How to use your exercise bike correctly and effectively

a woman is cycling
Matt Davidson, fitness instructor
Matt Davidson, fitness instructor

How to choose the right bike for you

The first step in determining how to use your exercise bike correctly and effectively is to first purchase a bike that is right for you. Weight capacity is one of the most critical features of an exercise bike. If the bike cannot support your weight, then it may be unsafe to use. Fully adjustable handlebars and seat are also important for adjusting the bike to fit your specific body type. Type of resistance and levels of resistance are also factors that determine how intense or smooth your workout will feel. Flywheel weight, workout monitoring, heart rate monitoring, Q-factor, device holder, and bottle holder are all other features that may or may not be available on the bike you chose. To get more details on how to choose a bike that is best for your health and fitness goals, check out our How to choose the best exercise bike for you article for more detail’s information. Once you have the right bike, the next step will be deciding the how to use your exercise bike optimally.

How to use your exercise bike: Adjusting your cycle bike

Using your exercise bike correctly and effectively starts with proper fitting of the bike to your body frame. Everyone’s body type is different, and exercise bikes probably won’t come preassembled to perfectly match your leg, arms, and torso lengths. For this reason, it is critical to know how to use your exercise bike adjustment features. Failure to use these adjustment features may result in uncomfortable riding, poor performance, and possible injury. When a bike is adjusted properly you will be comfortable and feel more capable of pedaling stronger and faster. The good news about adjusting your exercise bike is that once you find the right fit, you won’t have to make another adjustment! Although, if other riders hop on who are not your same body type, you may need to readjust. Follow these simple steps to ensure your exercise bike is step up for the best comfort and performance.

How to use your exercise bike: Adjusting your seat

Recumbent Bikes

Depending on what type of exercise bike you have, the way you adjust the seat may differ slightly. Most recumbent bikes have forward and backward seat adjustment capabilities. Simply pull on the adjustment handle to release the seat. Once the seat is released, slide the seat forward or backward until you find a comfortable position. For recumbent bikes, you should have a slight bend in your knee when your feet are at the furthest point away from your body during each pedal stroke. Lock the seat back into place with the seat adjustment lever before you begin your workout.

Upright Bikes

Upright bikes usually do not have a back rest like recumbent bikes. The seat does need to be adjusted in a similar way to recumbent bikes. The best way to know if the bike you want to purchase will fit your leg length, is to measure your inseam and make sure that the bike you are looking at will accommodate your inseam measurement. You can learn more about measuring your inseam here. Once you know your inseam will fit the bike you want, simply adjust the bike seat to a height that matches your inseam length. Another way to do this is to stand directly next to your bike seat and move the seat to a point that is about the height of your hip bone (iliac crest). There should be about a 25 to 35-degree knee bend when you are in the down stroke while pedaling. Since upright bikes are made for riders to use in a more upright riding position, you shouldn’t feel like you need to lean forward to grasp the handlebars too much. If you find you need to round your back or keep your arms fully extended to reach the handlebars, you may need to move your seat forward. If your upright bike does not have the ability to move the seat forward, you may need to flex your hips while keeping a flat back as you reach forward to grasp the handlebars. These simple positioning changes will have a significant impact on how you use your exercise bike.

Exercise Bikes

Adjusting your exercise bike seat height is the same as adjusting the seat of an upright bike. It is more important for riders to make sure that the seat height is in an optimal position to produce efficient and strong pedaling strokes. Exercise bike users regularly increase and decrease the resistance of their workouts while varying the pace and intensity of their rides. For this reason, it is critical to know how to use your exercise bike seat height adjustment. Not adjusting the seat properly cause knee problems over time if proper knee and foot position is not maintained. Riders should also be aware of their knee position as they complete each pedal stoke. If the knee is positioned to far behind the pedal or too far over the toes, riding could be uncomfortable. To fix this, simply place your pedals so they are in line with each other and measure the line down from your knee to your pedal on the foot that is positioned forward. Move your seat forward or backward depending on the position of your knee over your pedal.

