Your student is sitting upright – do you address it, and if so, how?

When one of your riders sits up a lot during class it could be for a plethora of reasons: discomfort, poor set-up, disinterested, or that they are just being lazy. How should you address it? The technique for confronting this student issue can be employed for almost anything you have to address in your classes.I want to tell you about a student in my class the other day, Tom. It was a small group of 7 riders at the small, private facility where I work in the winter. This is a seasonal program, with no classes in summer and many of the members are only here part-time, as second-home owners at this ski resort of Beaver Creek, CO. I hadn’t seen Tom since last winter, and he isn’t one of my regulars and had only come a few times. This club has an older but pretty fit population, so I’d say Tom is in his late 60’s, early 70’s.

I noticed he was sitting upright a lot in the first twenty or so minutes of class. I didn’t want to address him unless it became a “chronic” issue – often at this club people will ride easy in the cycling classes either because they skied hard the day before or plan to ski hard that day, so I thought I’d give him some time to warm-up and see if he joined us. (This club is literally at the base of the ski hill).

The profile was three 10-12 minute climbs with 4-5 minute flats in between. He sat up much of the first 12 minutes while we progressively warmed up to the first climb. On the first climb, he put his hands on the bars for about half of it (and of course, always when we stood up) but was still “climbing” while sitting up.

While I was teaching, I was trying to come up with a diplomatic way to address it without singling him out. During the recovery flat after that first climb, I got off the bike, walked from left to right in the room (he was over near the right side, I didn’t go to him first) and answered someone else’s question, suggested one of my regulars relax her shoulders more, and then came to him. The following was our conversation:


  1. Today I have one member who is not my regular, she sat straight up with hands behind her back, pedaling with hard resistance. I came over and asked if she felt the impact on her hips as she was turning the pedals. The response was she is working on her ABS. Obviously, she got this cue from another instructor who gave her all the contraindicated moves (hover, sprint w/out resistance..,) as I watched. She refused to listen to my explanation/suggestion, put on her earphones and listened to her music for the rest of the class.
    What should I do or just rest my case?

  2. I’ll include all of these suggestions in articles and/or videos soon!

    Love2Spin I actually filmed an example of bottoming out on a standing climb and how to correct it, but as it turned out the video was terrible, so I’m scheduling to redo it soon.

    Doug, I’ve got the perfect answer for that – coming soon in a video! (I have a personal training client that does that on her bike – and now I know why! I’ll share it with you soon.)

  3. well, just so happened this a.m. i read this before i left to sub a class. One lady, slightly over weight having moments of laying prone on the handlebars during some of the climbs and recoveries. After the 2nd time seeing her do this i approached her after roaming around the room and checking in with others to see if she was “feeling alright”?. well, she immediately sat upright and said yes she was fine. I thin it was just more due to fatigue and little bit of laziness and not being addressed previously. i did caution her on the strain on her back, pelvis, upper body and maybe she needed to reevaluate how much she was asking of herself this a.m. This seemed to solve the issue at least for the remainder of the class.
    Perfect timing to read this before i left this a.m. and the new pre-ride cues on position to include in other classes.
    Thank you jennifer. Happy Holidays!

  4. Thank you Jennifer,
    I have had on rider in particular that would ride the entire class perched upright and with her hands cupped on the top of the handle bar stem (steerer stem?). No matter what hints, suggestions etc. I made she seemed to prefer that position. Thank you for other ways to deal with this.

    Doug in Mississauga

  5. Thanks Jennifer–these are good tools to use in this type of situation. I always feel way more able to approach someone if I have a “script” somewhat planned in my head. I will definitely put this to use.

    I have a form/technique question I’m wondering about. One of my riders leans his forearms on his handlebars while riding out of the saddle. Now that it’s happened for a few classes, last night after the ride I said that I noticed he did that and I wondered why. He said that he feels he is training the back of his pedal stroke without his body weight helping if he leans on the handlebars. And that he does this in class (in the cold weather months) because it’s not something he can “train” as easily when he rides outside. My thought was that he could focus on the back of his pedal stroke while in the saddle and not risk hurting his back. The bike is stationary (unlike a bike outdoors that is moving with you), and holding the upper body still and leaning on the bars like that is putting pressure on his joints, putting his hips in an unfavorable position, and not letting that energy “release.” He said he’d consider changing his position sometimes, but I felt like I needed more information to explain my thoughts and maybe offer more effective alternatives.

    Does my description of the situation make sense? What suggestions do you have? It’d be cool to let him know I’ve thought about and researched this more next time I see him.

    Thank you! 🙂

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