Science

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Indoor cycling tips for beginners

Optimize your indoor cycling setup and workouts with our tips for beginners. From finding the right equipment to assuming the correct posture—this guide will have you set up and ready to ride in no time.

29 Jun 2022

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Indoor cycling is an excellent way to get your heart pumping and keep yourself fit—without having to step outside.

If you're thinking of getting an indoor bike, there are some important things to consider, though. What kind of training space do you need? And what's the correct body position? Is it the same as cycling outdoors? We hear you. Let’s take a look at how to optimize your workouts with our indoor cycling tips for beginners.

1. Get the right equipment

First things first: your bike. There are many indoor training bikes to choose from, be it a spin bike, a recumbent bike, rollers, or a smart trainer.

The advantage of buying a bike with AI-personalized workouts is the potential to get fit, fast. For example, CAROL Bike learns to push you to your limit with AI personalization that instantly applies your optimal resistance. And a range of workouts scientifically proven to be the shortest and most effective.

Studies have shown that doing CAROL Bike’s signature 5-minute workout, 3x a week, can increase your VO2max (the main measure of fitness) by 12% in just 8 weeks. Not to mention all the other health benefits that come with it.

A bike isn't the only thing you'll need, though. For the best workout, you may want to consider having these close to hand:

  • A water bottle
  • Towels to wipe down yourself and your handlebars
  • A waterproof mat to protect your floor
  • High-quality earphones
  • A fan to help you cool down (especially if you’re planning on a longer session).

2. Find the right training space

Once you’ve settled on your indoor bike, you’ll need to find a permanent home for it. While some indoor bikes require a space of at least 4x8 feet, CAROL Bike can fit into spaces as small as 3.8 feet by 3.8 feet.

Make sure your bike is located in a space that’s easily accessible—the more you automate the habit of cycling, the likelier you are to work out regularly. This is because of what psychologists call “friction.” To make exercising an easy habit, you need to remove as much friction as possible, meaning take care that not too many tasks stand between you and exercise.

Some bikes come with wired ethernet via a USB adaptor, so place your bike near an outlet for full access to all the features.

A good workout isn't without some sweat, of course, so put a waterproof mat underneath your new bike to protect the floor. This is especially important if you have carpet.

CAROL Bike’s signature 5-minute workout, 3x a week, can increase your VO2max by 12% in just 8 weeks.

3. Posture matters

Your posture is of the utmost importance when indoor cycling because it lets you use your muscles more effectively and prevents injury. Therefore, the way you adjust your bike is key.

Here are the 3 things to take into consideration before you begin your workout:

  • Seat height
  • Fore and aft positioning
  • Handlebar height.


Seat height


The longer your legs, the higher your seat should be. Stand next to your bike and adjust the saddle to the appropriate height, based on your hip bone. The seat and your hip should be aligned.

To cycle in the proper position, you should have a slight bend in your knee while pedaling. This can be anywhere from 5–30 degrees. If you feel like your legs are overextending, you've probably set your seat too high.


Fore and aft positioning


Your first indoor cycling experience may come with some pains and aches in your bottom. Sitting-bone discomfort is completely normal when indoor cycling for the first time, but don’t worry, it will go away after a few sessions. You can do some things to alleviate it, though—and correct fore and aft positioning is one of them.

Adjust the saddle so that your kneecaps are positioned above the center of the pedal. To do this correctly, ensure the pedal is forward.

You should now be able to reach your handlebars comfortably and with a slight flexion in your elbows.


Handlebar height


Maintaining proper form during your cycling routine is important. Neutral spine alignment is a must since it helps your spine function most effectively. It also prevents muscle strain and injury. This comes with its own variations concerning handlebars. For instance:

  • Beginners are encouraged to place the handlebars in such a way that their back doesn’t become rounded. If it does, place your handlebars a bit higher. Keep your back straight and lengthened to engage your core when cycling. This can also prevent neck and back pain.
  • To simulate a racing position, you can place your handlebars a little bit lower. While this creates great aerodynamics during outdoor cycling, it's not as important indoors.

If you're not training for a racing competition, placing your handlebars a little higher makes for one of the best indoor cycling positions.