How to use your exercise bike: Adjusting your handlebars

Recumbent and Upright Bikes

Usually, indoor cycle bikes are the only bikes that allow for adjustment to the handlebars. Most recumbent bikes and upright bikes come with handlebars that are in a fixed position. This means you may not be able to adjust them. In order to accommodate users different body types for comfortable usage, many recumbent and upright bikes will have handlebars with more than one grip option.

Indoor Cycle Bikes

When looking into purchasing an indoor cycle bike, look for a bike that has handlebars that adjust up and down and forward to back. At minimum the bike handlebars should adjust up and down. If you are new to indoor cycling, make sure you don’t set your handlebars too low. If the handlebars are too low, then you may be put in a posture compromising position which could lead to pain or discomfort overtime. An exercise bike that has this capability will help you find a good fit regardless of your arm length, torso length, or posture. Good posture when riding an exercise bike should include a neutral spine position with elbows that are slightly flexed. Your grip on the handlebars should be firm but not too tight. Check out the images below for examples on what proper grip and positioning should be when using our different bikes.

Cycle Bike Hand Position (More Positions)

Upright Bike Hand Position

Recumbent Bike Hand Position

How to use your exercise bike: Pedal Straps

While you may take for granted the pedals your bike comes with, these simple components will ensure that your ride remains strong and safe. Your upright bike or recumbent bike will come with textured foot pedals and an adjustable strap to keep your feet secure while you pedal. To use your exercise bike correctly, the front half of your foot should be placed on the pedal with the strap tightened over the top of your foot. Be careful not to strap in to tight, this could cut off circulation to your feet while riding. If the strap is too loose, you may risk your feet slipping out of the pedals during workouts which could cause injury. In addition to adjustable straps, indoor cycle bikes will have a foot cage and/or SPD compatibility integrated into the pedal. Having a secure footing during intense cycling workout will enable riders to push and pull through each pedal stroke. This will help increase the performance and efficiency of your workouts.

Caged Pedal

SPD Compatible Pedal

How to use your exercise bike: Workout Monitors

While workout monitors are not necessary to get a good workout, they can help you workout be more effective. Depending on the function of the workout monitor, you may have the ability to track a variety of different workout variables. Time, distance, odometer, estimated calories burned, and scan are some of the basic functions that could help you keep track of your workout effectiveness. If you are interested in increase the performance of your cycling workout, you may want a monitor that can track your pulse, rpm, or cadence. Knowing these workout variables in real time will help you stay on track with a workout you are trying to complete, or give you feedback to whether you need to increase or decrease your effort.

How to use your exercise bike: Body Positioning

An upright posture is always a safe position to be performing your cycling workouts. Rounding your back could cause users to increase their risk of developing poor posture and back pain. Keep your chest up with shoulders relaxed in a retracted position. A good indicator of proper shoulder position is to see that they are in line with your ears from a side profile view. Keep a full and lite grip on the handlebars so you don’t place too much tension on your upper body during workouts. Foot placement on the pedals is also important. If you have improper foot placement on the pedals, you could increase your risk for foot numbness, loss of performance, or knee pain. Keep the front part of your foot place on the pedal with little to no toes hanging over the front of the pedal. Be careful not to let your knees bow out or fall in while you ride. Not having your knees in line with your hips and toes could place unwanted pressure on the knee joint which could lead to inflammation, soreness, or injury.

Pro Tip! – Cycling shoes or shoes that have a firmer sole are a better choice for workout using a cycling bike.

Exercise bikes are great for increasing your cardiovascular performance and calorie burning potential. The workouts are also low impact which make them a good fit for a variety of different people. To choose the best workout, you must first determine your cycling experience level. If you are new to cycling and your cardiovascular fitness is low, you should start with lower intensity works. Once you become stronger and more comfortable using your equipment you can work on trying more advanced exercise workouts that involve sprints, hill climbs, and body or grip position changes. To find the best workout for you checkout or cycling workout videos on our website or YouTube channel.

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how to use exercise bike infographic
how to use exercise bike infographic

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