Want to try spinning but don’t know where to start? Is spinning hard for beginners? How do I prepare for indoor cycling? Here are some indoor cycling tips for beginners who want to try the stationary bike. (Affiliate links included.)

Just a few months ago, I traded my noisy treadmill in for a fancy NordicTrack stationary bike. I was a complete newbie and had never cycled before. Fast forward several months and I’m ready to share my indoor cycling tips for beginners!

indoor cycling tips for beginners

In our last house, I had a HUGE laundry room. In it lived my cheap but trusty Weslo treadmill, a functional but fairly loud machine. Luckily, my laundry room had a sliding door. It was an old house, so the door was heavy wood and blocked any noise really well. So when I wanted to run or walk on my treadmill, but the baby was asleep, I could totally get away with it.

But when we moved, my workout area was RIGHT next to the baby’s room. I knew that it was either time to upgrade to a quieter treadmill, or time to try something new. I contemplated getting a rower, but eventually settled on my new best friend, the NordicTrack S15i stationary bike.

This bike is the BIGGEST and RISKIEST investment I have ever made as far as workout equipment goes. You know I am a fan of all the cheap fitness gear out there, but I knew it was time for me to go big or go home.

Intro to Indoor Cycling + Spinning Tips

I have gotten a lot more serious about my personal fitness as the time for me to go back to work gets closer and closer. I AM a personal trainer after all, so I could potentially use this for clients, too. (At least that’s what I told myself.) 🙂

Anyway, I say that this was a risky investment because I had NEVER really used a stationary bike before. I’d never been to a spin class, and I definitely never tried a virtual workout before. I could potentially hate it.

But I didn’t! I found that it took me a few weeks (yes, weeks) to figure out how to use this bike comfortably, but eventually I fell in love with it. And my struggles and findings led me to creating this beginner’s guide to indoor cycling.

My hope with this post is to answer many of the questions I had when I started, and is full of indoor cycling tips for beginners. If you have questions like, “How do I prepare for my first cycling class?” or “How do I get the most out of my indoor cycling?” this post is definitely for you! Hopefully between teaching you how to use a spin bike and all of my indoor cycling tips, I have created the ultimate beginners guide to indoor cycling.

So let’s dive in.

11 Indoor Cycling Tips for Beginners

Now – most of these tips apply to any indoor cycling situation (class, gym, or at home), but keep in mind that I learned these things at my own pace in the comfort of my own home. 🙂

1. Expect it to feel uncomfortable. 

Hey, you’re looking for spinning tips for beginners, right? Then bear this in mind. I will tell you RIGHT now that if you’re not accustomed to sitting on a bike, you will feel a little pain or bruising after your first few workouts. Yes, your muscles will adjust, but it takes some time. When I did my first few workouts, I realized that I could offset the soreness by investing in some padded butt shorts, so I did. Here is the exact pair I bought. In my first few months indoor cycling at home, I wore these about every-other workout to protect my glutes and bones from any bruising. Now I never wear them because my body has toughened up a bit. 🙂

2. It can take several rides to get your seat & handle height just right.

You will find that your back hurts if you don’t sit with proper form or at the proper height. I personally had NO clue how to position my seat and handlebars, so I looked up a few tutorials. (Here’s a helpful one.) I found out that your seat should sit at about hip height when you are standing next to your bike. And your handles shouldn’t be so low it is causing your back to round when you are resting your hands on the ends of the handles. In addition, your legs should be *almost* fully extending when you are on the seat and pedaling.

3. Proper form is definitely a big deal. 

My back is already sorta messed up, but sitting wrong on the bike a few times made it feel worse. It wasn’t until I got my bike positioned correctly that I was able to adopt proper form. The biggest form issue is NOT keeping your back straight and core tight. Your back should NOT be rounded. If you find that it is, you may need to lean forward into the bike more, requiring you to either bend your arms at the elbows a bit more or adjusting your handle height. Your elbows should be held close to your sides pretty much all of the time with a slight bend, depending on your incline.

