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Training for RAGBRAI: Spin Yourself Into Shape

  • 14 February, 2010
  • TJ Juskiewicz

If you are like those of us here in Iowa, we are snowbound. According to the Groundhog, there will be six more weeks of winter.  If that’s all we have, I’ll be happy.  But that doesn’t mean we put off getting ready for RAGBRAI. 

Spin classes are an excellent way to stay or get into riding shape during the winter, or anytime for that matter.  There are a few features about spin classes that make them good for cycling.  First, spin bikes have a large heavy flywheel that you pedal.  Once you get that up to speed, it creates momentum and riding a spin bike kind of feels like you are really riding outside.  Just remember that spin bikes can’t coast so you need to keep your feet moving, another good feature.   Also, most spin classes are led by an instructor who will talk you through a ride, have you mix riding faster with slower, climbing hills by cranking up the resistance, both sitting and standing on the bike.   Most classes are 1 hour and you will work hard.   One nice thing about spin classes is that you can work at your own level.  You are in control of the level of resistance you are pedaling, and no one else knows (or cares) how hard you are working.

If you can’t get out and ride, spin classes are a pretty good alternative.  For an hour class, you will gain a lot of cardiovascular benefit.  I  know of people who pretty much rely on spin classes to keep them in riding shape during the winter, and it shows come spring.  

Happy spinning.

Coach David Ertl

David Ertl is a USA Cycling Level 1 (Elite) Coach and owner of Cyclesport Coaching (www.CyclesportCoaching.com) . He coaches individual cyclists, the Des Moines Cycle Club Race Team and the JDRF Greater Iowa Chapter for the Ride to Cure Diabetes.  He can be contacted at Coach@CyclesportCoaching.com.


  1. Jim Bradley

    David, tomorrow I begin training for RAGBRAI. I am a virgin for this ride, but have wanted to ride it since I first heard of it about six years ago. Unlike Iowa, here in Tucson the weather is now great, with the high at 73 degrees today, so I will be riding outdoors. Thanks for the tips about spinning. My wife likes to spin, but I would rather ride in the elements, not that it really is a problem here. I will start by riding about 20 miles three times a week, increasing my ride mileage, typically on the weekend. Within a month I hope to be up to about 100 miles per week, with longer rides of up to 50 miles on the weekend. Any other suggestions?

  2. David Ertl

    Sounds like a great plan. I always encourage people to ride outside whenever possible, but when it’s not, either do to weather, darkness, or whatever, then indoor training is the next best thing, certainly better than doing nothing.
    Ride often but not too far at first. 20 miles is great. Do a little longer ride on weekends. Each week, increase the length of your longest ride by about 5 miles. Before you know it you will be up to 60 plus miles for your long ride.
    I envy you for being able to ride outside. However, the skiing is great here right now.

  3. Julie Prince

    I’m also here in Tucson – I ride and take spin classes. Will be doing my 4th RAGBRAI this year. Jim – riding during monsoon season here is THE best prep for RAGBRAI – hot and muggy! Good you’re starting now – when we’re in the 70’s and dry… by the time you’ve upped the mileage – you’ll be ready to deal with the new challenge – weather!
    Good luck…

  4. Spin bikes

    Like treadmill, spin bike is good option for people who want to workout at winter but don’t want to be explored in cold weather. A great routine brings the most benefits to exercise.

  5. Angela Pennell

    How many miles, on average, is the average one hour spin class? As someone living in snow-central Pennsylvania, I am reliant on those classes right now to train and would like to start tracking miles.

  6. hahnfeld

    @Angela – I do spin a few times per week. The spin bike usually shows 23-27 miles for the hour.

  7. Ron

    the trainer ladies at my ‘YMCA” tell me the 45 minute spin class is worth about 10-13 miles average.(no cyclometer/odometer) depends on how fast you spin ‘on average’ vs. the average speed of around 80 rpm.
    last year i did 40 sessions prior to the ride, I counted as 400 miles, and rode outside about 1200 miles outside short of my 1500 goal due to weather in PA. enjoyed the ride (my 5th) and had no problems with the hills.

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