Yesterday I posted my response to the Only 5 Stretches You Need To Do After Spinning in which I urged instructors and cycling and Spinning studios to take steps to reduce liability, in this case by not performing dangerous stretches on the bike that could be accomplished with a much safer alternative off the bike.
I know there are those who believe I am being alarmist, but wisdom about potential liability and taking steps to mitigate it has always been an important part of being in any service industry, especially group fitness, where we as instructors are pushing participants to exert themselves.
Today I saw this from the Independent in Ireland:
€15,000 (~$20,000) is not that much money in the scheme of things. Here in the infamously litigious USA, it would have likely been a much larger remuneration.
This stuff happens, and as an industry we should not be scared, but we should endeavor to offer the safest form of cycling possible. In fact, I would argue that indoor cycling is one of THE safest forms of group fitness, with the caveat…if it is taught correctly.
Are there inherent risks that can’t be completely avoided? Absolutely, but it is up to you, and the facility where you work, to mitigate them as much as possible. It’s no different than guaranteeing that all instructors have CPR training, that there is an AED nearby, and all staff are well informed of emergency procedures. That’s not being alarmist, it’s being wise. So is keeping it real with training techniques, maintaining the equipment frequently, and making sure the layout of the cycling studio is safe.
Who knows exactly what happened in the case of that lawsuit in Ireland. It might have been a manufacturer’s defect. It might have been poorly maintained equipment. It might have been a stroke of bad luck. But imagine if that pedal broke while you were doing the “Titanic” stretch described in the previous article! I had a pedal fall off years ago and I was incredibly lucky not to have been injured. Over the years, I’ve heard dozens of stories from instructors around the world of pedals snapping off during a class.
It. Does. Happen!
There are far too many instructors and clubs/studios who either deny that these risks exist in indoor cycling or simply believe that those things “never happen to them.”
Since launching ICA five years ago, I’ve received over a dozen stories about accidents and some lawsuits. The reasons range from negligence, to instructors practicing bad technique or contraindications (including stretching on the bike), to equipment failure, to bad luck, to purely frivolous suits.
More often than not, accidents incurring injuries are quietly settled and swept under the rug, so word doesn’t get out to protect the club/studio. This is why you rarely hear about them.
Share Your Story
I am collecting stories about accidents and injuries in cycling classes to add to the ones I already have so I can show proof when people claim injuries don’t happen or that poor techniques don’t raise the risk of injury.
Have you or your facility ever had an accident in your Spinning/cycling classes? How was it handled? Was there legal action and restitution? Have you had an incident that fortunately turned out OK, but could have been much worse? Did it change the way you taught or change any policies at your facility?
I will share a story that happened at my club about 10 years ago. We used to raise our handlebars to the highest hole to allow the sliders to dry to prevent rust. Members were told to make sure the pop pin clicked. Well…they didn’t always do that. On this particular day, I was just starting class and one guy walked in late. He got on his bike quickly in the back row without checking the handlebars and setting them to his correct level. The previous person had raised them above the minimum mark without securing the pop pin. As he leaned on the bars, they fell off and he pitched forward into the bike in front of him. His temple grazed the back of the seat slider of that bike. He had a small cut about a half inch away from his eye and he bruised his thigh pretty badly. I quickly made sure he was OK, then sent someone to get management. They fixed him up, made him happy (gave him a really cool cap), and he even came back and rode in my class, extremely embarrassed to “have made a scene”!
We averted disaster that day. A half inch to the left and he could have lost an eye and/or broken a nose. I am so very grateful to this day that he was OK. That incident is one of the reasons that I am so aware of potential accidents and injury. After that, we stopped asking members to raise the handlebars.
Please let me know in the comments if you have a story to share. If you prefer to contact me privately and don’t want your name or club mentioned, please send an e-mail to email@example.com. At your request, I will keep it anonymous.
Thanks for helping to improve our industry by bringing to light what everyone needs to hear!
NOTE: While the bike in this article was a StarTrac Spinner, this can and does happen to every brand of bike. I have seen some manufacturers recommend that pedals be replaced once per year. If your facility has very heavy usage, then this is likely a very wise idea!