scotia-square-spin-room1About Indoor Cycling

Indoor cycling is a form of group exercise set to music in which an instructor leads the class through a series of drills simulating an outdoor ride. Most classes run 30-60 minutes. It’s a fantastic, addictive workout.  Indoor cycling originated in 1991 with Johnny G., who created the Spinning program.  Other indoor cycling programs include Schwinn and Les Mills RPM.


Here’s a video that captures the energy of an indoor cyling class (the soundtrack is The Crystal Method’s Keep Hope Alive) (and yes, that is Johnny G. leading the class).

About this Blog

Great music is one of the things that makes an indoor cycling class. The right song can give you the push you need to climb to the top of a hill, or sprint for 20 seconds longer than you thought you could.

I started this blog to offer other Spinning/indoor cycling instructors and enthusiasts a place to share favourite songs and playlists. I will post the playlists I use in my own classes, along with ideas for songs to use for particular types of drills.  I’m a huge fan of Canadian music so I try to showcase Canadian artists as much as possible, especially newer ones.  I will say this right up front: I believe in paying artists for their work.  That’s why I absolutely refuse to download or play pirated music.

I get most of my music ideas from three sources: iTunes, an amazing Facebook group called Former Cycling Pingers, and a local radio station called 101.3 The Bounce.  The station posts it’s playlists and you can listen live online.

The iTunes charts are ideal for finding new music.  After looking at the main chart, I often peruse the dance, pop, rock, and electronic charts as well.  With iTunes, you can listen to a snippet of a song and usually get a sense of whether it would be good for a cycling class before downloading it.  They also flag (most) songs with explicit lyrics, which is a plus, since many gyms don’t permit instructors to play songs with explicit lyrics in classes.  If you’re concerned about this, any version of a song listed as a radio edit is a clean version.

Former Cycling Pingers is a group of more than 650 indoor cycling instructors from all over the world (though mostly in North America, I think.)  The name of the group comes from the now-discontinued iTunes Ping function, that used to enable people to post and share public playlists with their followers.  Anyway, Ping is no more, but the Former Cycling Pingers remains a vibrant online community.

I know many indoor cycling instructors are using Spotify to share their playlists, but alas, it isn’t available in Canada (where I live) yet.

What songs do you love to spin to?  Which ones fire up your classes and get requested again and again?  You can post song suggestions for the different types of drills as comments on the page where they fit best.  I’ve also got a Reader Playlists forum for posting entire playlists/profiles.  Even if you don’t post a song or profile, feel free to leave a comment.  I’d love to hear from you.

The latest addition to the blog is The Bike Cafe forum, a place for folks to ask questions and receive answers from experienced indoor cycling instructors from all over the world.  Drop in, pour a cup of coffee, and join the conversation.

About Me

I took my first indoor cycling class in 2003 and immediately got hooked. I started making my own playlists and cycling by myself when I couldn’t get to a scheduled class. When I showed my trainer the playlists on my iPod he commented, “If you like indoor cycling that much, you should teach it!” It was the push I needed to take the training.

I started teaching indoor cycling classes at my gym in February 2008. I love teaching classes as much as I love taking them. (That’s me on the left, with my sister, before an outdoor ride.)  I am certified through Schwinn but I also draw on elements from other programs in my classes.

When I’m not on the bike, I enjoy yoga, writing fiction, and cappuccino. I live by the ocean in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada with my husband and our daughter.  You can reach me at bikecafeblog [at] gmail [dot] com.

Have fun cycling!

— Cynthia


149 Comments On “About

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  2. julia Reply

    Thank you for posting your wonderful spin ideas and music. It has been a great help to me as I look for fresh ideas for my classes! Julia from SF

    1. Cynthia Reply

      Thanks Julia! Come on back and post a favourite ride sometime.

      1. Paul Philbin Reply

        Cynthia — this is Paul Philbin; I took down my Tiger Spin Blog and have replaced it with Paul’s Spinning Studio with a different focus. Here is the URL if you care to use it: http://paulsspinningstudio.weebly.com

        Hope all is well. Paul

  3. Genevieve Reply

    Thank you for this blog, I am very thrilled that I came across it… and inspired.

