Why Do I Get Sore After Indoor Cycling?

Why you may be sore in surprising places and what to do about it

Indoor cycling
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After an intense indoor cycling workout, you might expect your calves, quads, hip flexors, and maybe your glutes to give you some grief for what you put them through. After all, they did the heavy lifting – er, riding – so they have a right to protest with lingering soreness and discomfort. But your neck, your triceps, and your feet really don’t. So if you’re feeling sore in unusual places after an indoor cycling session, your body may be trying to tell you something – namely, that it’s time to fine-tune your indoor cycling technique.

To get the right message, it’s smart to ask yourself two key questions: What am I doing during indoor cycling that could lead to soreness in this part of my body? and What could I do differently to protect that area? Here’s a head-to-toe look at what the answers could be:

Neck: If you have a habit of letting your head drop or flop forward and/or you're scrunching up your shoulders toward your ears while you’re riding, you could end up with neck pain later. Simply put, these habits place undue strain on your neck muscles. The solution: Always keep your head in line with your neck and spine while you’re riding, and keep your shoulders relaxed and down (don't let them visit your ears!).

Triceps: Yes, your triceps hold up your upper body on the bike but you shouldn’t experience soreness in your triceps after indoor cycling. If you do, it could be because your elbows are flared out to the sides, chicken-wing style, while you’re riding, or because you’re leaning too heavily on the handlebars. It also may be that you’re relying on your arms excessively to pull you out of the saddle into a standing position when you should be using your core strength to do so. Try making these modifications to your posture and technique and strengthening your core, to see if they make a difference. Also, be sure to stretch your triceps well after every indoor cycling workout.

Crotch: If your groin area is sore after cycling, it could mean you’re landing hard on the saddle while performing jumps or after riding in a standing position; always make a concerted effort to move in and out of the saddle smoothly and gently. Or, it could mean that you’re bouncing in the saddle, in which case you should turn up your resistance and smooth out your pedal strokes. If you’re new to indoor cycling, it may simply mean that you’re sinking into the saddle excessively because you don’t yet have the upper thigh strength to take the pressure off your groin area; that muscle strength will come with time and experience but in the meantime, to prevent saddle soreness, you’d benefit from wearing padded bicycle shorts or using a padded seat cover.

Wrists: If you have an excessive bend (or flexed position) in your wrists while you’re holding the handlebar, you may be placing too much strain on those joints. The same is true if you lean on the handlebars, off-loading your weight while riding in a standing position. A better approach: Keep a soft curve in your wrists while holding the handlebar, maintain a light grip on the bar, and keep your body weight firmly over the center of the pedals when you’re standing.

Feet: You can end up with sore soles and arches if you wear shoes with a soft bottom, which can cause excessive flexing of your feet as you ride. The best solution is to wear cycling shoes that clip into the pedals, which will give your feet the support they deserve. A second-best option: Wear hard-soled shoes (think: running shoes, not tennis shoes) that won’t bend over the pedals when you’re riding in a standing position. The right shoes can prevent agony of the feet later.