Triathlete's Guide to
Indoor Group Cycling Classes aka:
& Developed By:
Lori Tindall - Triathlon Coach, Master Indoor Cycling
Personal Fitness Trainer & Ironman Athlete.
the lure of ambient beats or a group of energetic people
working hard to the prodding from an instructor make it
so you just can't stay away from Group Cycling class at
your favorite gym? Winter time and a busy schedule often
make an indoor group cycling class enticing. You can
make it work for you if you follow some simple
guidelines and make that workout time your own. Your favorite instructor does not have to be an
elite cyclist to teach a great class, but should also be
considerate of your triathlon specific training. You
don't have to participate in the high numbered
consecutive jumps, unrealistically high RPM's, or high
heart rates with sweat pouring off of you to still go to
class. You will be better off if you choose your own
time to go hard and keep a majority of your off season
training fairly easy. Go ahead and join in, but keep
with these guidelines and you will be fit and ready come
bike fit is extremely important for anyone who rides
indoors or out. Many cycling specific injuries could be
avoided with a proper fit. Sure you are fit correctly on
your race bike, but you need to take the same approach
to all your bikes! Even indoor group cycling. Comfort
and safety on the bike is directly related to a proper
bike fit and is essential to ensure the success of your
height is the first bike adjustment that should be made,
while all other adjustments are made after this.
Although the other bike adjustments are very important,
saddle height as well as fore /aft are the most
imperative to avoid serious injuries since the knee and
hips are the primary joints involved in cycling.
you may have several different brands of bikes in the
various facilities that you may be in, we will use
universal ways to find proper fitting. Starting
measurements such as standing next to the bike is just a
starting place and is based on an expected standard in
relationship to the bike frame height and the bottom
bracket. This will vary within the different
manufacturers as well as with the leveling pads from one
bike to another.
next to the bike and adjust the saddle height to be
parallel with the hipbone to find a basic starting point
for saddle height. Once establishing a "starting
point", then sit on the saddle with feet in the
toe clips or clipless pedals. Crank arm should be
exactly vertical and in the down most position. Leg
should be extended, be able to press the heel downward,
and leaving the knee slightly bent. Some bikes allow for
a very precise adjustment, while others adjust in
one-inch increments. For most cases, err on the side of
lower vs. higher because too high can cause severe
hamstrings injuries as well as create an uncomfortable
pressure point on the pelvic area. This should be an
exception as most people can obtain a good fit. Many
bikes have numbers on the adjustment sites so that the
precise fitting can be duplicated easily each time.
way to check saddle height is while sitting on the bike,
and placing one heel on the platform area of the pedal.
Crank arm should be exactly vertical and leg extended
while hips remain squared and without movement. If the
hips rotate to the side, then that is an indication that
the saddle is too high. If the knee remains mostly bent,
then that would indicate the saddle is too low. Finding
an appropriate balance in between is the goal.
and aft is another way to say "forward" and
"back" and is proper bike terminology. It
refers to the saddle position, but could also apply to
handle bar position as well. In this case, we will be
referencing saddle position.
Fore/Aft can be a difficult position to learn to adjust.
If you have trouble with sighting this, use a string w/
a weight at the bottom to create a plumb line to work
this case, Fore/Aft will be gauged by the knee (Patella)
position and it's relative position to the foot. The
Saddle Fore/Aft position has a direct relationship to
the distance from the saddle to the bottom bracket. The
ankle should be in the same position as it would while
pedaling as the angle of the ankle will change where the
plumb line from the Patella will fall in relationship to
a plumb line dropped from the Patella, it should fall
above the ball of the foot. Small variations for comfort
are acceptable, but once the Patella extends toward the
toe or too far back that it's behind or parallel w/ the
Tibia (lower leg) it is out of the normal range of
bar height is made after saddle height and fore/aft.
This will directly effect the amount of flexion at the
hip as well as the handle bar fore/aft. Generally the
handle bar height should be no lower than parallel to
the saddle, but preferably 2 inches or higher
than the saddle. It is a truly rare Elite level racer
that would go no more than 2 inches below the
saddle. This is for reference only and should not
be implemented into any indoor cycling plan.
bar fore/aft will effect the angle of flexion at the hip
as well as the spine. Like saddle fore/aft, a string and
weight can be used to find the plumb line from the tip
of the elbow to the knee. Too far forward, the rider
will have excess pressure in the saddle area and will
appear to be stretched out with arms extended. Take note
that the rider's preferred hand position will effect
handle bar fore/aft position. Hands positioned at the
bar ends, while seated in the saddle, is discouraged.
ball of the foot should be placed directly on the pedal
axle, or center of the pedal. Those who use the toe
cages (with straps) and regular athletic shoes, should
make sure they find the correct placement. Straps should
be tightened enough that the foot does not slip around
and is held somewhat snug, but not tight. Stiff soled
shoes are preferred to avoid fatigue and discomfort at
those using the clip-less (quick release) pedals,
careful set up of the shoe cleat is paramount. The pedal
system being used is SPD (Shimano Pedaling Dynamics) or
SPD compatible. The pedal systems should not be switched
out because it causes excessive wear and strips out the
threads of the crank arm. All mechanical adjustments
should be made and maintain by a qualified and insured
bicycle mechanic. Unless you are highly experienced, we
recommend you refer to the local bike shop for
assistance with pedal cleat system installation or
and ankle position should remain neutral through the
rotation and "transfer" the workload from the
larger muscles in the upper leg and hip area to the
pedal. The style or individual mechanics may vary due to
the bone, muscle, and ligament lengths that are
different in every individual. You should avoid
excessive "toeing" or "heeling" and
practice a more stable ankle movement.
the beginning of the indoor cycling programs, I have
seen many different instructional methods that specify
different positions and methods. How we train and ride
in the great outdoors, is what we should do while
positions that could be used are mostly personal. Look
to a road bike or mountain bike to see what traditional
handle bar positions that are used.
