Pair of blue and black cycling shoes for spin bikes

Fitness is having a major moment. Not that it ever wasn’t sweet to sweat, but it seems like everywhere we turn, the yearn to burn is stronger than ever. Activewear is making its way into the high fashion world, new research is being done every day on the best way to work out, and competing fitness studios are popping up within mere walking distance of one another (Jets and Sharks, anyone?).

We want to make sure you’re staying safe and smart while you sweat, so we’ve asked our very own fitness pro – who teaches a top-notch indoor cycling class herself – to break down the basics for us, everything from how to choose a class to troubleshooting when things aren’t going quite as you expected! Here’s Katie with the lowdown on everything you need to win at spin. First up? How to set up your spin bike…

You’ve made it! You reserved your spot, you packed your gym bag, and you’re officially pumped for your first indoor cycling (or Spinning®, the brand name of this workout) experience to begin. You’ve heard amazing things about this exhilarating format: the rockin’ music, the crazy calorie burn, the electric energy in the room. You are ready to roll, and walk into your studio of choice like it’s the first day of school all over again.

Then you see it – The Bike.

As instructors, the most common concern we hear from newcomers is that a cycle class looks intense and intimidating. In reality, however, once you’re in the room, it’s one of the safest and most inclusive classes you can take. The beauty of an indoor cycling class is that while you control your own workout via that little red resistance knob, you’re surrounded by like minded individuals working towards their own goals, as well as a teacher who’s number-one priority is to guide you into greatness. This means that not only is indoor cycling perfect for both beginners and seasoned pros alike, it allows you to reap all the benefits of a solo workout and a group sweat sesh at once.

But trust me, we get it. The music is loud, the studio is dark, and those bikes…well, they have more bells and whistles than your iPhone’s alarm clock settings. The instructor is there to help you out – and I highly encourage you to flag him or her down! – but sometimes you don’t have the opportunity or are just feeling shy. One of two things usually happens when this sense of overwhelm takes over: you either hop right out of the studio and make a beeline for the steam room…or you hop right onto the bike and pray for a miracle. Not only is proper bike set-up crucial to a rad ride, it’s vital to your safety. An adjustment that is too high or low can lead to injury – everything from shoulder pain to a pulled hamstring or blown-out knee – and one loose knob could send you crashing down along with your sense of dignity. The number-one most imperative thing you can do to keep yourself safe happens before the class even starts, and it only takes a few minutes. Follow this dummy-proof, step-by-step guide to set up your bike once you get into class, and I promise, you’ll be on your way to spinspiration in no time:

Indoor Cycling 1.0: How To Set Up Your Spin Bike

Step One: Locate All Knobs and Adjustments

Most bikes will have anywhere from two to four knobs: one over your handlebars that moves back and forth, one under your handlebars that moves up and down, one behind your saddle (the seat of your bike) that moves back and forth, and one under your saddle that moves up and down. For the best fit, work from the back to the front, from the bottom up.

Step Two: Raise Or Lower Your Saddle Height

Adjust the height of your saddle first by moving it up or down until your saddle is parallel to your hip bone. If you can’t locate your hip bone or want an alternate option, stand to the side of the bike, next to the saddle and facing forward. Lift your thigh to a 90-degree angle until it is level with the floor (make sure your hips are squared off evenly to the ground!). Raise or lower the saddle until it is in line with the center of your leg. You’re on your way!

Step Three: Move Your Saddle Forward or Backward

Next, adjust the distance of your seat from the handlebars. The purpose of saddle distance is to position your knees over, but not past, your toes. Think of it this way: if your full pedalstroke is like a clock (with 12 at the top, 3 at the front, 6 at the bottom, and 9 at the back) and you could draw a straight line down from the top of your knee to the tip of your toes while your foot is at 3 o’clock, you’d want that line to go straight down vertically. For most people, moving the saddle to the middle of the total distance it can move back and forth (“neutral”) works like a charm. If you’re popping into class at the very last minute, go with this adjustment. But if you have a couple minutes, play around and see which setting achieves that “straight line” when you’re on the bike.

Step Four: Adjust Your Handlebars

You’ll want your spine to remain neutral, neither arched nor rounded, with a slight bend at your elbows while your hands are resting on the handlebars. Each person’s body mechanics are different, so play around with the height (and distance, if available to you) until you find what feels best for your body.

Step Five: Pop And Lock

Make sure all your bike’s knobs are tight and secure, double checking that each knob is screwed firmly into place. I’ve seen it before, and it’s scary for everyone involved: a person in class hastily sets up their bike and doesn’t properly lock in their handlebars or saddle, unbeknownst to the teacher or those around them. In the middle of class, their seat or handlebars fall out from under them. I always advise a double and triple check of all knobs before you get going…because this is not the time for unexpected Cirque de Cycling shenanigans to catch you by surprise.

Step Six: Strap Up Or Click In

If you fall in love with indoor cycling or plan to make it a habit, I would strongly recommend investing in a pair of cycling shoes with either Look or SPD cleats that fit directly into your spin bike’s pedals. If you don’t have cycling shoes, ask your instructor to put “cages” on your pedals for you, then tighten the straps around your feet much like you would on a belt or an airplane’s seatbelt.  And just like that – you’re ready to ride.

We love Katie’s spin classes! For a full dose of spinspiration, take an Equinox class with her yourself and click here.

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