Setting Up Your Bike

Adjust your bike to suit your body to maximize performance.


As eager as you may be to hop on a bike in an indoor cycling studio and start pedaling away, it’s a mistake to do that before making the proper adjustments. For starters, you’ll want to set yourself up for comfort, but having the best possible fit also helps you reap more benefits from the ride and reduce your risk of injury. Finding the right fit on an indoor cycle is a bit different from finding it on an outdoor bike.

If it’s your first time in an indoor cycling class or you’re unsure of the proper set-up for you, ask the instructor for help. At a minimum, you’ll want to:

  • Adjust the seat height. The seat should be high enough so that you get a full leg extension on each pedal stroke but low enough that you can keep a slight bend in your knee at the bottom of the pedal stroke. You shouldn't have to reach for the bottom of each pedal stroke or you’ll end up forcing your hips to move from side to side in an unnatural fashion, which can lead to injury. To find the right seat height, place your feet in the toe cages that are attached to the pedals (or clip into the pedals if you have bike shoes) and pedal until your right leg reaches the bottom of the pedal stroke—at that point, your right knee should be bent at a 25° to 35° angle.
  • Move the seat forward or back. At the correct seat position, your arms should be at a comfortable distance from the handlebars and you should be able to maintain a slight bend in your elbows. When the pedals are level with each other (both are parallel to the floor), the front of the kneecap on your forward leg should be directly above the center of the pedal. 
  • Raise or lower the handlebars. The position of the handlebars is mostly a matter of comfort but the right height for you also limits strain on your neck and back. (On some bikes, the handlebars adjust forward and back, as well; if that’s an option, position the handlebars so you can maintain a slight bend in your elbows.) If you’re new to indoor cycling or you have back problems, start with the handlebars in a higher position and gradually adjust them as you become stronger and more comfortable on the bike.
  • Position your feet on the pedals. The ball of the foot, which is the firmest and widest part of your foot, should be positioned on the center of each pedal for optimal comfort and pedaling efficiency. If you’re wearing regular exercise shoes, use the toe cages that are attached to the pedals, pull the straps tightly, and tuck your shoelaces into your shoes. If you’re wearing cycle shoes with clips, make sure the clips are properly aligned on the bottoms of your shoes so the ball of your foot is positioned on the center of the pedal; be sure to clip in securely. 

Taking the time to address these details before the class starts will help you ride comfortably and efficiently, breathe right, and prevent injuries and post-workout soreness. Every bike is slightly different and so is every body, which is why it’s smart to customize your bike set-up before every class. Double-check to make sure the handlebars and seat are securely attached to the bike and all screws and pop pins are completely engaged.

This way you can focus on riding hard—without worrying about an equipment snafu.

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