So, you’ve pulled the trigger, and purchased a stationary bike for your home gym. Congratulations! You’re making a great investment.
Whether you’re new to fitness and cycling, and just looking for a convenient way to exercise on your own time, or you’re a cycling pro who needs a high-quality workout when the weather turns cold and nasty, you’re sure to love your new stationary bike.
But unless you take the time to follow a few basic steps to get the most out of your stationary bike, you may not be able to use it to its full potential. Luckily for you, we’ve got a helpful list of tips that can help you do just that! So read on, and get the details now.
1. Take The Time To Set It Up Properly
Ask any cyclist – whether they prefer stationary bikes or outdoor biking – and they will tell you that proper fit and bike position are the most important keys to success.
Without a proper fit and bike position, you won’t be able to produce as much power. You even risk injuries such as knee strain and neck strain, or even back pain.
Because of this, it’s critical to take the time to set up your exercise bike properly. Here are a few things you need to consider and adjust.
- Seat height – Seat height determines how high you ride on the bike, the angle of your leg’s downstroke, and a number of other things. Ideally, your knees should be nearly straight – with a slight bend of 5-10 degrees – when you are at the bottom of your downstroke.
If your hips are “rocking” side-to-side when you pedal, or you have to point your toes to pedal properly your seat is too high, and you’re overextending your knees. And if your knees are bending excessively beyond 10 degrees, your seat is probably too low.
Take some time to adjust your seat, look at the angle of your knee (having someone else look at your leg is helpful) and nail down the perfect seat height.
- Saddle angle – Most people know how important seat height is. But saddle angle can be just as critical for proper performance. If it’s tilted upward too much, it can cause pressure points on your glutes and legs. And if it’s tilted too far down, you’ll slide forward while riding, causing more strain (and potential injuries) to your knees, hands, and arms. Keep the angle relatively neutral, with only a slight tilt towards the front or rear – a few degrees, at max.
- Saddle fore and aft positioning – Yes, we’re spending a lot of time talking about the saddle. But it’s important. The fore/aft position refers to how far forward or backward the saddle is resting.
The ideal position will place your forward knee directly above the axle of the pedal when you’re at the bottom of your downstroke. This provides the most possible power, and helps you avoid injury. Play around with your fore/aft setup until you find this position, and keep your seat there.
- Adjust your handlebars – The ideal handlebar position allows you to use all of the different positions without excessive strain on your neck or back. A good starting point is to put your handlebars even with your saddle, and adjust downwards or upwards, until you feel comfortable.
Take the time to set up your bike perfectly, and your efforts will pay off. If you’re sharing this bike, make sure to take notes and photos once it’s adjusted, so that you can quickly re-adjust it to the proper height and position.
2. Choose The Right Place To Put Your Bike
As a rule, we recommend putting your stationary bike either in a basement, or on the first floor of your home.
If you have one, a finished basement is a good place for a stationary bike. It stays cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter, providing you with a healthy environment for your workout.
The same is usually true of your first floor, if you do not have a basement. For the most part, you should probably avoid putting your bike on the second floor or a higher floor. Upper floors are often more poorly-insulated, and tend to get really hot in the summer, and colder in the winter.
Of course, this does depend on your home. But as a rule, this advice holds true. You’re going to be working hard, so you want an area that doesn’t get too hot. You can also consider investing in a large fan to use while working out, to help you cool down.
3. Warm Up Before Your Workouts, And Warm Down After
Take the time to do plenty of hamstring, knee, back, and neck stretches before you hop onto your bike. In addition, you may want to warm up by spinning gently and at a low intensity before doing your full workout. You could also warm up by walking on a treadmill, or taking a vigorous stroll around the block.
In addition, you’ll want to “warm down” after a high-intensity workout. This allows your muscles to get a bit of rest, without the sudden shock of ceasing all activity. Stay on your bike for an extra 5 minutes, and maintain a low-to-moderate intensity. You shouldn’t be breathing heavily, but you should feel your muscles doing plenty of work.
4. Craft A Personalized Exercise Program
Without a goal, you won’t be able to make much progress on your exercise bike. You’ll be getting a great workout, sure, but you won’t be able to track how you’re doing, and see your performance increase over time.
Take the time to create a personalized exercise program. There are – literally – hundreds of cycling workouts you can do. Here are a few resources that can help you devise your own workouts and exercise program.
There are many other resources out there. So start creating your own plan and tracking your progress, and you’ll feel a great sense of accomplishment as you continue to improve as a cyclist.
5. Invest In Clipless Pedals And Bike Shoes
Most high-end stationary bikes come with optional clipless pedals, or toe cages on one side and clipless pedal on the other side. And if you’re serious about cycling and want to improve your performance, you should get yourself a pair of bike shoes.
Clipless pedals (despite their confusing name) allow you to “clip” onto your bike. Bike shoes have special metal components that lock your shoes to the bike, and a stiff design which allows you to transmit the most possible power, and keeps your feet from tiring out during multi-hour workouts.
If you’re not sure where to start when it comes to shopping for clipless pedals and bike shoes, this guide is sure to help. It explains some of the basics that you’ll need to know. If you have questions, just head to your local bike shop and ask some of the staff for tips. They’ll point you in the right direction.
6. Keep Yourself Entertained
This is one of the biggest benefits of riding a stationary bike, so we recommend taking advantage of it as much as you can. Riding outside is a blast, but you’ll be constantly paying attention to your surroundings, avoiding cars, pedestrians, and other bikes, and so on.
In other words, you can’t distract yourself. But with a stationary bike, you can do whatever you want while you’re riding! You could read a magazine or watch a movie or TV during your workout, or even play a mobile game on your phone, if you want! The choice is yours.
Looking for a more active method of entertainment? Many stationary bikes can connect to Zwift! Zwift is an online game that measures your power output using advanced sensors, and allows you to race against real opponents, on tracks inspired by real locations, in a virtual world! You can watch yourself race through the streets of New York City, through the winding hills of Los Angeles, and more!
If you have a competitive streak, Zwift can help you satisfy that urge. Plus, it’s a lot of fun, and makes your stationary workouts more interesting. To learn more about what you’ll need to get set up, you can check out their support pages!
Follow These Tips – And Take Advantage Of Your New Stationary Bike!
Stationary bikes are fantastic for newcomers and veteran fitness enthusiasts alike. And whether you’ve already got a bike, or you’re shopping for a new exercise bike, this guide is sure to help you make the most of your bike, and your workouts.