4. Starting without a warmup will kill your workout. 

I have a fancy bike with virtual workouts and automatically adjusting incline and resistance. (Yep, it’s this fancy bike right here.) It’s like the Peloton but NordicTrack brand. It has built-in, 3 minute warm ups before every single ride. This is the time I take to wiggle around a bit on the seat, make sure my height feels right, and settle in. If you are using a virtual workout (even if you don’t have the fancy bike but you get the app), they will jump RIGHT in. Even if you are using a fan-style bike, you need to warm up and get the repetition of the pedaling down. Just trust me on this one. You’ll be able to settle in for a longer, better ride if you spend just a few minutes pedaling at a low resistance at your pace.

5. Learn when to stand and sit. 

During my first few rides, I just about died when my NordicTrack trainer automatically increased  my incline and resistance. (Yes, those bikes do it virtually!) I learned that it was nearly impossible for me to sit in one spot. Typically, on a steep incline, you’ll want to stand, lean down toward the bike, and keep your back straight. If you feel the bike or your body swaying, you need to focus on keeping your core tight and your movements more confined.

I also find that it feels like an “active recovery” period when I sit back on the bike with my hands at my sides (rather than down on the handle bars). If I sit all the way up, it forces my core to engage for balance, but it seems to give my legs a bit of a break because of the angle. If you find yourself struggling, don’t hesitate to move. Apparently, the different positions all have names & numbers (like ballet). I haven’t paid much attention to them, but you can find out more in this post.

6. Have your water & towel ready. 

I know your main question is, “Can you lose weight with indoor cycling?” Well yes, duh! Cycling requires activation of large muscles (like the quads), along with a ton of other small muscles simultaneously. (I was surprised to find my core and triceps a little sore after a few workouts.) But what I’m trying to get at is that you will sweat. Even if I’m only on the bike for 20 minutes, as long as I maintain a pretty fast cadence or high resistance, I am always dripping in sweat. You will definitely want water, and if you don’t have a towel, wear a headband that will keep sweat from dripping into your eyes.

7. Try intervals for the biggest bang. 

On my fancy bike, I can adjust my incline and resistance with the touch of a button. You may not have that (esp. if you are in the gym). However, adjusting your incline or resistance several times during your workout is the best way to burn calories. Think of it like high-intensity interval training, but on the bike. Thing is, your body adjusts quickly. You can get away with steady-state cardio during your first few workouts, but to burn calories and get into that fat-burning zone, I recommend upping the intensity. If you can put forth an all-out effort at least once during your workout, you’ll start seeing results in no-time!

8. No, you don’t need fancy shoes. 

At the gym I’ve seen a few people in special clip-in shoes for spin class, but they really aren’t totally necessary. I do, however, recommend sticking to lightweight, low-profile shoes. (I tried spinning in my Asics and they are just too fat and heavy.) With that being said, you do want to make sure that your straps are tight but comfortable. It can be dangerous to lose your footing when the pedals are still spinning.

9. Less clothes is advised. 

This sounds kinda dumb, I admit. But after you cycle in cotton sweat pants and a loose t-shirt, you’ll see what I mean. I am a legging and tank-top kind of girl at the gym, but on my bike at home, I am a sports bra and shorts girl. (ZYIA workout clothes, of course.) Not only is it safer to wear form-fitting clothes, it is just too sweaty not to. Plus, it’s kinda cool to look down at your legs and see just how strong they are getting!

10. Do a trial workout before your first spin class. 

I am not afraid to admit that part of why I bought my NordicTrack bike was so that I could practice at home before going to a spin class at the gym. I had this fear that I would have NO clue how to use the bike and that I definitely wouldn’t make it through a 45-minute class. If you have a stationary bike available for use at your local gym (outside the studio maybe), try it out beforehand. This will help you know how to adjust things when it’s go-time in class.

11. Show up 10 minutes early. 

If you’re headed to your first spin class, you should definitely show up well before class starts. (You can also read my tips for rocking your first group fitness class here.) It will take you a few minutes to find a good spot, clean the bike in case the last person didn’t, and set the seat to your height. Then, I recommend hoping on the bike to warm up or at least feel it out. Lastly, I highly recommend introducing yourself to the instructor and letting him/her know you’re a beginner. He or she may have some super helpful pointers!

There, now you have some spin class tips as well as some general spinning tips for new riders. Thanks for checking out my beginner’s guide to indoor cycling! 

Have any beginner spin class tips or more thoughts on indoor cycling for beginners? Drop a comment below!

indoor cycling for beginners - beginner's guide