Ask the Expert: Should You Touch a Rider’s Resistance?

Molly P. asked, “In my Spinning® training, I always learned never to touch someone else’s resistance, but I know another instructor who does it all the time, and I’ve seen some instructors in the online forums saying they sometimes do it. What do you think? Is it dangerous?”

This is a great question. My thinking on this has actually evolved over the years. As a Spinning MI, we always taught instructors to NEVER, ever touch someone’s resistance knob.

And while I believe that’s the best advice in almost all cases—because you must train your riders early on how to modulate their resistance themselves—it’s not always quite so black and white. I can think of three scenarios where you may want to help a rider out by turning the resistance for them.

The first I think you’ll all agree with, and that is in the case of a true emergency. Fortunately, I’ve never heard of this happening, but if you notice your rider is in some serious trouble (as in a medical emergency), then by all means, hit the brake for them. They may not have the capacity or awareness to do it themselves.

The next two only come after you’ve exhausted all efforts to get them to make whatever change you’re trying to affect. Keep in mind that adjusting their resistance is usually a one-off tactic to educate them and is not something you should do more than once or twice with anyone.


  1. I always touch a rider’s resistance when I am first setting them up. This may not be in the spirit in which you posed your question but…when I set up a new rider I of course show them bike settings, then body position and relaxation, I explain a bit about the computer, and I tell them to take the first five classes very easy. I cue them (standing next to them) about the three riding positions. In position 1 I turn their tension full OFF, then gradually increase to “an easy flat road”. I show them the WATT reading for that, then I increase, while having them maintain cadence, to a heavy climb and have them note the WATT reading. I may have them ride at a heavy setting for 2-3 seconds, then I turn it back to flat road. Then i repeat that they should take it easy for the first five classes. I of course then have them move into position 2 and 3 and cue them to increase the setting to support their weight. After the first day I never touch a rider’s tension setting…

  2. Author

    I used to believe that; I taught that. But then I encountered the two situations discussed above (fortunately I’ve never encountered an emergency). I discovered that I helped the riders immensely rather than hindered them.

    I’ll reiterate. It’s only after ALL other coaching has failed, there is something the rider is missing in their understanding. Also, it’s small amounts, doled out carefully. In the power example, I was working with 3, 4, maybe 5 watts at the most. And it’s not about wattage over threshold, so it wasn’t heavy. There was zero liability.

    In the case of someone with an emergency, I would even suggest you may be liable if you didn’t do everything at your disposal to help them, including hitting the brakes.

    Absolutely I agree, those instructors who come around the room and crank up riders’ resistance for them, especially when climbing (i.e. lots of load) are putting their riders at risk. It’s a terrible thing to do. They have liability.

  3. Never Ever touch the resistance level. In case something negative happens u may become legally liable. Its not worth it no matter how much u want to help.

  4. Great article , one I am very passionate about.
    I still believe DO NOT touch someones resistance. You may not know there issues, back, knee, etc. I do believe coaching (if that means standing next to them). Ultimately they must learn themselves the correct way to ride by our coaching. Some just take longer than others to understand. Thanks for the article.

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