Everything You Want to Know About Spinning but Are Too Afraid to Ask

Photo: Thinkstock/Dimarik

Walking into a spin studio for the first time can be a lot to take in. It's dark, the bass is pumping, and you're clomping around in weird shoes that feel totally unnatural. This is what everyone is clamoring on about? you think, as the girl in the skull-covered leggings next to you jumps on her bike, locks herself in, and starts peddling—effortlessly.

SoulCycle instructor Jera Foster-Fell is the first to admit that going to your inaugural class can be intimidating. But she also says it doesn't have to be. Especially as studios are evolving the bikes themselves to be easier to set up—including the boutique brand, which unveiled newly redesigned equipment last month. “They’re designed for the comfort of the rider as well as the choreography of the workout,” SoulCycle CEO Melanie Whelan says. “The grips and grooves are better, the positioning is better, and the angle of the front of the handlebars is better for your posture and spine.”

As studios continue to open in more cities (and even indoor cycling shoes get a fashion makeover), it's never been easier to get on the saddle.

Keep reading for everything you need to know about spinning.

how to do indoor spinning
Photo: Stocksy/Rob and Julia Campbell

Prepping the bike

If you're a first-timer, Foster-Fell suggests getting to your spin class early and asking for help—that way you get a one-on-one tutorial for how to do it in the future. But even regular spinners can get adjustments wrong, starting with seat height. "The easiest way to see where your seat should be is to put your hand at the top of your hipbone and stand next to the bike," our expert says. "You want the seat to rest right under that." In most studios, there's a pin you untwist and then adjust, with holes at different levels. The new SoulCycle bikes have click-locks, which are a bit easier and more secure—instead of winding, just lock it in.

Once you have your seat height ready to go, it's time to turn your attention to your handlebars. "You want them to be just about even with your seat height," Foster-Fell says. "Even a little higher is okay, but you definitely don't want it to be lower because it will cause some back pain." Just like with the seat, most studio bikes have a pin you untwist, adjust, and lock in. (And again, the new SoulCycle bikes have the new click-lock feature so it's just a tad different—and easier.)

Photo: Instagram/@flywheel

Clipping into (and out of) the pedals

The last thing you need to do before you're ready to ride is secure your feet. "Clipping in and out was the scariest thing to me when I was a new rider," Foster-Fell says. "You see everyone else doing it and you're like, Why can't I get this? But after you learn, it's easy." Here's her best advice: "Start with the foot at the 6 o'clock position. You want to keep it flat. Then, glide it in, like you're putting on a high heel or ski binding. You'll hear it lock in." Then, follow the same advice for your other foot.

Being stuck on your bike at the end of class when everyone else is getting in the shower line can be super frustrating. "Getting out requires the most force," Foster-Fell says. Her pro tip: Jut your heel out away from the bike, almost like you're squishing a bug. 

what spinning positions mean
Photo: Instagram/@soulcycle

Getting into position—and tapping it back

During class, you'll hear the instructor shout out three different positions: one, two, and three. "We spend the most time in third position, with your booty out of the saddle, hips back, and you're jogging in place," Foster-Fell explains. "Your hands should be at the top of the handlebars and have a slight bend in your elbows—you never want them to be locked."

When you're seated, it's called first position, and Foster-Fell says your hands should be front and center. "The new SoulCycle bikes have a knob to make it easier on your wrists," she says. And the last position, where you'll spend the least amount of time, is second. It's how you come up for jumps: "Position your hands just inside the curve and stand as you are in position three," Foster-Fell says.

But there's one last thing that all spinning pros know: how to tap it back. "The number one thing to keep in mind is the beat," Foster-Fell says of the booty-thrusting move. "So before you do it, make sure your feet are on beat. Then, add it in. "Keep the core engaged and clench your lower abs, bringing your hips back. Then, back forward. It should be controlled and concise."

Now that you have all the basics down, you can turn your attention to what's really important—the instructor's killer playlist!

Speaking of playlists, here's the one all your favorite celebs are listening to. Plus, how to prevent injury during spin class

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