Cycling Classes – What Do You Need To Train Inside?

Some Performance stores host indoor cycling classes

Whether you’re a dedicated cyclist or not, indoor cycling classes have plenty to offer for everyone. For the casual cyclist who’s looking to do some cardio work, you’ll be hard pressed to find a more intense—or fun—workout . It’s especially beneficial if you have bad knees or are nursing an injury, since cycling is a no-impact sport. For cyclists, indoor training classes are an excellent way to improve power and stamina, as well as a fun group event that can spice up your training and help pass the winter months.

Some Performance Bicycle stores host free weekly indoor training classes. After business hours, the store staff will set up stationary trainers for everyone who shows up for a fun, indoor group ride. All you need is yourself and your bike, and the store staff will take care of the rest. If you’d like to know more, you can contact your local Performance store for more details. If you’re a member of a gym, they may also offer indoor cycling classes (sometimes called Spin ® classes) in special studios equipped with stationary bikes. Sometimes they may feature coaches that you push you to ride harder, local DJ sets, or movies. But as with any exercise activity, showing up ready with the right equipment will enhance your experience.

While technically you could jump into any indoor cycling class with standard running apparel and shoes, a few small upgrades will help you get the most out of your experience. Two things in particular will really boost your experience – cycling shoes, and cycling shorts.

Indoor cycling classes are great way to get in shape, have fun, and meet fellow cyclists

95% of indoor cycling bikes have pedals that use 2-bolt style cleats. This means you can pick up a simple pair of cycling shoes and cleats to attach your feet to the pedals (temporarily). Using clip-in (called clipless) shoes and cleats will give your legs a more complete work out and make staying on the pedals during hard intervals a piece of cake. Check out the Pearl Izumi X-Alp or X-Road shoes . These look like casual shoes but perform like a good pair of mountain bike shoes. The best of both worlds!

Shoes like the Pearl Izumi X-Alp Road shoe look like casual tennis shoes, but have a mount for cycling cleats in the sole

Once you find the pair of shoes that’s right for you, you’ll also need cleats. Cleats are typically sold with pedals as each pedal design uses a different type – but you can easily pick up some cleats on their own to match the pedals you will be using. If you’ll be using a stationary bike at a gym or fitness studio, it would be best to double check with your indoor cycling instructor as to which type of cleats your indoor cycling bike will accept. As mentioned, the vast majority of indoor cycling bikes use 2-bolt, SPD style cleats such as these. Don’t forget to buy the cleats or the shoes will just be for the looks. To learn how to mount the cleats, click here.

Most stationary bikes will have a mechanism for SPD-style cleats on the pedals. Clipping in will drastically increase your pedaling efficiency.

The second thing you’ll need to purchase is a simple pair of cycling shorts (click here for baggy shorts, or here for lycra shorts). Simple cycling shorts have a slim pad called a chamois that will help sitting on the bicycle seat be more comfortable. A cycling chamois will also wick away sweat (don’t wear underwear under your cycling shorts). A great place to start would be the Performance Nevado shorts, available in both men’s and women’s. These shorts provide the benefits of cycling shorts with a baggy outer layer so they don’t look like cycling shorts. The added comfort will help you stay on the bike seat longer and the more you ride, the more fit you will become.

Shorts like the Performance Nevado have a “baggy” outer layer, with a removable lycra liner with a chamois pad for increased comfort

Another great benefit of cycling shorts like these is that once you’re ready to take your newly formed cycling legs out onto the open road, you’re already partly outfitted. These shorts and shoes will work as well outside as they do in the indoor cycling studio, giving you the same increased comfort and efficiency on the road as they do in the classroom.

If you’d like to do your own version of an indoor cycling class at home, then a stationary trainer is a great option. A stationary trainer is like a treadmill for your bike. There are a few different models to choose from (you can learn more here), but they all provide a pretty good workout. If you want to do your class in your own basement or TV room, a stationary trainer is a great option. For more advice on training at home, check out our article on the Performance Bicycle Learning Center.

A stationary trainer, like the Elite Qubo, can turn any room into your house into a personal home gym.

Real Advice: Training Indoors


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Winter is coming. And this year, just like every year, we’re all going to swear up and down that no matter how bad the weather gets, we’re going to ride outside. And this year, just like every year, that resolution will last just about through mid-December, at which point we will all switch to full-on holiday bacchanalia mode and just kind of stop riding, reasoning that spring isn’t that far away.

For most of my cycling career, this was exactly the pattern I fell into year after year. I would ride my way into excellent form going into the fall, only to feel like I was starting again from scratch every spring. Finally, one year, I decided to buy a trainer. I didn’t work for Performance at the time, but I visited my local store, and the associate helped me pick out a trainer that was right for my needs. I ended up going home with an Elite progressive resistance trainer, and a special tire designed to be used with stationary trainers (more on that in a bit). The results were incredible. While I’ll be the first to admit I didn’t exactly love riding the trainer, I was able to keep relatively in shape through the winter, and entered into the spring in much better shape than previous years.