- Placement of hands on the ends of the bullhorns is not
recommended while in the seated position.
- Laying arms on the bars (like a triathlon or time trial
position in aero bars) is also not recommended for
indoor group cycling since your exact set up is not
- Wrists should not be overly bent, hands should rest
lightly if the bike set up is done correctly.
- Narrow hand position should never be used while out of
is the base of all riding. A majority of the ride time
should be done in the saddle including climbing. While
using resistance and cadence changes, training
intensities can be managed. Consider the seated position
as the "meat and potatos" of all the riding.
Hand positions could be wide or more narrow, but NOT
on the ends of the bullhorns while in a seated position.
Consider the applications in outdoor cycling: Flat terrain,
climbing up hill, & downhill.
or also referred to as "out of the saddle", it
is generally a more aggressive movement and has a couple
of different applications. Standing form is a little
harder to learn indoors since the direct gravitational
forces are not as obvious to help teach us. Enough
resistance to feel somewhat "supported" while
pedaling and able to sweep through the down most
position without "mashing" is recommended. The
hips should be positioned at the tip of the nose of the
saddle or slightly in front of it.
resistance while out of the saddle in never recommended.
the applications in outdoor cycling: Climbing,
Accelerations and Sprinting.
out of the saddle will raise the heart rate/RPE due to
the shift in a more upright position and the direct
control that is required of the entire body relative to
gravity. To ride similarly to outdoor riding, an
increase in resistance is required. Smooth, round
pedaling is highly recommended.
Accelerations & Sprinting.
This could be applied to flat terrain or climbing
(seated or standing). Again, an increase in resistance
is recommended. Please note that this may not always be
required if ample resistance was in use prior to the
acceleration or sprint. The difference between
acceleration and sprinting is the amount of resistance,
the relative change in RPM's and of training intensity.
Accelerations are not considered a sprint, but a
controlled "acceleration" or surge. Sprinting
is not appropriate for all levels.
Jumps. This is a traditional road racer's training mode that is
meant to train for power. This is much like an
accelerations or sprinting, but is meant to be shorter
(10-12 pedal revolutions each leg) and is traditionally
meant to be done with a seated recovery for several
minutes after each because of higher amount of force and
effort being generated. Jumps are done to train for
power and effective pedal force. The traditionally known
jumps can be done seated or standing and is much like
sprinting or accelerations. Racers that ride in groups (peletons),
will use jumps to practice the use of fluid forward
momentum and often while coming out of the saddle. If
poor form is present, the bike would "kick
back" and be harmful to any rider behind. This
means that the bike slows, as the rider comes out of the
saddle, due to loss or pause in power while coming out
of the saddle. Jumps are meant to train the athlete to
maintain the power while coming out of the saddle. Jumps
can be done consecutively out of the saddle and back in
(also known as Ins and Outs) and if done
correctly, only a few are needed or desired! This is
considered aggressive riding, and is not appropriate for
all levels or too often during your training.
(revolutions per minute) and resistance (gear
selections) are a hot topic in the field of cycling
at present time. Individual bio-mechanics, muscle fiber
type, and conditioning will be an influence to the
selection of the two.
There are some basic guidelines to stay within. Classes
should be conducted with RPM's within 50-120 revolutions
per minute with an average at approximately 90 RPM's. To
find what this is; count one leg every time it comes up
for 30 seconds and then double that number. That will be
the revolutions per minute.
Consider the RPM selection and the resistance. Does that
correspond to what the intent of the workout is? Keep it
are higher risk variations that are often taught in a
group setting. These should be politely declined.
Remember, this is your workout and the following don't
apply to outdoor riding and often have risks that far
out weigh any potential benefit.
High Intensities all the time.
Harder is not always better. It is hard on the system
and offers only a small part of "fitness". It
also leaves the participant more susceptible to illness
and injury. Consider your training and more than just
putting time in the saddle, but also training your
body's energy systems.
Popcorn Jumps. This is where you go in and out of the saddle using
momentum, usually fairly fast, high repetitions, and
Light or no resistance and jumps. Often
done w/ little to no resistance. The risk far out weighs
any potential benefit.
Swinging of hips way back over the saddle for a climb
position. This is also called "hovering".
The relative change in the bio-mechanics at the knee and
hip leave you at high risk of injury w/ little to no
Odd Hand positions. Narrow hand position while out of the saddle or at
the end of bull horns while seated. You learn what you
practice. Compare to outdoor cycling.
Running. This is a term used to describe light resistance while out
of the saddle, often with an upright standing position.
The risk of injury out weighs any potential benefit.
~Pushups. Pushup type movement performed using the handlebars while
riding. Pushups are best done on their own.
guidelines will help you make the most out of your group
cycling program and keep you riding year round.