Indoor Cycling Tips

What Peloton Instructors Want You to Know About Cycling

From saddle position to cadence and metrics, there cycling tips will help you build your confidence on the bike.

By Colleen TraversUpdated March 16, 2024


Most people learn to ride a bike between the ages of 4 and 8, so by the time you’re ready to try indoor cycling as an adult, you may feel like a total cycling pro. But any outdoor rider will tell you, there are some major differences between indoor vs. outdoor cycling, and riding inside is a lot more technical than you might think if you want to get the most out of every pedal stroke. 

We tapped Peloton instructors Christine D’Ercole  and Jenn Sherman to break down their top indoor cycling tips. Below, hear what they had to say about everything from how riding in and out of the saddle can impact your muscles differently to why you shouldn’t tune out your instructor during your ride.

Cycling Tips for Riders at Every Stage

1. Success Starts at the Set Up

Your bike set up, that is. Setting up your bike is a key step to take before doing your first ride, explains Jenn. “By taking the time to set up your bike correctly, you will minimize the risk of injury, maximize your workout efficiency, and enjoy a more comfortable and engaging experience.”

Jenn says there are three things you need to focus on: seat height, seat position, and handlebar height. “Making sure your saddle and handlebars are in the right position for your height can make the difference between sore muscles from a great workout and a sore back, neck, and knees from improper bike fit,” she says. 

  • Bike Seat Height and Position: Your seat height should align with your hip bone and seat position at a depth where when your elbow touches the nose of the seat your fingertips can reach the handlebars. 

  • Bike Handlebar Height: For handlebar height, it’s recommended to start at the highest height and as you take a few classes, you can lower it to what feels comfortable for you. 

If you’re riding on a Peloton Bike, you can watch how to adjust your Peloton Bike here. Or, log into your account and tap the three-bar settings icon on the bottom right of your Bike touchscreen. Select “Peloton 101” to learn how to find the right height and position for you. 

Another pro cycling tip: Once you do get your setup done, make a note of the numbers and letters your seat and handlebars are at. This way, if you share your Bike with other friends or family members you can quickly adjust the Bike back to your position. This is particularly helpful if you only have minutes to spare before a live class.

2. Warming Up is Key

One of Jenn’s top cycling tips is to start with a separate warm-up before you start a class, even if you’re taking a Peloton ride, which includes a brief warm-up before you get into the meat of the class. “This can be as simple as doing some easy cycling with light resistance to get your legs warmed up and ready to go,” she says. You can warm up on your own, or with an instructor for a 5- or 10-Minute Warm Up Ride. This will get the blood circulating throughout the body and can help with the flexibility of the legs and lower body to be more efficient in your workout. 

3. Fuel Before a Ride

Wondering what to eat before a workout? Depending on what time of day you work out (such as morning, on your lunch break, or at night), you may choose to fuel or fast before a workout.
If you’re someone who has to eat before you sweat, complex carbs (think: a banana with some nut butter on a whole grain piece of toast or some protein such as a protein bar or a couple of slices of turkey will be easiest to digest and give you the proper fuel you need. 

4. Instructor Cues Make All the Difference

A lot of your form is based on the setup of your bike, but Jenn says as you get tired your form may slip in the process, too. That’s where instructor cueing comes in. Listen to the instructor’s cycling tips and cues on form throughout the ride, (i.e., reminding you to drop your shoulders away from your ears) and keep your upper body relaxed. 

5. Your Weight Should Not Be on the Handlebars

“When you are new to indoor cycling, it can be tempting to put extra weight on your handlebars to give your legs a break,” says Jenn. “Avoid this by keeping your hips back over the pedals while maintaining a loose, comfortable grip on the handlebars. No need for squeezing too tight and white-knuckling it through the ride.”

Similarly, you might be inclined to hunch over your bike like you may have seen professional cyclists do in races, but you want to keep your back flat and chest up. This will protect your spine and hamstrings and won’t put tension on other muscles like your upper body.

6. Your Feet Should Be Flat on the Pedals

One cycling tip beginners, especially, should take note of? Instead of pointing your toes down, imagine you’re stomping your feet down and then pulling them straight up for a full rotation. This will help give your leg muscles a balanced workout.

Cycling tips for beginners

7. A High Cadence Helps the Cardiovascular System

You might be tempted to pile on the resistance, but riding at a higher cycling cadence (between 85 to 100) can help you build endurance. “It may sound counterintuitive, but a faster cadence relies on slow-twitch muscle fibers, which are used in long-distance endurance rides,” Christine says. “Developing the ability to pedal at a higher cadence will also strengthen your cardiovascular system because doing so is dependent on oxygenated muscles. This means you’ll be breathing heavier, but your legs will last longer, and this can help you extend the length of your rides over time to 30 minutes, 45 minutes, or even 60 minutes.”

8. You Don’t Have to Go Fast

It's fun to go fast, but a solid base is important because not having enough resistance can compromise your form. “[You’ll know you need more resistance if your legs] bottom out on the down stroke, causing you to bounce in the saddle,” Jenn says. “It's uncomfortable and hard on your knees and will make keeping up with the pace of class difficult.”

Riding at a lower cadence (and thus a higher resistance) can also improve your leg strength because you’ll work fast-twitch muscle fibers which are used for sprinting but fatigue quicker than those slow-twitch muscle fibers. By working these fibers, your body can learn how to produce that surge of power that can spike your output (and, if you’re riding on a Peloton Bike, help you jump up on the Leaderboard.) “It’s a good idea to do some slower cadence and higher resistance work to develop the strength you need to climb hills, and by slowing down [even at a higher resistance], you’re able to get a cardiovascular recovery after an effort,” Christine says.

9. Switch Up Your Saddle Position

Low-impact rides, done entirely in the saddle, have their place in any indoor cycling routine, but if you’re able to, riding out of the saddle introduces a new challenge. “Standing can achieve greater power and speed to get up a hill, through an interval, or to cross a finish line, but it often comes at a cost,” Christine says. “It puts a greater demand on the upper body which can potentially cause more fatigue all around, requiring you to sit back down and lose speed and power.” By switching up your position during your ride, you can build power without being overly fatigued.

10. Use Your Core When You’re Out of the Saddle 

Particularly for long endurance rides, you need to learn how to stand out of the saddle for short periods to give your lower body a break. Riding out of the saddle requires you to mobilize your upper body and stabilize your core, so make sure to strength train with 10-minute or 20-minute arms, upper body or core workouts on the days you’re not riding. And make sure you’ve got the mechanics down right to protect your joints and back. “Bring your body up over the cranks [the arms that connect to the pedals] to help use gravity to your benefit,” Christine says.

11. Metrics Are Meant to Motivate You

If you’re riding on a Peloton Bike, you can view the Leaderboard, a tool that shows you in real-time how your ride output stacks up against others in the class. This is a tool meant to motivate you, not something that you should be obsessively checking as you ride. Jenn says the most important metric to base your workout on is to make sure you’re enjoying it and having fun, no matter what your pace is. “Fitness is the goal but along the way, you [have to enjoy it],” she says. “The more fun you can have with it, the more likely you are to stick to the routine and the more likely you are to stick with it long-term.”

12. There’s Something for Everyone

Still think indoor cycling isn’t for you? The workouts vary vastly, from workout length, to music, to focus. “Peloton has so many incredible instructors who all offer something unique and different,” says Jenn. “Keep an open mind and try out different instructors until you find the ones that resonate and motivate you in all the right ways.”


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