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Putting a spin on it

17 April 2015

By Anne Heading

PERHAPS you enjoy cycling, but are deterred by the thought of traffic roaring by, or mud and inclement weather, or a puncture when miles from home? If this description fits, then you might like to consider indoor cycling, or "spinning". Many leisure centres now offer this activity across the UK.

If you type "spinning" into a web searcher, it is likely you will get a few "hits" about yarn and looms. But the word "Spinning" is also a trademark; so "indoor cycling" may be the best terminology.

For indoor cycling, no Lycra is necessary (although many choose to wear it). You do not need a helmet, and there is no mud involved, or exposure to the elements. There are no risks of punctures or other mechanical failures. You can simply get on the bike, cycle, and enjoy it - and you can even close your eyes.

Spinning bikes tend to differ from exercise bikes in that many do not have timers or electronics on board - they have seat- and handlebar-adjustment settings, and a flywheel with a knob that can adjust the resistance.

Staff at most leisure centres will happily give newcomers an introduction to the bike. Classes can run for 30 to 45 minutes with lively and energising music - and disco lights thrown in - to add to the experience of the ride. The resistance on the bike is under your control; so you can climb at a rate you find acceptable, and challenge yourself as much or as little as you wish. To quote one of our instructors, "You only get out what you put in."

Climbs can last for as little as one song on the radio, seated or rising from the saddle, with the hands in varying positions on the handlebars. Then, when the climb is done, comes the relief of "spinning it out". Unlike road bikes and mountain bikes, it is possible to do everything backwards, and this is a great deal more difficult than it may appear.

New Spinning bikes range in price from £200 to several thousand. EBay may be a useful place to find a secondhand one, but beware of the need to get it transported from the point of sale to where you live. Otherwise, classes at leisure centres are about £6 - cheaper if you are a member who uses other facilities located in the same centre.

Dedicated studios, such as Psycle, in London, involve buying credits that are then redeemed against the sessions of your choice. These studios require participants to wear special cleated shoes, and to come with water and towels. They take block bookings for groups of friends who wish to enjoy a ride together. Emphasis is placed on the ex- perience of riding, and afterwards the showering facilities are luxurious.

You can spin alone, to your own choice of music, if disco is not quite your style. I have spun in silence; to songs from the shows; and to contemporary music.

Being part of a class can be fun: the one I go to has participants ranging in age from 16 to 60-plus, and there is no need to feel in competition with your neighbours. It is never too early or too late to give it a try: why not have a go?

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