Dealing With Awkward Moments in Indoor Cycling

Find Out to Handle Tricky Situations Gracefully and Maintain Your Workout

Despite your best intentions to go full throttle and stay mindful during your workout, it’s easy to get distracted from your goals when you encounter an uncomfortable issue in an indoor cycling class. Maybe a fellow cyclist is misbehaving, proving that common courtesy isn't all that common these days. Or maybe the instructor does or says something that makes you feel ill at ease. Moments like these can suck the fun out of the experience, especially if something is happening in the studio that you don’t like but don’t know how to handle.

Use our guide to common awkward indoor cycling scenarios with advice on how to deal with them tactfully.

  1. Your fellow cyclists are chatting away during the class. If the instructor doesn’t ask them to quiet down, you should feel free to speak up. If the talkers are sitting near you, simply lean over and say, “Excuse me, but I can’t hear the instructor over your talking. Could you please save the conversation for after class?” If they’re sitting far away from you, try to catch their attention and lift your finger to your lips in the universal “shh!” sign. If all else fails, raise your hand to get the instructor’s attention and tell him or her that you can’t hear the cues over the chatter. It really is the instructor’s responsibility to make sure everyone can hear him or her.
  2. During the class, the instructor periodically gets off the bike, walks around and looks at riders’ computer readings. Some instructors do this in order to give riders some personal attention, to encourage them to increase their resistance or pace (RPMs) or watts or to simply push them to work harder. But there are days when you just want to be left to your own devices. Instructors get that! So the easiest and least confrontational way to let an instructor know that you want to be left alone is to drape your towel over the computer, as he or she makes the rounds through the class, so the instructor can’t see the monitor. The message will be received, loud and clear.
  1. Your neighbor’s noisy breathing is bothering you. It’s time for a reality check: Yes, there are right and wrong ways to breathe during indoor cycling and some are more efficient than others. But it’s not your job to dictate or police how someone else breathes during an exercise session. So you can do one of three things: You can do your best to ignore a fellow cyclist’s noisy breathing, you can bring earplugs to drown out the unwanted sound or you can move to another bike. 
  1. Someone in the class is complaining about the music. Maybe the music is not to your taste, but here's what you need to remember: It's pretty much impossible for an instructor to find 12 to 16 songs that will motivate and please every single one of the 25 to 50 riders in the room. So while maybe you don't like rap or Motown or electronic music, the person riding next to you does. If you don't like a particular song, keep in mind that a new one will begin in just a few minutes. If you consistently dislike an instructor's choice of music, find a different class to attend; different instructors have different tastes in music and their classes are likely to reflect this. Another option: Bring earplugs to muffle the music if you really like the instructor's teaching style and ride design but not her tunes. Whatever you do, don't criticize the music while the class is in session. When people do this, it's not only rude to the instructor, who put considerable time and energy into putting together the playlist—but it also makes your fellow cyclists feel uncomfortable.
  2. The instructor asks you to do something you don’t feel comfortable doing. These days, it’s not uncommon to encounter indoor cycling instructors who want their participants to do push-ups on the bike, isolation exercises, drills where they ride with only one hand on the handlebars and other unusual moves. These exercises could end up harming your joints, so don’t feel compelled to do them! It’s your prerogative to take a pass. The same is true if you don’t want to risk tweaking your already cranky lower back with fast-paced jumps; you could take them at a slower pace or skip them altogether. In all likelihood, your instructor will turn a blind eye to your sitting out a drill. If he or she calls you on it, feel free to explain your position on the issue, saying something like “I don’t want to injure myself.” If more needs to be said, save it for a private chat with the instructor after class.

    Remember: Even though it’s called group cycling, it’s ultimately your ride each and every time. So you have the right to enjoy it and the right to do it safely.