How to Set Up A Spin Bike

Kristen NelsonKristen Nelson

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It’s easy to find the right fit on an exercise bike! A few simple adjustments can help you ride comfortably – and safely – on your new exercise bike. Most bikes have three or four adjustment points, which include: saddle height, saddle setback, handlebar height, and sometimes handlebar reach. We’ll show you how to set each of these to match your body size.


Saddle Height Adjustment

How to adjust:

Stand next to your bike with your feet flat on the floor and your hip next to the saddle. Release the saddle adjustment lever and raise or lower the saddle until the top of the seat is the same height as the top of your hip bone. Secure the adjustment lever fully so the seat won’t slip lower as you ride.

Verify the right height:

Sit on the seat and put both feet on the pedals. Pedal gently until one pedal is at the lowest point in the rotation (it doesn’t matter if it’s the right or left). Keep the lower pedal flat, parallel with the floor (don’t point your toe). At this point, your leg should be nearly straight, with a slight 25-35 degree bend in the knee. If you can’t keep your foot flat at the lowest point, the seat is too high. If there is more than a 35 degree bend in your knee, the seat is too low.

Why this matters:

Seat height is the most important setting on your bike. Most riders tend to set their seat too low, which increases tension on the knee joint. If the seat is too high, you’ll quickly feel it in your bum! As you ride, you want to keep your pedals flat throughout the rotation – don’t point your toes as this again puts pressure on the knee. With the pedals flat, you should be able to complete a full pedal rotation on both sides with a comfortable extension of the knee that doesn’t require your hips to rock side to side. This position reduces tension on the knee while allowing for a full power in the quadriceps and hamstrings. If the seat is too low, you will burn out your quads in no time as the hamstrings are not recruited sufficiently.

Saddle Setback Adjustment

How to Adjust

Saddle setback is the horizontal distance of the seat in relation to the pedals. To find the right fit, sit on the saddle. With both feet in the mid-range position of the stroke (both feet parallel and flat on the pedals), the front tip of your forward knee should be directly over the midline of the pedal (your shoelaces). This is considered the “knee over pedal spindle” rule.

Why This Matters

At this angle, you should be able to engage the glutes, with quadriceps generating power on the downstroke and hamstrings pulling on the upstroke. If your seat is too far forward, all the tension is again shifted to the knee. If your seat is too far back, you won’t be able to generate full power in the quadriceps and may struggle to keep your feet flat in the pedal.

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Seat Angle

How to Adjust

Most bikes allow the rider to adjust the angle of the seat, but this usually requires a hex wrench or standard wrench (depending on the bolt). The top of the saddle should be level with the top tube. If your bike does not have a top tube, there are different types of bikes, the top of the saddle should be level with the floor. This is best determined using a level. Place the level on the seat, loosen the hex bolt, and adjust the angle of the saddle up or down until completely level.

Why This Matters

If the nose of the saddle is too low, you’ll feel like you are sliding forward toward the handles. If the nose is too high, you’ll feel like you are sliding backwards (with more than a bit of groin tension as well). Most seats don’t require an angle adjustment unless the seat has shifted unintentionally.

Handlebar Reach Adjustment

How to Adjust

The handlebar reach is the distance from the handlebars to the nose of the saddle. Once you have established the correct height and setback of your saddle, stand next to the bike. Place your forearm between the nose of the saddle and the horizontal handlebar. With your fingers extended, you want to have a full forearm’s length from elbow to the tip of your longest finger. This will provide enough span for a comfortable riding position. We don’t recommend setting the reach any shorter than this; however, some riders prefer a more aggressive riding position. In this case, you can extend the handlebars further away from the nose of the saddle to create a more aerodynamic riding position with the torso lower and your shoulders down.

Why this Matters

Handlebar reach affects your torso angle. If the saddle is too close to the handlebars, you’ll feel compressed with a significant rounding in your back. If the saddle is too far back, you’ll feel like you are stretching forward to reach the bars. The ideal position allows you to comfortably reach the bars without too much pressure on your wrists.

Bikes without a Reach Adjustment

Many bikes with an attached touchscreen do not allow the handlebars to slide forward or back. This is usually because the weight of the screen impedes any forward/back movement. In this case, adjust the seat setback distance to allow for a forearm’s reach from the bars.

Handlebar Height Adjustment

How to Adjust

The handlebars should be at least level with the saddle – or higher – but typically not lower than the saddle. To adjust, release the handlebar adjustment lever and lift or lower the handlebars until they are parallel with the saddle. Sit on the bike and asses the position. For most riders, this will be too low – but it’s a good place to start. From level position, raise the handlebars until you are comfortably upright and can breathe easily. Fully tighten the adjustment lever.

Why this Matters

Handlebar height is mainly personal preference, however, there are a few things to be aware of. Riding upright allows for better airflow through the lungs. With your torso upright, you can see and breathe easily. This allows riders to relax the trapezius muscle in your neck and back and reduces tension on the wrist. We recommend positioning the handlebars at least an inch or so higher than the seat. More experienced riders can set the handlebars lower for more aggressive positioning.

If Your Bike Has A Screen

If your bike has a screen, which most exercise bikes do nowadays,make sure that the handlebars and seat position allow you to look straight ahead while riding. You don’t want to look “up” as this will hurt your neck over time. Have a friend take a profile picture of you on the bike and assess the position of your spine. You want a neutral spine, relaxed traps, and a comfortable forward gaze.

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