Yes, How You Sit on Your Fitness Bike Matters
Between the energizing music and the invigorating challenge, you’re sold on cycling workouts. There’s only one problem: you’re feeling a little achy, and you’re not sure why. Before you hop off the bike and declare yourself in need of a rest day, take a couple of minutes to check your stride and how you’ve set up your bike to ensure proper cycling form.
It’s only natural to assume that a good ride comes down to factors like the music, your energy levels, and whether or not you’ve had caffeine before kicking off. While all those are important, proper cycling form outranks them all — and that begins with your bike setup. Here’s how to get it right and why it’s so important.
Setting Up Your Indoor Cycling Bike Properly
There are three aspects of your bike that need to be tailored to your physiology before you start your indoor cycling ride:
1. Seat height
Stand next to the bike with your feet flat on the floor. From here, you should set “the seat in line with the top of the hip bone,” says Chris Murdoch, accredited NASM personal trainer who has been teaching indoor cycling for 26 years.
2. Seat distance from handlebar
You may be tempted to ignore this one, but this is where the power of your stride is. Sit on the bike seat and place both of your feet on the pedals. Find the position where your feet (on the pedals) are at the same height and parallel to the floor. If you draw a line down from your knee cap, it should hit the tips of your toes if you have the correct distance from your hand position.
3. Handlebar height
This “can be set to a comfortable height for the rider that allows for a lengthened natural spine with open or wide shoulders and chest,” explains Murdoch.
If you feel pain at the front of your knee while pedaling, you may need to raise your seat. Pain at the back of your knee, on the other hand, may be telling you it’s time to lower your seat slightly.
This Is the Proper Indoor Cycling Form
The guidelines above are important because correct setup will allow for proper cycling form, explains Murdoch.
- There should be a slight bend in your elbows, and your back should be straight. Riding with a straight back helps with engaging your core and belly breathing.
- At the furthest point in your stride, there should still be a slight bend in your knee.
- You should push through the center of your foot when pedaling for maximum power. Think about not just pushing down but also pulling up on the pedals to recruit your quads and hamstrings equally.
Checking on your positioning and working toward proper indoor cycling form will ensure you’re cycling with ease for years to come. “Improper sitting position eventually leads to muscular and joint injuries,” Murdoch warns. “Incorrect sitting can cause repetitive use syndrome,” which you may experience as “muscular pain and tendon tears or inflammation.”
Why Do My Feet Go Numb When Cycling, and How Do I Fix it?
Numb feet feel like a severe issue when it happens, but this situation has a shockingly simple solution: check your shoes. Murdoch says improper shoe fit is a common cause of this complaint. You’ll need to check more than the shoe size you bought, though. Check your shoes’ tightness, support, and strap position.
Your feet swell as you ride due to increased blood flow, so don’t pull your straps too tight before you get going. Try clipping into your bike using cleats — if your bike has clip-in pedals — just below the ball of the foot, which may help distribute your weight better across your entire foot. And make sure to find shoes that are right for you.
How Do I Avoid Cramping During Cycling?
There are several ways to set yourself up for a cramp-free ride.
First, make sure you’ve had enough to drink. “Proper hydration with electrolyte replenishment will prevent cramps,” says Murdoch.
2. Wear the right shoes
Wearing the correct shoe size can also prevent some problems. Not sure if it’s right? Murdoch suggests wiggling your toes in your shoe to check that you have just enough room and that you haven’t cinched them too tight.
3. Use form to release tension
During your ride, take a moment to check your pedaling form. Your power should come from a flat-footed stride. When you’re tired, though, you may be more likely to point your toes as you push. Doing so can lead to calf cramps. To release the tension in your calves, push down with your heel as you ride to lengthen the muscle. If a nasty quad cramp hits you, unclip yourself and pull your heel to your butt to release some tension before continuing.
Do I Have to Use Resistance When Indoor Cycling?
It’s up to you to shape your indoor cycling session, but Murdoch says it isn’t a good idea to skip the resistance entirely. The resistance is there “to challenge the muscles,” he explains, adding that going from more resistance to less helps “flush the legs out.” Instead of avoiding it, try dialing it back slightly if the ride is getting too challenging.