Not necessarily. But you will be somewhat uncomfortable for the first few rides until your body (and mind) has overcome the bike setup procedure, any initial fears or hesitation and you have dealt with this new concept of group exercise. For men and women alike, the stationary bike found in spinning or cycling studios offers a variety of adjustment settings to achieve optimal comfort and safety. Here are some first reactions and impressions that I have gathered from new riders:
For first time riders, you will experience some discomfort in those areas mostly because of the seat design and the adjustment period needed for your body to get acclimated. Although most seats are padded, the padding itself may not be sufficient. You can achieve more comfort by using a gel seat cover that can be purchased online and in some big box stores. Additionally, for the first three to five rides, you will feel some soreness in your lower body muscles, especially if you have not exercised regularly. Drinking plenty of water will certainly help.
Why do my hips, shoulders and neck hurt?
Most riders tense up and grab the handlebar too tightly. Relax your grip, keep your head aligned with your spine, and when you climb, keep your weight on the pedals, not on the handlebars. When seated, avoid slouching and take deep breaths. When possible, twist gently to either side to extend your range. Your hip flexor muscles allow you to lift your knees and bend at the waist. However, you can experience hip flexor pain if you suddenly strain these muscles. You put a lot of stress on your hip flexors when you sprint. To minimize strain on the muscles around the hip and avoid hip flexor pain, always be sure to stretch properly before and after your ride.
Remember, each class may have a variety of riders with distinct fitness levels. Any well-seasoned instructor should make it clear that the cycling class is not a competition and you must not worry about the person next to you who may seem like superman. Focus on you and you alone. Do what you can. If you are not ready to climb or add resistance, remain in your seat and gradually add resistance so that you can get used to the bike, the routine and ride mechanics. Allow yourself time to reach your readiness level and be aware of any injuries or pre-existing conditions that may limit your ability to engage in the ride. If you are using certain medications, be cognizant that such medications may prevent you from reaching certain heart rate levels.
Do I need clip-in shoes?
Regular athletic shoes with soft soles/bottoms do not offer as much support as the stiff-soled shoes that normally clip into the pedals (SPD). While it is ok to use normal athletic shoes, if you decide to commit to cycling classes for the long haul, an investment into a specialty shoe is well worth it. These shoes keep your pedal stroke uniform, offer solid support/feedback when climbing, assist in keeping your foot/toes pointing out and parallel to the floor (as opposed to pointing your toes down when wearing athletic shoes), and can be easily used on different bike platforms (Schwinn, Keiser, Spinner, etc.). Some drawbacks include price and availability (and no, they are not meant for looks!). Most good quality shoes are manufactured in the EU or Japan and thus the shoe sizing is a bit odd when compared to US shoe measurements. When you factor in shipping (and possibly return shipping), costs could go over $100-$150. In the future, I will post more about specific brands when I am able to review them.
OK, let’s not get carried away. The outfit does not make the man! Some look great, while other look absolutely ridiculous. Some riders are aspirational; i.e. they want to feel as if they are riding in the Alps or competing in the Tour de France. Again, focus on you and your comfort level – ignore that dude with the fancy outfit and logos. It is perfectly ok to forgo specialty outfits and wear what you like and feel comfortable in. There are plenty of online retailers that carry padded shorts, shirts, bibs and padded underwear. One of my first padded shorts arrived one day before a big event, were the wrong size and I had no choice but to wear them….can you say adult diapers!!!!! Yeah, size matters. Make sure the shorts are well padded and the fit is snug but not too restrictive. As to the shirts, select those that have moisture-wicking abilities.
If you would like to share other challenges that new riders may face, please let me know.