When it comes to trainers and rollers, there are a lot of options to choose from. Trainers can vary a lot in price and features, so it’s important to consider what your training goals are before buying.

Here are some tricks and tips to get the most out of your winter training:

1. Know Your Trainers: The primary purpose of trainers is to help you build strength and endurance. Basically, a trainer is a treadmill for your rear wheel—you just clamp your rear wheel in and start spinning.  How much resistance your trainer delivers will depend on what type it is. Our Learning Center has an article that dives more in-depth into the different types of trainers, but here’s a quick summary:

Wind Trainers: Use a fan to generate resistance.

Advantages

  • Fewer moving parts
  • Produce progressive resistance, which increases as wheel speed increases
  • Smooth resistance with minimal vibration

Disadvantages

  • Noisy
  • Fan susceptible to damage
  • Increasing wheel speed only way to increase resistance

Magnetic Trainers: Use combination of magnets and metal plates to generate resistance.

Advantages

  • Offer multiple levels of resistance
  • Quieter than wind trainers
  • Produce linear resistance, which stays the same regardless of wheel speed
  • Typically less expensive than other options

Disadvantages

  • Changing resistance level requires dismounting bike unless trainer is equipped with handlebar-mounted remote shift lever

Fluid Trainers: Uses a hydraulic fluid and an impeller to create resistance.

Advantages

  • Produce progressive resistance, which increases as wheel speed increases
  • Very quiet
  • Most moving parts protected by enclosed resistance unit
  • Available in adjustable resistance models

Disadvantages

  • More Expensive

A quick word on tires: trainers tend to be tough on your tires. As mentioned above, some companies like Vittoria now make specially designed tires that are made to withstand the rigors that the trainer will put them through.

The Elite Qubo Fluid+ resistance trainer is a great way to gain strength and work on endurance through the winter

2. Rollers: are different from trainers in that the focus is on developing form instead of strength. While riding the rollers can deliver a hard, pulse-pounding workout, rollers are better used to work on cadence, pedaling efficiency and concentration. Unlike trainers, rollers are a free-form exercise where the bike is not locked down, so they require a smooth pedaling motion, steady cadence and concentration to use. They take some practice to get the hang of, but the rewards are significant. The first few times you use rollers, we highly recommend wearing a helmet, setting them up next to a wall (to make it easier to get on and off), and putting some couch cushions around you on the floor. It’s also recommended that you have someone video your first attempt at using the rollers, since hilarity is almost certainly sure to ensue (don’t worry, we’ve all been there).

Rollers are an excellent way to work on form and cadence through the long winter months

3. Boredom: I’m going to be really honest here: there are few things more boring than riding a trainer/rollers. When you’re sitting on a bike that’s going nowhere, it’s really hard to stay motivated and push yourself. A good way to overcome this is with videos or music. Many companies offer workout DVD’s for use with the trainer that can help you target specific areas you’d like to work on (strength training, endurance, climbing, etc…). Something important to remember, though, is that your time on the trainer is an hour you have to yourself to do whatever you want. With that in mind, here are some other ideas I use to stay focused:

-Catch up on the DVR queue

-Watch cycling movies like Breaking Away, American Flyers, and The Flying Scotsman

-Scour Netflix for movies that your better half doesn’t want to watch (I’ve probably seen Commando on the trainer at least 7 times)

-When I have to use the trainer at work or before a race, I have a special playlist on my phone of songs that help get me motivated

Catching up on TV you may have missed is a great way to keep the trainer from getting stale

4. Ride With A Buddy: Everything is more fun if you have a friend, and riding with someone else helps you stay more accountable. If you have some buddies who are into cycling try setting up some indoor training sessions. If you have a video game system, then you have a recipe for success since you can host “trainer tournaments”. Last year at the office we had some fairly epic Halo multiplayer battles while riding the trainers (one guy even added aerobar extensions to his bike since he could ride hard while still using the controller).

You'd be amazed how much faster the time goes when you can crush your friends in Halo or Madden

You’d be amazed how much faster the time goes when you can crush your friends in Halo or Madden

5. Sweat It Out: When you’re on the trainer, it’s going to get sweaty. You’re not moving, so there’s no air to cool you down. Here are some tips to keep cool and clean:

-Put down a trainer mat under the bike

-Use a sweat net to protect your frame (many trainers come with one of these)

-Use a small fan to keep cool

-Always have a bottle with ice water in it

-Wear a cycling cap to keep sweat out of your eyes

A sweat net will help protect your frame and components from the corrosive effects of sweat

6. Have A Plan: Riding the trainer is an activity that rewards having a focused approach. Making vague promises to ride the trainer every day for an hour may be hard to follow through on as the winter grinds on. Create a training realistic training plan that you can adhere to, and that drives toward very specific goals. This is where using a training DVD can be very helpful.

Using a training DVD can help you create a plan and work toward specific goals during the off-season

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