The Cycling Class Style Guide

The Cycling Class Style Guide

Just as some indoor cycling classes are designed around a particular goal, such as building endurance or strength, or to simulate a type of terrain, others use specific performance measures as their basis. In the latter category, some classes rely on computer consoles on the bike to monitor RPMs and watts or other power and energy metrics, while others rely on the tempo of the music or your maximum heart rate. Each of these approaches can add variety to your indoor cycling workouts, and they can help push you out of your comfort zone so you can gain greater fitness benefits. Here’s a look at how the different approaches compare . . .

A Beat-Based Class

In this style of class, you’re riding to the beat of the music, synchronizing your pedaling to the tempo. Songs are generally selected based on their specific beat-per-minute (BPM) ranges, with faster tempo tunes for speed intervals and sprints and slower tempo songs for hill climbs. This helps you focus on pedaling at the right pace and intensity for a given load of resistance. A 2010 study from Liverpool John Moores University in the U.K. found that speeding up the tempo of the music during a cycling session caused participants to increase the distance they covered, their power output, and their cadence.

An RPM-Based Class

With this style of class, performance is focused primarily on achieving certain revolutions per minute (RPMs) on the pedals, with different amounts of resistance on the bike. An RPM of 80, for example, means that one pedal makes a complete turn 80 times in a minute. Generally, a cadence (or pedaling speed) between 80 and 100 is appropriate for a flat road, 60 to 80 for climbs; sprints can be done at RPMs of 110. At any level of resistance, pedaling at a faster rate expends more energy than pedaling at a slower pace.

A Watts-Based Class

Since watts are a measure of your power output, focusing on the watts you’re generating on an indoor bike gives you immediate, objective feedback on the intensity of your effort. Classes that are watts-based rely on a computerized monitoring system (on the bike or in the studio) to give you this 411. Different cyclists can generate different watt levels, depending on their strength, skill, and conditioning, so the goal is often to start with a certain baseline power output then add a specific number of watts (say, 10, 20, 50) over designated time-frames during the class. This type of training, which is what the LeMond® program uses, can help you build strength and endurance, increase your speed, and enhance your overall performance.

A Heart-Rate Training Class

With this approach, your level of exertion is gauged by changes in your heart rate, which reflects your body’s response to cycling at a given intensity. You want your heart rate (measured in beats per minute) to rise to a level that’s safe and effective for your goal, whether you’re trying to cultivate endurance or strength, for instance. The target heart rate zones for this type of training are tied to these goals in the Spinning® program: In an endurance ride, the goal is to be between 65 and 75 percent of your maximum heart rate (MHR); during a strength-building ride, MHR should rise to 75 to 85 percent, with brief bouts of recovery along the way; in an interval ride, different segments will send your MHR between 62 and 92; and during a recovery ride, your MHR will be in the gentle 50 to 65 percent zone. The easiest way to figure out if you’re in the right zone is to wear a heart-rate monitor, though you can also do it by checking your pulse.

Continue Reading