Indoor Cycling Bike Abuse

Find Out Which Forms You're Guilty of and How to Reform Your Ways

It’s time to ‘fess up: How many times have you groused or grumbled about the state of the bikes in an indoor cycling class? Maybe the clips on the pedals or the straps on the toe cages were out of whack. Maybe the feet at the base of the bike were bent or wobbly. Or maybe some of the bikes had started to rust.

Each of these scenarios is a bummer but none of them is surprising. The reality is, at indoor cycling studios, “people treat the bikes like rental cars,” says John Cook, vice president of design at Mad Dogg Athletics, Inc., creator of the Spinning® program.

“People pay money and they just want to ride—I totally get that," he adds. "But the bikes are in a precarious environment—sweat and salt are a bad combination—so you should treat them like a family car" that you want to keep in good working condition. In other words, think of the greater good and the shared benefits that would occur if you took care of the bikes as if they were yours.

Here are six common forms of bike abuse with advice on how to steer clear of them:

Pedaling in reverse: Most stationary bikes in indoor cycling classes and studios are not designed to be pedaled in both directions, which means that pedaling in reverse is a risky practice for both you and the bike. For one thing, it could damage the bike and possibly even unscrew the pedals from the crank arm. For another thing, if you try to stop the flywheel while pedaling in reverse, the compressive forces on the knee joint could lead to injury.


Making the bike jump while you’re riding it: Every once in a while, someone rides in such a herky-jerky fashion or pulls up on the handlebars so hard that the base of the bike (literally!) bounces off the floor. Aside from the risk of the rider falling, this places excessive strain on the bikes, Cook says.

Yes, indoor bicycles are incredibly strong but they’re not indestructible, and they weren’t designed to leave the ground during a workout. The solution: Maintain good form while you ride and keep your pedal strokes smooth for your entire ride.

Using excessive force on the resistance knob or lever: Feel free to turn it up or down as much as you want to but do it gently, just as you would the knob on your stove or a door in your home. Jamming these controls too hard in either direction can cause them to get stuck or stop moving as smoothly as they should.

Being rough with the pedals: If you yank your shoe out of the cage or un-clip your cycling shoe violently, you can damage the mechanisms that are designed to keep your feet secure on the pedals. If you can’t figure out how to thread the pedal strap properly or tighten it against your shoe, ask your instructor for help. Always place your feet in the cages or clip in and out of the pedals gently. This way, you won’t damage your shoes or the pedals.

Stretching on the bike: “Anytime you come in contact with the frame, you create the potential for chipping the paint and increasing the potential for rust,” says Cook, who’s also a certified Spinning® instructor. There’s an easy way around this: Do all your lower-body stretching off the bike. It’s okay to do stretches for your upper body while pedaling slowly as part of the cool-down but then get off the bike to stretch your legs, hips, and glutes. Don’t put a foot on the handlebars to stretch!

Neglecting to clean your bike: No one wants to get on a bike that’s dripping with someone else’s sweat—it’s a matter of courtesy to clean up after yourself. For the sake of the bike’s maintenance and longevity, it’s also important for you to use a disinfecting wipe or a towel to wipe off the handlebars, seat, and knobs after your ride. Don’t spray a cleaning agent or disinfectant right on the bike because the chemicals can get into the bike’s nooks and crannies and cause rust, Cook says. Spray it on a cloth then wipe off the bike. Whatever you do, don't leave excessive moisture on the bike!

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