Watch your feet


It's the balls of your feet, not the arches, that should do the pedaling work.

Wondering what shoes you should get? Your best bet is to go for stiff-soled shoes that can stay rigid during each pedal stroke.

4. Stretch after your cycling workout or try active recovery

While stretching after your workout may be tempting to skip, it’s a great way to help your muscles become more flexible.

According to David Nolan, a physical therapist at Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital, skipping stretching can make your muscles short and tight, which can in turn lead to possible joint pain and muscle strains.

Plus, doctors advise that improved flexibility can:

  • Increase muscle blood flow
  • Help your joints achieve full motion
  • Decrease your risk of injury
  • Improve your physical performance overall.


After working your core muscles and your lower body, proper stretching exercises can also ensure there are no sore muscles tomorrow. So, if you want to be able to get up the stairs without sighing and groaning tomorrow, you know what to do.

Nolan recommends that you stretch after your workout rather than before: “If you exercise first, you'll get blood flow to the area, and that makes the tissue more pliable and amenable to change.”

At CAROL Bike, we know how vital recovery is. Active recovery is built into our REHIT (Reduced Exertion HIIT) workouts, which consist of a warm-up, recovery between sprints, and active cool-down at the end of your workout, to keep your blood flowing and help prevent muscle soreness.

Improved flexibility can increase muscle blood flow, decrease your risk of injury and improve your physical performance overall.

5. Wear practical clothes

One of the best things about indoor cycling is that you can easily hop on your bike when it’s convenient for you. No professional gym clothes needed. However, you should always try to wear something practical:

  • Stiff-soled shoes (tie your shoelaces properly)
  • A light, breathable top
  • A headband
  • Padded cycling shorts (these will lessen the discomfort some beginners may experience and will also prevent your thighs from chafing).

6. Keep yourself accountable

For days when you find your motivation wavering, here are some tips for building a fitness habit and incorporating indoor cycling into your lifestyle:

  1. Write down a schedule and stick to it. If you miss a session, don't be too hard on yourself. Just make sure you never skip twice in a row.
  2. If you complete all your planned workouts, reward yourself in any way you like (apart from skipping the next 10 sessions).
  3. Remove friction between your sessions and other tasks. For instance, try habit stacking: connect an action you're already in the habit of performing with an action you want to do more of. For example, after brushing your teeth in the morning, hop on your bike for a 5-minute REHIT session.
  4. Many indoor bikes are equipped with screens, which makes it easier than ever to keep yourself entertained while cycling. When you choose the Free Ride workout on CAROL Bike, for example, you can easily connect your screen to entertainment apps, including Netflix and YouTube. So, pick a show that you're only allowed to watch while on your bike. No buts. The cliffhangers will keep you coming back.


Use these tips to inspire you and build your own cycling schedule.

CAROL Bike's short, scientific workouts help form a simple habit that fits seamlessly into your day.

FAQs

Is indoor cycling good for beginners?


Yes, indoor cycling is an excellent sport for beginners. It improves your cardiovascular health and can be made into a total-body workout, engaging all the major muscle groups. One study even found that indoor cycling may be better than outdoor cycling when it comes to improving physical fitness.


Can you lose weight doing indoor cycling?


Coupled with a healthy diet, indoor cycling can promote weight loss. According to Harvard Health, a 155-pound person will burn approximately 252 calories in 30 minutes on a stationary bike.


How long should I cycle as a beginner?


It depends on your bike. With typical stationary bikes, the advice is generally to cycle for around 30 minutes, 2–4 times a week.

With CAROL Bike, however, all you need is 15 minutes a week. Read more about the science behind CAROL Bike here, including how to get all the benefits of a 45-minute run in just 5.

Final thoughts on indoor cycling tips for beginners

Indoor cycling can improve your blood pressure and aerobic capacity. It also helps you burn calories, supporting weight loss.

Thanks to this beginner's guide, you now know how to:

  1. Choose the right space for your indoor bike
  2. Assume the correct form and adjust your bike to maintain neutral spine alignment
  3. Pick the right equipment
  4. Dress for cycling
  5. Keep your new habit alive.


So, what are you waiting for? Get moving and build a habit with the world’s most effective exercise bike.

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