The Trouble with Cycling: Back Row Syndrome | Eclectic Cake: The Trouble with Cycling: Back Row Syndrome

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

The Trouble with Cycling: Back Row Syndrome

The cool kids sit at the back of the bus. Everyone knows that. It's the furthest away from a teacher's earshot so they can be noisy, throw fruit pastels at eachother and make rude gestures to lorry drivers. The back of a workout class, however, can be a very different environment. A place for the shy and intimidated, it's where newbies can observe the pros and hide their shaking limbs. It's certainly where I'd have gone for my first class if I wasn't bullied to the front by over enthusiastic friends.

In a spin class at our local gym, my friend (newly returned to the gym) and I (useless at cycling) went straight to the back row. Unlike in the school bus, we weren't planning to moon anyone or throw sweets at our classmates' heads. We chose to saddle up there because we were slightly nervous of others seeing our efforts. Among the first-name-basis regulars and the pros with clip in shoes, we were certainly the impostors. Plus we wanted a quiet moan when it got hard, and I was pretty sure there'd be giggles at my attempts to sprint the 'hills'. We moved to the back out of courtesy to the other spinners.

But this doesn't mean we put less effort into the class. We had beetroot cheeks and sweat stung eyes just like the front-rowers. I even managed to stand and cycle for a couple of minutes before my legs wobbled and gave up - a personal best by miles! So I was a little disappointed when we started a section of the class using the speedos, to find that mine was broken. It meant I couldn't follow the class properly and I felt a bit left out. I settled for copying the efforts of the legs pedalling in front and the facial expressions of my friend (more grimace = bigger effort).

After stretching our tired limbs, we were invited to give feedback on a shrinking class. I suggested working equipment may help and was far more disappointed by the following casual response than the broken bike...

"Oh, the girls at the back don't normally do that part of the class, they just do their own thing."

...Err, yeah! Most probably because they're expected to use faulty bikes!

I couldn't believe the instructor dismissed  a whole group of people from a proper class experience because of where they choose to sit! I'm pretty sure if someone takes the effort to wake up early, haul their kit on and pay for a class, they want to be there. They want the instruction, they want to feel the benefits and they want the full use of the equipment. But it was assumed those at the back of the class chose to sit there because they're not fully interested or able. 

Whilst I'm upset by the instructor's obvious dismissal of back-rowers, I can't help thinking we brought it on ourselves. Rather than putting ourselves enthusiastically at the front of a new class to soak up the information, we often hide ourselves away at the back. This distance between us and the instructor probably signals that we want as little contact as possible, active observers rather than up-front participants. 

So don't be shy, be proud that you're giving something new a try or persisting with a class you find tricky. Welcome to the front row...(or at least the middle).


  1. Despite feeling achy, stiff and nursing an injury I went up front in my yoga class this morning (after reading this) it was great, the instructor could easily tell me adaptations and help me with my injury in certain poses. Yay for being at the front!

    1. Yey, indeed! The front row rocks! Well done you for going to the front when you're not feeling at your best. Best wishes for a speedy recovery!