Be in the Know: Cycling and Crew Terms

SPIRE wants you to 'be in the know'. Keep reading to master our instructors' Cycling and Crew terminology. When you are in a class, you should be able to execute our exercises with precision and confidence.

During a cycling class, you may hear, ‘Let’s clip-in. Calibrate. Get out of the saddle in the first hand position.’ A crew instructor may say, ‘prepare for a 500 meter sprint, make sure you are tightening your core and don’t have any slack on your rower at the catch.’ – You might be thinking, 'what did the instructor just say? I haven’t even sat down yet!'

Have no fear, we are here to help you learn the basic terms necessary to look like a pro during class! We have broken down the cycling and crew terms in a way that will be easy to understand. 

Milwaukee Fitness

Top Cycling and Crew Terms at SPIRE


Strap In: We will loosen the foot straps and place our feet in the foot boards. Our heels will be at the bottom of the foot board. The straps should be positioned over the ball of each foot. When this is completed, tighten and secure the straps.

Stroke: A stroke consists of blending the drive, finish, recovery and catch movements together as one. The form of a stroke should stay consistent even if our rowing is at a higher intensity or power.

Rowing Catch and Drive

Catch: Our arms will be extended, while our legs are bent and vertically aligned. Our body is in a stable position here and we will transition into drive next.

Drive: This is the beginning of our stroke. Our legs will start vertically aligned and then be extended at the end of the drive. The pressure of our legs of the foot board will help to find power and intensity.

Rowing Finish and Recovery

Finish: The upper body is leaning back slightly, while our legs are extended. The handle should be held slightly below our ribs. Our shoulder blades will be tightening together on our back, while our chest should be opening up.

Recovery: Our arms are fully extended and our body will slides towards the foot board. This is the end of the stroke and it should be a smooth and fluid motion.

SPM: Stroke Rate Per Minute. The higher the SPM number, the faster we are moving back and forth on the slide.

Split time: A reflection of the amount of force you are applying to each stroke. This metric is measured based off of a 500 meter distance. 

Breathing: Try to coordinate each phase of our stroke with the timing of our breathing. During low intensity strokes, focus on exhaling during the drive and inhaling during the recovery. At high intensity strokes, exhale at the finish, inhale  and exhale again during the recovery, and follow this by an inhale quickly before the catch. Timing our breathing can get a little tricky, but focus on a consistent breathing technique to allow for an intense workout.

2000 Meters/ 1000 Meters/ 500 Meters: This is a set number of meters which we can program the rowers for during a sprint. If we are told to start at 500 Meters, we will program our rower and begin to see the meters slowly decreasing as we continue our repetition of strokes. We complete the 500 Meters sprint when the power console shows 0 Meters on the screen.



Calibrate: At the beginning of each cycling class you will need to calibrate your bike. You do this by turning the resistance down to zero (all the way to the left). Press the bottom, center button on the comprehensive power console two times or until it begins to count down from 15 and the console tells you to start riding. It is that simple! This helps the comprehensive power console to give you an accurate performance measurement.

RPM: Revolutions Per Minute.

Out of the Saddle: This is when your hips are aligned right over your saddle (seat). We can check this by making sure our knees are behind the brakes. This is consistently used throughout class and will help to tone your legs and butt!

Cycling Tap-Back

Tap-Back: Is an out of the saddle movement done by sliding your butt two inches backwards and then two inches forward. It will look like you are moving to the rhythm of the music, but it is an intense move. Slowly try to work on this skill in order to perfect it!

Surge: We will increase our resistance and speed in short bursts according to the instructor. This is a component that will happen quickly, however, we will complete this several times to receive optimum results.

Sprint: This is what it sounds like. We will set the bike to a lower resistance, so it feels like you are biking on a flat road. Push yourself to reach a higher RPM.

Isolation: Here we are isolating the movement of our body to below the hips. Our upper body should be held level, while our feet are doing the movement. We are eliminating the bounce in our step and our bodies. Be sure to focus on controlling your leg movement.

Draft: The bike is set at a higher resistance, while we will drop our hands to fourth position. As we lean towards the front of the bike, we will make sure our back is almost parallel to the ground.

Now you are a pro at our instructor's terms! You have taken a key step toward mastering Cycling and Crew. Let us know your favorite terms used during classes and why! 

If this is your first time taking a class, be sure to check out our Tips for Attending Your First Indoor Cycling Class at SPIRE article and review our New to SPIRE Page.

Cycling Isolation