Picture this: You’re 20 minutes into your first cycling class when you begin to feel like a fish out of water, gasping for air. Amid the sound of a new Calvin Harris remix, you decide to slow down your pace—a daring feat considering you’re sitting front and center, in VIP land.
“Let’s go!” shouts the instructor on the podium. “We’re almost at the top of the hill! Let’s GO!” So you go. And before you know it, the pedals take on a “can’t stop, won’t stop” attitude without even consulting your legs. And then it happens: You fall off the bike saddle, and into a legal mess.
Worst nightmare ever? For Carmen Farias, it was a reality. According to People Magazine, the Californian is suing SoulCycle after her instructor (who happens to teach Oprah) “barked at her and the rest of the class, [for slowing down, yelling ] we don’t take breaks.” Although she felt like slowing down, she continued to ride due to the instructor, she claims.
“I most definitely understand that instructors can cross the line,” says Dyan Tsiumus, a master instructor at Swerve in New York City. “I can fully understand how students can feel pressure when their instructor is guiding their room in that manner.” Still, she says, it is up to the rider to let the instructor know if they’re a newbie, prone to injury, or feeling overall uneasy about the class.
While the jury’s still out on who’s to blame (a rep for SoulCycle was unable to comment), one thing’s for sure: You can never be too well-informed when it comes to your own safety.
Here, indoor cycling pros share the six tips that every rider—whether you’re new to the saddle or have been spinning for years—should remember.
1. Give yourself enough time to set up your bike
“I did have a rider fall off his bike once,” admits Flywheel’s Josh Adren. “He tried to adjust his handle bars while riding in the dark—never a good idea.” Go ahead and bug every studio manager you can find until the bike feels perfect. You’ll be setting up your own bike like a pro in no time.
2. Know when to lower the resistance and slow down
That little knob on the bike is within arm’s reach for a reason. “Riders can change their resistance—and should do whatever speed they are comfortable with,” says Arden, adding that getting to the instructed speed and resistance can be a process. “Be smart and build up to what they’re asking for slowly—it can take months!”
3. Take those in-class motivational mantras with a grain of salt
Some days, you need an instructor to push you harder than you’ve ever worked before. But on others, you might not be up for going all-out—and that’s okay. While it’s good to listen to your teacher, it’s even more important to listen to yourself. “Always give yourself permission to modify the teacher’s instructions,” says Christine D’Ercole, an instructor at Peloton. “You should always feel like you are connected to ‘the road,'” she says.
4. Proper fuel is just as important as proper form
According to Tsiumus, the only time someone has fallen off a bike in her class, it was actually due to her empty stomach. “She passed out…I saw her sit down into her saddle and slump over. Turns out she hadn’t eaten all day—and this was a 7 p.m. class.” Needless to say, you don’t want to saddle up on an empty stomach. (Insider tip: any of these vegan protein bars should do the trick.)
5. If you feel uneasy about leaving the saddle, then don’t
“Attempting to stand up from the saddle at [speeds] higher than 85 is generally unsafe,” warns D’Ercole. “Riding [quickly] with little-to-no resistance can cause the body to lose control.” Adding resistance is a great way to make you feel more in control, and gives you the courage you’ll need for third position.
6. Remember that there are plenty of fish, er, fitness instructors, in the sea
If an instructor ever makes you feel like your best isn’t good enough, find another one who does. “I always ask my riders to give their best,” says Tsiumis. “That’s all I ever ask—and that’s all any good instructor should do.”
Want the VIP cycling treatment? These are the most luxe spin studios around the world. And if you prefer to ride on the open road, these bike helmets are so cool, you’ll actually want to wear them.