighted. It became a household term, they never sued anyone…
    However, if someone were to say they were taking a Spin class at SoulCycle, I’d correct them immediately while handcuffing them to a post to prevent such a tragedy. 🙂

  6. Jenn says:

    Julianne and Terry:

    A certain cycling company that rhymes with “win” brought this to our attention and it has been changed to reflect the more generic “cycling”.

    Thanks, guys!
    —FBG Jenn