When you buy an exercise bike, you're probably not thinking about changing the settings so it perfectly matches you.
However, appropriately adjusting your exercise bike is vital to getting the most benefit from it.
Exercise bikes are like most other types of exercise machines in that they have to be adjusted to each user.
Factors like height, weight, and current physical condition can all factor into what settings you should use.
Also, failure to properly adjust your bike could result in injury. Common risks include falling off of the machine, tearing your muscles, or exercising at an improper rate. To counter these risks, follow these four tips.
The first thing you should do is set the correct height for your saddle.
On most machines, this means that the saddle should be level with your hip bone. To test this, place your hand flat on the saddle and extend your thumb. If your thumb can go straight out and touch the top of your hip bone, the saddle is at the correct height.
Next, get onto the saddle and slowly pedal forward. When your feet reach the bottom of a stroke, your knee should still be slightly bent. You do not want your leg to be totally straight. If it is, adjust your saddle downward by one notch. This should be enough to provide the extra room you need.
If your seat is too high, you risk additional strain in your hips and feet as your body tries to reach further than it should. If your seat is too low, you risk additional strain on your knees, which will be particularly uncomfortable during 'climbs' and heavy resistance areas.
If you have to adjust the height of the saddle between uses (typically as part of folding your bike up for storage, if your model allows that), just remember what the correct height should be.
Many bikes have small indicators you can use once you have the correct position set.
On bikes without these, you may have to repeat the process of finding the correct height. Never eyeball this - no matter how confident you are, you should always check to be sure your bike is at the correct height when you use it.
This is mostly a matter of personal preference. Many exercise bikes allow you to select either a forward or backward position, depending on your body style and preferred method of riding. While either can work, there are some important guidelines to follow here.
In general, though, your knees should come towards the middle of your foot and no further.
Sitting in the wrong position will put additional strain on your body.
Also, you could put your torso in an awkward position and strike it with your knees while simultaneously reducing your overall riding efficiency. This defeats the entire purpose of using an exercise bike, so it's vital that you avoid doing it.
Once you've determined where you'll be sitting, it's time to adjust your handlebars.
This, too, is partially a matter of personal preference. For your first ride, though, make a loose fist and place your arm between the saddle and the handlebars. Once you've done that, move the handlebars so they're touching your fist.
This is the appropriate spacing for most people. If you prefer to ride in an aggressive style, you can lower the handlebars a little. If you're not sure which way to adjust them, move them up. In general, high handlebars are easier on your body than low ones, and raising them up will help you avoid placing weight on them.
As a general rule, handlebars are only meant to be held - they are not there to support your body and should not be treated that way.
Placing your handlebars in the wrong position can strain your lower back. On lower-quality models, putting too much weight on the handlebars could damage them over time, raising the possibility that they'll break and send your head slamming into the front of the bike.
This could happen even with metal handlebars if the joint where they connect to the bike is weak, so don't assume they're safe just because the material itself is good.
Most exercise bikes are designed so that the balls of your feet (between your toes and your arch) will be in the middle of the pedal. Furthermore, you should find it easy to keep your foot flat throughout your entire stroke.
One of the most common mistakes new cyclists make is pointing their toes down while they're biking as if they're trying to push away from a wall.
This is incorrect.
Keeping the balls of your feet level with your heel will reduce pressure, numbness, and general stress.
Incorrectly setting your pedals could make your ride far less comfortable. In addition, like the other settings, failure here could increase the stress on your body and cause damage over time.
Before you start biking, review each of these steps in reverse order to make sure they're still comfortable. That means:
If everything still looks like it's in the right spot, you're ready to get on and start safely exercising.
Over the last few years, I’ve taken my love of the outdoors, hiking, skiing, trekking and exploring to the next level by starting this site. I started a bike shop in Denver, CO, and have seen amazing growth over the last few years. Getting paid to do what I love has been a dream come true for me. That’s also what led me to start BikesReviewed.com. In my shop, I spend a large amount of time helping people find the perfect bike for them and the style of biking they’re going to be doing. It only made sense that I expanded my reach and got online, making it possible for me to help people all over the world. If biking and staying fit is your priority, too, you’ve come to the right place.
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