    1. Cynthia Reply

      Thanks Genevieve!

  4. Trish Campbell Jones Reply

    I just tried spinning earlier this year because of a serious ankle injury that caught up with me now that I’m older. I like where I go to spin but sometimes the music is not what I enjoy and some instructors tend to play way too loud for me. I was thinking of buying my own indoor spin bike and doing my own playlists. Thanks for the ideas. I live in a beach town in southern CA but the traffic is still heavy so I am reluctant to try outdoor cycling. I too am a Canadian from Toronto originally!
    Thanks again,

    1. Cynthia Reply

      Thanks Trish. It can be hard for instructors to gauge volume as we are usually seated behind the speakers. I keep close tabs on the volume in my classes – too low and you lose some of music’s motivating power; too high and it’s irritating at best, damaging at worst. I was in a class once (run by a very experienced instructor who should have known better) and the volume was so high I worried about ear damage. I asked him to turn it down a bit and he refused.

      One of the great things about indoor cycling is you can always find an instructor who plays the kind of music you like. I change it up quite a bit but there are other instructors who develop a huge following playing genres other than Top 40. Ask around and I bet you’ll find a perfect match. In the meantime, cycling indoors on your own captures the meditative aspect of the experience, but it would be a shame to lose the energy you can only get from a full class of sweaty, passionate riders.

      1. so says simone Reply

        HI Trish, if you like the instructor an easy way sometimes is to ask if they take requests. I have people in my class who do that all the time and that keeps them motivated hearing even one song that they like or waiting until their song comes on. Most instructors will be happy to do this if they have advance notice. We want the students to be happy so I would try that.

  5. gr82nou Reply

    Cynthia – only a true Canuck can make this happen! Congrats to you for making something so simple, so applicable. I am also a Canadian living in Los Angeles and as much as I am spinning (and teaching spinning because of my love for music) – after 10 years of teaching and my own tastes, I need to flourish on other people’s music (OPM)…lol.

    Your blog is my new fresh source. Thanks for sharing… “and you take care buddy… alright there buddy… keep Nova Scotia and those Cape Breton’ers happy”.

    Love, light and peace from sunny Southern California!


    1. Cynthia Reply

      Thanks Lyle! Much appreciated. One day I am going to get myself to LA and take some cycling classes.

  6. Fiona Reply

    Hi, Thanks for your fantastic blog. I love picking my own music for my classes but have a problem with mixing the music together. How do you mix each track together or does one track stop then the other starts? Many thanks Fiona

    1. Cynthia Reply

      Hi Fiona, you could get all fancy with a DJ program like Mixmeister and completely eliminate the break but I just set the crossfade to 1 second in iTunes – go to preferences/playback/crossfade songs and set it to 1 second (the minimum). If you want to cut the beginning or end of a song, you can do that as well. In iTunes click on the song, then under File/Get Info/Options and you’ll see boxes where you can set the start or stop time for the song. I do this if there’s a bit at the beginning or end that isn’t really suitable for cycling. I don’t know of a way to cut from the middle. Hope this helps!

      1. Colleen Reply

        Hi Cynthia, I just stumbled upon your blog after “googling” music for spinning. I used many of your suggestions from your last blog entry for my class this morning. The format was high intensity interval training and it was very helpful to see how to cut the end of a song in Itunes. Thanks, and I’ll be reading regularly!

  7. Jean Fernandes Beux Reply

    Hello there! I’m Jean from Brazil and i really like spinning! I’m used to make my own spinning mixes following the RPM system. Today i found your website and took a look on your mixes, and i got to say… its WAAAAYYY BETTER workout then the RPM system!

    thankyou so much!!!

  8. Thiago Henrique Reply

    Hey you guys, I’m from Brazil and I simply LOVE spinning. The thing is, I’ve been trying to set up my own spinning mix but I don’t get some terms used on this website. Could someone please try to explain to me what the meaning of jumps and surge? I appreciate the attention!


