The first stationary bikes created specifically for the original indoor cycling program were an innovation of Johnny Goldberg, a South African endurance racer in search of a more effective way for cyclists to train inside. Consequently, the geometry of indoor cycling bikes is similar to that of road bikes. Stationary bikes feature drive trains with bike chains, weighted flywheels and dual-sided pedals.
Early stationary bikes manufactured by Schwinn came standard with platform pedals that had toe clips on one side. Toe clips, or toe cages, are hard plastic toe box cages bolted to the pedal. They have adjustable nylon straps so that you can tighten them to keep your feet, for the most part, in the same place on the pedals as you ride. On these bikes, whether you wear gym shoes or cycling shoes, you must use the toe clips to stay connected to the pedals. Schwinn stationary bikes that say “Johnny G” down the side of the frame have these pedals unless the fitness facility has changed them out over time.
When the company Star Trac started making the bikes, it implemented a new standard pedal system, which is what you’ll find in most indoor cycling facilities. These dual-sided platform pedals have the same toe clips with adjustable straps on one side as their Schwinn predecessors, in addition to SPD-compatible clips on the other side. SPD, or Shimano Pedal Design, is the most widely used clipless pedal system. The system's clips accommodate SPD cleats. Dual-sided pedals provide riders with cycling shoes or gym shoes with a means to properly attach to the pedal.
In studios frequented by a significant number of serious cyclists or fitness riders who wear only cycling shoes, a small number of bikes might have fully clipless pedals. This usually happens in larger studios with between 30 and 50 bikes, and typically no more than 10 percent of bikes have full SPD clipless pedals, with clips on both sides. The main advantage for the rider is that clipless pedals are small — they’re situated directly under the ball of the foot and, unlike platform pedals with clips, don’t touch the toes or arch of the foot. Smaller pedals translate to increased foot comfort on the bike.
Dual-sided pedals with toe cages and SPD clips are the most prevalent style of pedal, simply because many stationary bikes come with them, but your fitness facility might have a different setup. Some studios have Look pedals, the clipless system road cyclists most often choose. The Look system is not SPD-compatible and its existence in the indoor cycling studio is rare. Facility managers normally advise cyclists who use the Look system on their own bikes to buy a specific pair of shoes for indoor cycling and install SPD cleats. Call your facility in advance to find out how many bikes are in the studio and what pedal systems they have.