Cringe-Inducing Moments in Indoor Cycling

How to deal with embarrassing things that can happen in the cycle studio


We’ve all been there: You’re riding hard when something goes awry. Maybe your sweat-drenched shirt suddenly becomes a bit too revealing. Or maybe the bike’s handlebars take a nosedive because they weren’t tightened properly. Or, you nearly fall off the bike as you attempt to dismount—and feel completely spastic. The cycle studio is prime territory for mortifying moments, thanks to the presence of sweaty bodies, the high exertion level, and the potential for equipment snafus.

Here are a handful of humiliating occurrences that can happen in indoor cycling, with advice on how to handle them.  

You experience a wardrobe malfunction: Short shorts can get caught on the nose of the saddle when you move from a seated to a standing position—and can rip or get pulled down. Plus, wearing teeny, tiny shorts that ride up while you’re riding can leave you with a case of saddle soreness, chafing or contact dermatitis from leftover bacteria on the saddle. Meanwhile, cycling in a sports bra that has a zipper or hook closure presents the risk of its becoming undone, leaving you overexposed. Your best bet is to give your cycling outfit a trial run at home before wearing it to the gym; to be on the safe side, stick with tight-fitting bike shorts, tanks, halters, or t-shirts to keep your private parts private. If a wardrobe malfunction happens, grab a towel to help cover you up and high-tail it to the locker room!

You feel like you’re going to faint or puke: It’s easy to push your limits with indoor cycling, and sometimes you can push yourself too hard too fast. That’s why it’s important to listen to your body and dial down your efforts if you start to feel nauseous; if that doesn’t help, climb off the bike and head to the nearest bathroom.

It’s also essential to spend a few minutes cooling down at the end of class by pedaling slowly, in order to prevent a rapid drop in blood pressure when you get off the bike. (A cycling instructor friend told me about a woman who fainted after her class—and knocked down the lady behind her, too. Yikes!) Having a small snack before the ride and drinking plenty of fluids during the ride can help prevent queasiness and lightheadedness.

You pass gas on the bike: If the farting sound doesn’t draw eyes toward you, the odor may. Given all the pedal pushing you’re doing and the position changes your body is making, passing gas is not an uncommon occurrence with cycling. If it happens to you, you can: a) ignore it and pretend it didn’t happen; b) say “excuse me” then forget about it; or c) make a joke like “Oops, looks like I pushed a little too hard! Sorry.” In any case, don’t sweat it. Next time, make a pit stop at the bathroom before class to give your body a pre-emptive chance to expel any gaseous emissions that may be brewing.

You’re sneezing all over the bike: Between allergy season and cold and flu season, it seems like someone always has the sniffles in a cycling class. It’s no big deal, as long as the snot stays where it belongs. If your nose has been running or you’ve been sneezing a lot, keep a few tissues handy on your handlebars. If you end up sliming the bike anyway, take a break and grab some antimicrobial wipes from the canister in the cycle studio and thoroughly wipe down the bike. If you’re spewing your germs everywhere and you have a nasty infection, stay home until you’re no longer contagious.

A pair of underwear falls out of your towel: This can happen when you drape a towel from home over the bike—it happened to me once before I taught a class and one of my riders noticed my panties on the floor before I did. Horrifying! If this happens to you, your best bet is to scoop them up as quickly as possible and stuff them back in your gym bag. Shrug it off and go about your business. I promise: If it happens to you once, it’ll never happen again because you’ll become super-diligent about shaking out your towel to check for hidden undergarments before you leave home.

You start feeling sexually aroused: Whether it’s because of the physical exertion and enhanced blood flow, the hot bodies around you, or the sexy videos you’re watching during the class, it’s easy to become aroused during or after a cycling workout. If you’re a woman, no one needs to know. If you’re a man, it’s a bit trickier; try to distract yourself from what’s making you aroused or think about an issue that’s equivalent to taking a cold shower (perhaps the state of the economy or climate change). That should help you settle down.

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