Terms to Know to Tackle Your First Indoor Cycling Class

Follow ACE On
Healthy Living


Stay connected with us to get the latest health and fitness news, innovative workouts, healthy recipes and wellness tips.

Find an ACE Pro

Change Location

Fit Life

Terms to Know to Tackle Your First Indoor Cycling Class

Indoor cyclingLike most group exercise classes, indoor cycling comes with its own unique vocabulary. While it may seem foreign at first, with some simple translation and understanding of the terms you’ll be able to follow along with the class no problem and get in a great workout.


RPM – RPM refers to “revolutions per minute.” This is the amount of times you can turn one leg in one minute. In outdoor cycling, riders pedal between 50–110 RPM, with the majority of the work done between 60–99 RPM. The instructor should provide a way for you to understand and pedal within an RPM range, either through the metrics on a console mounted to the bike’s handlebars, the tempo of the song or by visually cueing you to match her leg speed.

Resistance/Gear/Tension – Almost all indoor bikes feature a knob or lever that controls the resistance—it’s typically found at the base of the handlebars, between your knees. A turn to the right will put more resistance against the wheel, making it more difficult for you to pedal. A turn to the left will remove some resistance and make it easier. Use this mechanism to control the amount of effort you put into your pedaling.

Your RPM speed plus the amount of resistance you apply determines the intensity of your work. Manipulating these two elements—either separately or together—is what increases or decreases your effort.


Flat – Outdoors, a flat would be any stretch of road that does not have an incline or decline. Typically, it would be ridden in a seated position, with occasional reasons to stand such as to increase your power to pass another rider, accelerate to push through an intersection, or possibly just to take a break from the saddle. But the terrain alone does not dictate the work! The intensity of a “flat” could be easy, moderate, hard, maximum effort or a combination of these efforts, depending on your chosen resistance level and RPM.

Hill – Outdoors, hills come in all shapes and sizes. In indoor cycling, a “hill” is typically ridden out of the saddle at a tough effort. But remember that indoors, both flats and hills are merely images used to motivate you to keep pedaling. The terrain beneath your bike never actually changes. Creative instructors understand this and use the feeling of “flats” and “hills,” changes from seated to standing positions, and great imagery to get you to inspire you to give your best effort.

For more info to ensure a successful indoor-cycling experience, check out Julz’ bike set-up tips!

Julz ArneyJulz Arney Contributor

Julz Arney embodies all-out energy and motivation! As an ACE-certified Group Fitness Instructor with 22 years in the fitness business, she initially carved out her unique space as a dance-exercise expert, choreographing and starring in dozens of DVD programs. Today she’s evolved to be the Education Programs Director and Lead Master Trainer for Schwinn® Cycling, a master trainer for Indo-Row™, SHOCKWAVE, BOSU®, and Gatorade, a dedicated student of yoga, and an AFAA-certified instructor. Her newest fitness adventure is tackling the sport of competitive running and she’s having a blast bringing home hardware in her age group as she learns. Follow her on Twitter @JulzArney.

More Blogs by Julz Arney »

If you found this to be article useful to you or someone else, please share it with your friends!

Next Article >

3 Exercise Upgrades To Help You Score a Better Core