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How to Properly Fit Yourself to a Stationary Bike

Avoid stress and pain at your next indoor cycling session by making sure you’re fitted properly to your bike.

Indoor cycling classes are great—the music, the intense instructors, the burn. Not so great? Your sore tush after class.

You can blame it on the poorly padded seat all you want, but the truth is you probably aren’t fitting the bike to your body properly. While instructors are there to help you set up the bike at first, it can be nerve-racking when you only have five minutes until the music starts and you can’t figure out how to move the handlebars.

Off Road Cycling instructors and co-owners Tammar Berger and Tali Wenger are here to help. At their free Off Road 101 intro class, they go through step-by-step instructions of how to properly set up a bike. Check out their instructions below, and ride pain-free at your next cycle sesh.

1) Check seat height: The top of the seat should be in line with your hipbone. Place your thumb on top of your hipbone and make sure your palm lies flat on top of the bike seat. (Hint: Remember your exact seat height as measured on the bike for next time.)

2) Strap in: If you’re wearing sneakers and the pedals provide cages, slip in your foot—but not all the way in. You want to be on the balls of your feet.

3 and 4) Pedal: While your feet are strapped in, pedal so one of your legs is at the 6 o’clock position. You do not want the leg full extended—there should be a 25-to-35-degree bend at your knee. Then, take your foot out of the cage and put your heel on the pedal. This time, while leg is in the 6 o’clock position, you should have full leg extension.

5) Adjust the handlebars: You’ll either have to pull the handlebars closer to the bike seat or farther away (or, the bike seat closer to or farther from to the handlebars). A general rule of thumb is the space between should measure from your elbow to a loose fist. 

6) Get back on the bike: Make sure your arms are slightly bent while holding the handlebars in second position.

Photographs by Melissa Romero.

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  • LB

    What about lifting the handlebars up and down?

  • melrom

    Hi LB, good question! Tali and Tammar say that it's a matter of personal comfort. Serious outdoor cyclists may prefer to stay close to the handlebars and ride with an exaggerated lean, while those with bad backs may prefer to sit up more straight—with lifting the handlebars up higher. Either way, make sure there is a slight bend to your arms. In the end, it's all about comfort!

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