ClassPass Glossary: Cycling from A to Z

Tap back? RPM? Third position? If you’ve ever felt intimidated by all the “cycling slang” thrown out during cycling class, you’re not alone (Psst: still looking for a reason to add cycling to your routine? Read this). It is very technical and can get confusing at times. But don’t worry — with this guide, you’ll nail these workouts in no time. Here are all the biking terms you need to know before you go:


Basket: If you’re using a bike that doesn’t have the capability to clip-in cycling shoes, you will use a basket (also known as a cage) to keep your feet in place while biking.

Bike: Hopefully this one needs no explanation! For most cycling classes, you’ll spend your entire workout seated on your bike (even during the weights section).

Bike Setup: Before you begin class, it’s very important that your bike is set up according to your height. If you’re unsure how to set up your own bike, the studio team or instructor will be happy to help you out. After a few times, you’ll easily be able to adjust your bike on your own.

Brake: This handy tool will be used when you want to stop pedaling. Simply reverse the pedaling of your legs to activate the brake.


Clip-in: If your bike has the capability, you will use specific cycling shoes that “clip in” to the bike pedals. This keeps your feet fastened to the pedals no matter how fast you’re going. To clip in, hover your foot above the pedal and push down and forward. You’ll hear the sound of your shoes snapping into place and notice they won’t easily move away from the pedals. Clipping in (and out) can be a bit tricky at first, but you’ll get the hang of it. The studio team and instructor will be able to help you if you’re stuck.

Climb/Hill: During class, you may hear your instructor shouting that you’re heading for a climb or going up a hill. This cycling term means you’ll be going at a slower pace, with a lot of resistance, similar to if you were biking up a hill IRL. This technique is one of the many reasons cycling is an epic cardio and toning workout.

Cycling shoes: These aren’t just ordinary sneakers; these shoes allow you to clip-in to a cycling bike and allow for a more comfortable ride. If your bike isn’t compatible with cycling shoes, you can use regular sneakers and strap in using the bike’s basket.


Emergency brake: In case you find yourself needing to use it, most spin bikes have an emergency brake you can use. It’s often in the center of your bike and is activated when pushed inwards.


Flat: If you’re not heading up a hill, your instructor may say you’re riding a “flat road”. This essentially means you’re riding with a lower amount of resistance, at a faster pace.


Gear: The gear is the knob at the center of your bike used to adjust the resistance. You may often hear an instructor say something like “move three turns to the right”, which means you should spin the gear to up the resistance.


Pedals: Just like a typical bike, the pedals are where you’ll place your feet.

Position: The position is where you’ll be placing your hands throughout the ride. There are typically three positions:

    • First: Your hands will be close together, directly in front of you.
    • Second: Your hands will be spread apart (as if you were riding a regular bike), directly in front of you.
    • Third: Your hands will reach to the edges of the handlebars, and you’ll stand up and lean forward. This position works the core and back muscles as you try to keep strong form (yup, cycling isn’t just a lower body workout),

Power: This number, also sometimes called Torq, essentially tells you how you’re scoring during cycling class. It is measured by an equation: resistance x RPM = total power. You can compare power scores from workout to workout, to see how you’re improving, or sometimes a studio will display power scores on a screen during class as a sort of competition (don’t worry, you can usually opt out of this).


Resistance: Resistance is how heavy or light the bike’s tension is. A lower resistance often feels lighter and allows your legs to pedal faster. A higher resistance is heavy, causing your legs to pedal more slowly. Instructors will typically call out a range of resistance you should aim to meet throughout class.

RPM: RPM stands for “revolutions per minute” and calculates how many pedal strokes you’re making within one minute. For example, an RPM of 80 means you’re pedaling 80 times in one minute. Instructors will typically call out a range of RPMs you should aim to be at throughout class.


Saddle: The saddle is the seat of your bike. If your instructor asks you to stand up out of the saddle, you’ll lift your seat off the saddle. When asked to go back in the saddle, you’ll sit down.

Spinning: Spinning is the trademarked term for cycling.

Sprint: When an instructor tells you you’re going to sprint, you’ll want to pedal as fast as you possibly can for a certain period of time (typically a few minutes or even seconds).


Tap back: This cycling move is when you quickly go from third position to first or second position and gently tap your seat towards the saddle, then return right back to third position.


Weights: Many cycling classes incorporate a weight portion of class, that typically lasts for a song or two. Hand weights are provided and are kept in baskets on the front or back of your bike.

Stephanie Limiti is a born and raised New Yorker living out her dreams of palm trees and sunshine in Los Angeles. When she's not zenned out in yoga class, she's reading biographies and volunteering at dog rescue shelter. Follow her on Instagram.