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Correctly Adjusting Your Stationary Bike

By Alex Grint

Introduction

Indoor cycling (aka spin or spinning) is one of the most popular forms of cardio exercise today. Before you start your workout it’s important to ensure your exercise bike is appropriately adjusted. If you’re working out as part of a class then your cycling instructor will help out. However, if you’re on your own it’s good to know a few guidelines that will ensure the appropriate setup of an upright or recumbent stationary bike. This is not only important for comfort but also to make sure that you are optimally transferring your energy to the bike and that you are doing it in such a way that you won’t injure yourself.

For those using a road bike mounted on a turbo trainer we’re going to assume you’ve had your road bike “fitted” at your local bike store. If you’ve not done this it’s a very worthwhile investment and ensures the bike fits your body type.

Setting Up Your Stationary Bike

There are multiple steps that you need to go through to correctly set up your stationary bike. Trust me, the last thing you want to do is injure yourself, or twenty minutes into your workout have to adjust your bike because you're not comfortable.

The first step in setting up an upright stationary bike is adjusting the seat to the appropriate height. Adjust the seat while you are wearing your workout shoes or your proper cycling shoes. A rough estimate of the seat height can be obtained by standing next to the bike and setting the seat height so it's level with the top of your hip bone. Then sit on the seat, place your feet in/on the pedals and push down on one side until one of your legs is at the bottom of the stroke. Your leg should still have a slight bend in it (approximately twenty degrees). Adjust your seat up or down to achieve this; your seat is now set up for the most appropriate height. On a recumbent bike, the seat has a back to it like a chair and can only be adjusted forwards or backwards. Your seat position is appropriately adjusted when at the farthest point of your leg extension the knee still has a slight (approximately twenty degree) bend in it. Never cycle with a seat position that allows the knee to be unbent at the farthest point of leg extension.

The next step in setting up your upright stationary bike is handlebar height adjustment. Most indoor cycling enthusiasts set their handlebars equal to their seat height. If that height is not comfortable for you, then it is better to adjust your handlebars above your seat height - zero to five inches covers most body types.

The third step in adjusting your upright stationary bike is the horizontal (forward or backward) position of the seat so that your knees are correctly aligned in relation to your feet. To begin this process of horizontally adjusting your seat, sit on the bike seat in the riding position with your hands placed on the handlebars and your feet correctly on the pedals (either in the strap or clipped into the pedal if wearing cycling shoes). Next position the pedals so that they are even or level with one another. The best way to check to make sure you have adjusted the horizontal position of your seat properly has to do with the position of your knee caps. If the kneecap of your forward leg is positioned directly over the center of the pedal then you have a properly adjusted horizontal seat position. If this is not the case, then adjust the horizontal position of the seat until you achieve this.

The last step of adjusting your upright or recumbent bike is appropriately adjusting your pedal straps. Nearly all have adjustable straps attached to them. All you need to do is place your foot on the pedal and adjust the strap so that it firmly holds your foot in place (not too firm - you don’t want to feel as though you are losing blood circulation to your foot). On some high quality upright stationary bikes, the reverse side of the pedal allows special cycling shoes to clip in and stay secure to the pedal. The part of the cycling shoe that clips into the pedal is called the cleat. Many shoes allow the position of the cleat to be adjusted on the bottom of the shoe. Follow the manufacturer's instructions as to the appropriate way to do this.

You may find it easier to have a friend or fellow rider help you out with these adjustments, particularly gauging the bend of your knee and the vertical position of your knee over the pedals. When you’ve made all the appropriate adjustments make a note of the various settings for future use (most stationary bikes have graduated marking on the seat post, seat slide and handlebar post for exactly this reason).

You're now all ready for a safe, comfortable and fulfilling workout.