Don’t be Afraid of the Bike // What is RPM?

February 15th, 2017 Posted by Wellness 0 thoughts on “Don’t be Afraid of the Bike // What is RPM?”

I love teaching RPM (in-door cycling). So I get so sad when people tell me they are interested in trying in-door cycling. But they’re afraid of the bike.

Sad!

Don’t be afraid! I know it’s a piece of equipment. And it looks intimidating. And uncomfortable. And has a lot of knobs. But you needn’t be afraid because you control the bike! You turn the knobs, you tell the wheel what to do.

So, let’s start with the basics.

What’s RPM?

RPM is high intensity interval training on a stationary bike. It’s a cycle class where you ride to the beat of the music. During class you’ll sit, stand, climb, and race. You control the resistance dial, so you control the work out.

What happens during a RPM class?

There are eight tracks in a RPM class: warm up, pace, hill climb, mixed terrain, intervals, speed work, mountain climb, and recovery/stretch. It’s not important to know the order – you’re instructor will lead you through. The class is designed to mimic the conditions you might encounter on a ride outside: hills, stretches of flat road, big climbs, etc… During class you will work hard, recover, work hard, recover, work hard, recover. That’s that high intensity interval training that’s so effective for fat loss. The RPM class is only 45 minutes total. But this class proves you don’t need to work out longer to have an effective work out.

So what’s the deal with the resistance dial (the knob, that thing you turn)?

The resistance dial is where the work is at. That dial controls the weight on the wheel. Turn to the right, it’s harder to push. Turn to the left, it’s easier to push. You’re instructor will say to turn the dial up or down. When your instructor tells you to turn it up, how much should you turn? A good rule of thumb is: turn it enough so you feel a difference. Each of the bikes can be a little different. Some of them you barely have to touch and you feel a difference. Some of them you need to crank to feel a change. What is this change I should be feeling? When you turn the wheel, you should feel the bike pushing harder back at you. Your legs will need to work harder to stay on the beat.

What if I don’t want to turn it up?

This is your ride! If you’re not feeling it, then leave that dial where it is, especially if you’re new to RPM. Maybe start with tiny turns up, see how you feel. Then work to increase your load over time. When I first started riding, I didn’t turn it up very high. Now, I’ve been indoor cycling for almost eight years. So now I can really turn it up. Don’t compare how much you turn the dial compared to your neighbor. He or she could be an accomplished cyclist while you’re just starting out.

I don’t know.  That seat looks terribly uncomfortable.

So let me just help you with that fear and say, yep, it’s uncomfortable. But only for the first couple rides. Give it at least three times. It takes a while to get comfortable on the seat. And it looks like it won’t support you, right? It will. All it takes is time to get comfortable on the bike.

Here’s an example: I was three weeks post-partum after a vaginal birth with Michael. (And one that resulted in a hematoma.) But there was an open audition for RPM instructors at a gym I wanted to work at. And this was a limited time opportunity. So I auditioned to teach RPM, three weeks post-partum after a somewhat complicated vaginal birth. I sat on the bike seat and everything. And I felt fine.

So, that’s proof that once you get used to it, that bike seat will feel as comfortable to you as your favorite chair.

Okay.  But what about those fancy shoes I see people wear?  Do I need those?

Those shoes are bike shoes with SPD clips. The shoes “clip” into the pedals, which is optimal for riding because it allows you to better use your whole leg. Meaning, you push down with your quads and pull up with your hamstrings. The shoes especially help with the pulling up motion. The shoes are stiff, as opposed to sneakers which have bend and flex in them (so you can run, jump, etc…). That said, do you need them?  If you’re new to cycling and unsure if you want to commit, then don’t worry about it. Snugly fit your sneaker into the cage on the pedal, and then take a good deal of classes. If you find you take a couple cycle classes a week and you’re really enjoying it, then spring for some shoes (they will run you $75 as a starting base). If you only cycle in doors with those shoes, they will last your forever.

Okay, I’ll come.  Now how do I set up this bike?

Ideally, get to your cycle class a few minutes before class starts and ask your instructor to help you. No need to be shy about this. We love helping people get set up on their bike! But, if you’re feeling shy, here’s a few tips:

+Stand next to the bike seat with your feet flat on the floor and your hips square (so one hip bone is next to the seat). Raise or lower the seat so that it’s in line with your hip bone.

+If your bike seat moves forward and back, a good rule is, the distance between the handle bars and the seat is about the distance from your elbow to your fisted hand.

+The handle bar height is mostly a comfort thing. The higher the handle bars, the “easier.” Generally, the handle bars are in line with your seat. As you get better at cycling, lower your handle bars as much as is comfortable. The lower the handle bars, the more you’re engaging your core. (Note: If you’re just starting out and/or pregnant, keep the handle bars up higher. That will help you stay more comfortable on the bike since you won’t be leaning forward as much.)

+Now hop up onto the seat to test the seat height. Sit up with your hips back in the saddle. Stop your legs with one knee bent and the other leg down. There should be a slight knee bend in the down leg. Just slight. If you’re leg is entirely straight, you’re seat is too high. If you’ve got a super knee bend, you’re seat is too low.

Especially when you’re new, the bike will feel weird. I always tell my class: if at anytime the bike doesn’t feel right, hop off and adjust. You are never stuck on the bike. Never. Even if we’re in the middle of a climb.  Just hop off an readjust.

Why is this class good for me?

High intensity interval training is the fastest way to get in shape. The intense work sessions tap into your biggest calorie burners: fast-twitch muscle fibers. The interval training taps into the fast-twitch muscle fibers, which your body will use to continue burning even after class.

RPM is also great for people with knee issues. The low-impact nature of bike riding allows people with knee issues to get a great workout without slamming on their knee joints.

Cycling is fast way to get in shape. Combine cycle classes with BodyPump and some mindful eating and good sleep patterns, and you’ve got a recipe for getting in shape quick.

Okay, what do you say?! Will you try RPM?

  • I’m one of those people who has always been interested in indoor cycling but is too intimidated! I wish you could be my instructor! But also, this post makes me think that I should just try it.

    • Ha! I wish I could, too! Try it! It’s good for pregnant ladies! Just lift the handle bars WAY up!

Hi! I’m Sarah, I am passionate about creating community, building deep connections, and the power of creativity. I live in Northern Virginia with my husband, our three kids, and our golden-lab mix.

I believe in leggings as pants, and I drink my coffee black. I love shopping at Costco, teaching group exercise classes, and, athleisure.

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sarah@bagley.org