Why there’s never been a better time to get shouted at in a sweaty room...

Adele Mitchell reports from the front line of indoor cycling.

While indoor cycling isn’t a new route to fitness, it’s currently massively on-trend. You can spend £20 a class in London (roughly the same as it costs to join my local cycling club for a whole year!), pick a class according to the DJ-mixed playlist, choose between an instructor in a tiny vest who surely rates himself as a ‘Beckham’ on the attractiveness scale, or go for the class led by a spray-tanned and ultra toned goddess who will probably have ‘motivation’ tattooed on her neck.

In reality (and in the suburbs) most of us don’t have the luxury of choosing a class based on its hip-hop soundtrack and size of the trainer’s pecs. In fact most of us will be corralled into a studio at our local gym, sandwiched between someone who looks as if she’s just ridden in straight off The Etape, and a guy who sweats more than you’ve ever seen anyone sweat before. I mean like dripping onto the floor.

But it will still be massive fun.

The class I go to – organised by the local cycling club – is held at the leisure centre and taught by the lovely Sean, an indoor cycling teacher and middle-aged dad in a sensibly sized cycling top*. If you don’t want to be shouted at over a soundtrack of old-school Led Zeppelin, then don’t bother turning up.

And this is why I love it:


1. It’s a guaranteed full-on workout

The great thing about indoor cycling is that everyone works at his or her own level so you can have the very fittest person ‘riding’ alongside a complete beginner. A good instructor won’t just lead you through a series of ‘climbs’ or ‘flat road’ rides, but will also push you to work as hard as you can, with a motivational soundtrack to match. There is no stopping, no getting lost, no weather, and no traffic to hold you up - so you can ride at your absolute max. You leave feeling like you’ve been wrung out: if you don’t then you’re only cheating yourself (or at least that’s what Sean says).


2. The endorphins

A direct consequence of working hard is the hit of endorphins (the body’s natural pain killer, created in response to intense physical exertion) that makes you feel RIDICULOUSLY HAPPY even before the class is halfway through. No matter how glum or lazy you’re feeling at the start, you can pretty much guarantee that you’ll leave in a state of pure unadulterated fabulousness. A Stairway to Heaven indeed.


3. You don’t need too much kit

There’s no chance of wind or rain indoors, so there’s to need to wonder if you need to pack a rain jacket or shell in the back pocket of your jersey. What you do need is an outfit that will allow you to work hard, so wicking fabrics (they allow sweat to evaporate and keep your body temperature constant) are an essential. I wear padded cycling shorts and a cycling jersey with a full zip (you may get so hot that you want to partially undo it - keep that in mind when choosing your sports bra!).

Indoor cycling bikes have SPD pedals - or you can wear trainers. Bear in mind that you are very much ‘on show’ so do add a pair of classy cycling socks rather than turning up in two odd ones from the bottom of the wash basket. You don’t need gloves, but you might need a small towel to dab your glowing brow (or to wipe the floor with, depending upon your propensity to sweat).

[For some ideas on what might work well to wear for spinning, click here]


4. You can ride when you can’t ride

From March to October I don’t go near an indoor cycling studio: I’m too busy putting in the miles and the smiles on my road and mountain bikes. But when the nights draw in and the weather is dialled to winter it can be much harder to get out and ride. This is where indoor cycling comes in: every class you do helps keep your fitness on track without having to worry about finding time or watching the storm clouds.


5. It’s fun

Find a teacher who inspires you to work out and I promise you will be totally hooked. This may involve a little trial and error – what motivates one person may well leave another watching the minutes tick slowly by until the end of the class. The playlist is really important too: the right music is energising, the wrong music is just plain irritating (note to Sean: play Eye of the Tiger and I’ll get off the bike and leave). Bizarrely the Riverdance theme (it was St Patrick’s day!) turned out to be an unexpected indoor cycling hit: and I think its fair to say that trying to keep up with its distinctly frantic tempo reduced the exceptionally fit members of my cycling club to pulp.

* I’m fairly confident that he’ll make me pay for this description at the next class.


For a full list of kit that might work well for your next indoor cycling session, click here - meanwhile, here are some highlights...

... Perfect kit for indoor cycling work outs