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How to get the most from your exercise bike

An exercise bike is one of the most popular workout machines, where it’s a staple in any gym and frequently found in the home. The fact that it’s easy to use certainly adds to the appeal of an exercise bike. But, just because it’s a doddle, doesn’t mean to say that every user maximises the benefits of this low-impact, cardio-boosting equipment. If you want to reap the most rewards from a stationary bike, here are some essential tips to follow.

Exercise bike

© Somkiat / Adobe Stock

Adjust the seat

Before you jump on an exercise bike, adjust the seat to suit your height. Correct seat height lets you gain the most from each bike stroke, but it also ensures you remain comfortable and free from injury risk. To check seat height, sit on the saddle and rest the balls of your feet onto the pedals. Extend your front leg so there’s a small bend in your knee, equating to around 5-10 degrees, at the bottom of each downstroke.

If your knees bend more than 10 degrees, the saddle is too low. However, it’s probably too high if you have to point your toes to touch the pedal or your hips are rocking during each motion.

Once you’ve got the seat height spot-on, check that it’s positioned at the correct angle. It should be straight with just a tiny hint of a forward tilt. If the saddle is tilted too far upwards or down, you risk putting pressure on certain parts of the body and causing injury.

 

Adjust the handlebars

The position of the handlebars can impact on your comfort during cycling, where an incorrect setting can put strain on your back and neck. As a general guide, set the handlebars to the same height as your saddle, or until you feel comfortable.

 

Pedal power

How snug your feet feel on the pedals also plays a role in the effectiveness of each cycling motion, so check that your feet are secure in the pedal clips or straps before you get going. Although there should be a bit of space between your foot and the strap, it shouldn’t be big enough so that your foot could slip out.

 

Location

You can’t do much about where an exercise bike is placed in a gym, but if you’ve invested in this equipment for the home, where you locate it can affect the quality of your sessions. Choose a space that offers good ventilation and doesn’t get too hot (such as away from a sunny window). A basement or ground floor room is ideal, for example. Safety is also something to consider. Locate your bike in a space where you’ve got room to move freely on the bike, and there aren’t any furniture or other objects in the way.

 

Use resistance

Exercise bikes come with a resistance control that lets you choose how hard you want to pedal. Don’t be afraid to use this, as it can give your glutes and hamstrings a really great workout. You don’t need to ride in high resistance mode the whole time, however. Experts reckon that you can benefit by using timed intervals, so that you spend 40 seconds cycling hard, followed by lowering resistance and cycling easier but faster for 20 seconds – and then repeating this pattern over five minutes. As well as sitting on the bike, take your backside off the saddle and hover to work a wider range of muscles. Once you get used to this motion, move your body sideways, forwards and backwards.

Make use of the handlebars, too, during your cycling sessions. When you’re raised off the saddle, do some push-ups on the handlebars for half a minute or so. Rest for a further 30 seconds and then repeat this pattern three times.

 

Motivate with music

Stationary cycling can be a little uninspiring if you’ve only got a wall to look at, so motivate yourself to get into the zone by listening to some upbeat tunes. Some people read a book or watch TV on an exercise bike, but if you become engrossed in what you’re reading or watching, be aware that your cycling speed might start to suffer!