    1. Cynthia Reply

      Hi Thiago,

      Jumps are also called lifts. They are controlled movements in and out of the saddle, sometimes with the beat 8/4/2 counts up/down, sometimes as a series of standing runs. If you go to the Spinning website you can find an explanation of the core movements here: https://www.spinning.com/en/training_tips

      Surges are not-quite-sprints. I use the term to refer to a seated flat where you work at about 80% of your maximum intensity; as distinguished from race day or all-out sprints. Generally, my surges are 30-60 seconds long, sometimes longer. I coach riders to choose a pace that borders on uncomfortable but that they can maintain for the duration. They will be working too hard to talk much but still have enough extra that if I asked them to sprint, they could increase their effort once or twice before maxing out.

  9. Robert Reply

    Hi Cynthia ,hey can you suggest any tried and true cd’s out there for a class? ,thanks,Robert

    1. Cynthia Reply

      Hi Robert,

      I have never used commercially prepared music though I know there are some sites out there. I’m a fan of making your own rides – there are lots here and on other blogs (check out the links section) though it’s a bit of work to get the songs and burn a CD. I highly recommend an iPod because it’s so easy to create and edit playlists.

  10. simone Reply

    Hi Cynthia, so at 43 I am starting a new career. I have my practical and written next week but I wanted to know if you and or your readers could give me some tips feedback on these few things. First what is the best way to remember what cadence/ride I plan for each song, do people write it down etc and if they do whats the best a notebook? Second, once I pass which I had better because I can’t wait to start teaching whats the best way to get experience and feel more comfortable? The practical isn’t as long as a whole class so do people practice in their gyms, with friends or just kind of get the experience as they go along teaching and letting everyone know they are a new teacher so hopefully they will bear with me. Sorry for the long question but I think i have found more on your blog then on the entire web (no joke!!)
    Love it. Thanks

    1. Cynthia Reply

      Hey Simone,

      Rats, I am just seeing your comment now. How did your test go the other week?

      (1) Remembering the Ride

      Some instructors memorize or wing it – I put a lot of attention into my rides so I tend to make and follow notes because I want it to be just right. Here’s what I do: I have a plastic covered 8.5×11″ notebook. I put one ride on each page, title at the top (so I can find it easily on my iPhone). I title them Spinning – 55 (length of the ride) then the title. I put the song and artist on the left side, time in the middle column, and notes on the right. I start with the type of drill with a box around it e.g. STANDING CLIMB and any coaching notes e.g. up tension at 1:15 and 2:45 and sometimes cues to remind me of particular visualization or other coaching techniques. I don’t write a lot – just enough to jog my memory. The day I teach, I choose the ride, review my notes, and listen to the playlist on the way over to the gym. I set the notebook on the stereo (visible from the bike) and keep my checks as discreet as possible.

      Others here have mentioned putting the ride in a plastic sleeve, writing the notes in the lyrics section on the iPod, or using an app. Chris Roche from Schwinn posted the Schwinn template which is very comprehensive but would need a second cheat-sheet for class since the print comes out quite small to fit everything on one page.

      (2) The best way to get experience and feel more comfortable

      Most gyms have an audition process to be hired and often start you out on a sub list – sort of like being a substitute teacher, you don’t have a regular class, but can pick up classes when regular instructors are away. After a while, you can get a regular class. Some gyms allow you to teach at multiple gyms, others require an exclusivity agreement. Pay really varies – there’s a post on that on the Reader Playlists page.

      For the first year or so I recommend practicing your rides before you do them. Just go in by yourself, set up the stereo, start the music and teach the class to an empty room. This will give you confidence and help you to work out any bugs in your rides. I also recommend teaching as much as you can get your hands on, and going to other instructors’ classes – especially the wildly popular ones, though you’ll learn from every class you take.

      There are some good resources online (aside from this blog!) Indoorcycleinstructor.com offers free podcasts and some free content, though you have to subscribe to access most of the content. http://www.pedal-on.com is a discussion board for cycling instructors of all types, though it can get pretty judgmental and some parts are restricted to regular posters to discourage lurking.

      (3) Should you volunteer that you’re newly qualified?

      You have to read the crowd, but I am not generally a fan of volunteering that you are new. You’re a qualified instructor, period. Of course, if you are asked, you must be honest, but I don’t find people ask.

      Good luck! Come on back and tell us how it is going for you.

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