Cycle Classes: A Beginner’s Guide

When I was about 10 years old, I did a kids Bodypump class at the Y for a few weeks over the summer. By the fall, I was in the adult’s class, squatting a 10 pound bar in rhythm to “Every Time We Touch” by Cascada.

When I was 12, my dad and I lied to the weight room staff and said I was 13 so that I could go in with him and he could show me how to do each and every machine. Some days, I’d do 50 laps in the pool if I didn’t feel like weights.

One Christmas, I got Dallas Cowboy Cheerleader dance fitness videos.

I also tried volleyball, went to my first barre class the same year I started driving, and discovered yoga when I went off to college.

So there you have it: my resume of fitness. I’ve done it all….except pole dancing class and boxing. I’ve always been active. The 10 year old in me that loved to run around the Y’s indoor track while watching the senior Zumba class still loves to feel her ponytail fly in the wind and stomp her feet along to dance cardio music.

The only exercise I had been to chicken to try….indoor cycling.

I don’t know what was so intimidating about it. Maybe it was being on a machine for an entire class. Or the fact that when I pictured myself in one of those classes, I could just feel my quads burning. It just seemed…intense.

Anyway, my family is moving. (Which means I’m moving…5th times the charm, people!) We will be saying goodbye to our beloved neighborhood gym, so it’s the perfect time for each of us to try some other options for moving our bodies. I noticed that there are a couple cycle studios near our new house, so I thought, “Hmm, maybe this is a good time to add a new exercise to my repertoire.”

There’s a CycleBar about 15 minutes from me, and I heard from my sister, Maddie, that it’s a great workout! (And everyone else in the fitness and health social media world who LOVES cycling.) My sister, Caroline, and I signed up for an intro class.

And can we talk about the genius that is an intro class?! It’s a 30-minute beginner’s session where you spend 15 minutes getting a tour of the studio and learning how to adjust your bike and clip in and out. The next 15 minutes is basically a mini class. You go through everything you would do during a classic ride, just shorter.

HIGHLY RECOMMEND TAKING A FREE INTRO CLASS BEFORE GOING TO A REAL ONE! I don’t know if other cycle studios (SoulCycle, Zynn22, Flywheel, etc.) do this, but if so – heck yes, lady!

(By the way, this post is not sponsored by CycleBar. I just want to share my experience!)

So, what’s a cycle studio really like?

Not intimidating. It’s a party! You walk in to upbeat music, it smells like an aromatherapy heaven, and it’s a spa-like atmosphere. At CycleBar, my sister and I couldn’t get over the cool water they had on tap, the always-packed bowl of bananas on the counter, the cool towels, and the bathroom stocked with hair ties, body spray, and extra bobby pins.

What I really liked about CycleBar was the fact that they had two showers and a ton of lockers. Our instructor told us that people will come for the 5:15 class in the morning (bless them) and then shower after class, so they can just head to work or school. (Honestly, #goals.)

Inside the actually cycling room, it was more like a club than an intimidating-gym. The computer control space looked like a DJ booth and the red lights were more “evacuate the dance floor” than “pump-you-UP”. I’ve never been to a club, but I think I’d rather go to cycling class because you get the lights and the music, plus the healthy endorphins ?

Random note: been getting a few questions here and there about my Apple Watch, so I added some info on it on my FAQ page! 

What do you bring? Do you need to bring shoes?

All you need is you + your fav workout gear (I recommend long leggings and a shirt that is lightweight – you gon’ SWEAT) and you do not need shoes. That’s probably my favorite part! They provide them for you. At CycleBar, I wear an 8.5 (in street shoes, I am an 8) which feels a little roomy when I first put them on, but your feet swell a bit during workout.

Definitely bring water! You will want it during class. The bikes have a water-bottle holder.

I would go ahead and bring anything you need to freshen up after class. They’ll give you a cool towel when you exit the class, but I also love an Evian face mist to freshen up my skin and sometimes an extra shirt if I need to head somewhere besides home to shower after class.

What’s the format of the class?

At CycleBar, there are a few different types of classes to take. Caroline and I have only tried two: a classic ride and Cycle and Sculpt.

A classic ride is a 50-minute ride with several songs that you bike to. Sometimes, you’re peddling “up a hill”…you are peddling slow (low RPM) but your resistance is heavy (somewhere between a 6 and a 9). Sometimes, you’re sprinting. You are peddling fast (high RPM), but your resistance is low (between a 4 and a 6.) Your instructor will talk you through all of these changes throughout the class. You also do one arms song where you lift either a 4 or 6 pound bar in rhythm to the song – working your biceps, triceps, and shoulders.

A cycle and sculpt ride is also a 50-minute ride, but you do more arms. (Hence the sculpt.) I really loved this one! I have weak arms since I’ve always been more legs (dancer probz), so it’s a really great challenge for me.

Is it as intensive as you think?

The best thing about cycle classes is that you are in charge of your ride. The instructor will tell you what speed you should be going and at what resistance during different points of the class. If she says you should be between a 4 and a 6 resistance, feel free to keep it at a 4 if you don’t feel like you can go to the more extreme option. So, it’s really only as tough as you make it. You will definitely get a good workout in regardless. It’s high-intensity, but it’s fun. The music is going and everyone’s vibes are high, so it’s more of an endorphin-fest than a “oh my gosh, I’m dying” workout.

Does your butt hurt?

I was definitely a little sore after my first classes, but I was more sore in my legs and arms than my butt. If you’ve adjusted your seat to your body correctly, you won’t hurt yourself or have any discomfort during or after your ride. Again, you learn how to adjust your bike to your body during the intro session, but you can always ask the instructor for help…even if it’s not your first class!

What kind of music do they play?

At CycleBar, it’s always upbeat and fun. But they also have some theme classes! A Monday may be “Mashup Monday” where they do a battle of the boy bands with music from One Direction and the Backstreet Boys. I’ve heard they’ve had Beyonce-themed nights and Britney nights! Now that is something I could get on board with.

What are some tips or tricks to make the session easier/more enjoyable?

Get to class about 15 minutes early, so you have time to check in, grab your shoes, put your stuff in a locker, and adjust your bike.

You will choose your bike ahead of time when you sign up online (or on CycleBar’s app). I recommend getting a bike near the front. I know it sounds scary for your first time, but it’s the best place to see the instructor (you mimic her/him throughout the class) and it’s less hot and humid. That’s honestly my advice for any workout class though. Yoga, hot yoga, Zumba….it gets really hot in there and it’s easier to see and breathe near the front or outer corners!

Don’t have any expectations. Just listen to your body and the instructor! You may not feel like a total Cycle Goddess after your first ride, but then again, you could come out feeling like you’ve been re-born. Haha 🙂


Let me know in the comments below if you have any other questions about cycling classes and CycleBar! I just finished a class package of 4 classes, and I’m going to be purchasing more. Safe to say – I am all in with this cycling thang!