What is ‘bike fit’ or ‘bike set up’?
Indoor cycling bikes, like any bikes, are built to fit a range of people – but not them all at the same time! There are a number of parts of the bike that can be adjusted – someone who is 5’4 for example would need a different height bike to someone who was 6’4!
Whether it is your own bike at home, or a bike in a studio or gym, you’ll need to set it up to fit you correctly so that you can ride safely, and as comfortably as possible. It’ll allow you to ride more efficiently, working the right muscles without putting unnecessary stress on your joints.
If it’s your own bike at home, then you can do it once and then leave it like that, but if you visit a gym or studio, or you have to share you bike at home with others, then you’ll need to check the setup every time you ride.
All bikes can be slightly different, but most will allow you to vary at least three things (and some four):
Seat up and down (saddle height)
Seat forward and back (saddle distance from handlebars, its fore/aft position)
Handlebars up and down (handlebar height)
And some allow you to move handlebars forward and back too (their fore/aft position)
Firstly ensure you’re wearing the shoes you intend to wear (whether trainers or cycling shoes) as these impact your height. If you’re planning to use a seat cover and/or padded shorts ensure they are also on the bike/you so that everything is how it will be when you're riding.
Stand to the side of the bike facing forward, in line with the bike seat. Left the leg closest to the bike so your thigh is parallel with the floor, at a right angle to your body.
The top of the seat should be in line with the top of your thigh (when you are sitting on the saddle, your leg should not come up to quite horizontal)
We then need to set the seat distance (fore/aft meaning front / back). This is really about ensuring your feet are lined up on the correct part of the pedals and not stressing your knee.
The quick fix (which we will refine) is to use your forearm. Have your elbow just touching the nose of the saddle, and then your fist should be over the resistance dial (if there is one). You could also have your hand outstretched and get the tip of your middle finger to touch the handlebars. (If the handlebars can move forward and back then have them set so the back is in line with the stem).
Finally adjust the handlebar height to be the same or just slightly higher than the seat. If you can move handlebars back and forward, for now have them in line with the 'stem' so the main section is over the supporting column. If you are bigger bodied or have back problems, you may prefer to have the handlebars slightly higher.
Now ensure the pins you have moved to adjust the seat and handlebars are all tightened back up and we can get on the bike!
Getting on the bike
Step across the middle, gently move the pedals to 6/12. Put one foot on the bottom pedal and raise yourself onto the seat, holding on to the handlebars.
You’re on! Now let’s refine our fit.
Note: we’ll often refer to pedal positions with numbers – like the numbers on a clock. So 6/12 is the pedals being vertical with one pedal at the bottom (6) and one at the top (12). The other position is 3/9, so pedals are horizontal, one at the front (3) and one at the back (9).
Reviewing seat height
Holding onto the handlebars to stay safely balanced, put the heel of one foot onto the pedal when it is at 6. You should be able to reach it with your heel without overextending your knee. When putting your foot into the cage / clipping in, you should maintain a gentle bend in your knee. Official guidance says between 25° and 35° - spread your hand out and the angle between your little and ring finger is 30°, so you can use that as a guide. You may need to move your seat up or down a few times to compare and see what feels best. Watch out for your thigh coming higher than your hip (higher than parallel) when your foot gets to 12. You want it to stay below parallel.
Reviewing seat fore/aft
With your feet in the pedals, move them to 3/9. Your kneecap should be in line with the pedal spindle / your mid foot. This means your knee is not going too far forward when your foot is at the furthest forward point. It may be easiest to set up a camera to video you gently cycling to check the set up if you don't have someone else to help with this. This is important to help protect your knees and to engage your muscles correctly.
Refining your handlebars
There is a bit more flexibility here in relation to preferences! Core rule: you are able to reach the bottom of the handlebars easily, with a gentle bend in your elbows and a gentle bend at the hip (a 'hip hinge'). If you are new and aren't very flexible then having the handlebar set slightly higher may be easier, and also for those with bigger bodies or back problems. When you come to stand you will move your hands up to the top of the handlebars, so you should be able to reach those when standing - but you won't want to be holding onto those when seated, so the focus is the base or back of the handlebars.
Ensure you don't feel strained whilst sitting on the bike - but it will take a little getting used to at first! So take time with your setup and don't be afraid to adjust settings one each way to try them out for a short ride, and then again after a few weeks as you get more comfortable. Check your setup each time, ensure everything is tightened up, and take it slow.
If you come in to ride with us in the studio, we will always take you through your bike set up each time. We are here to help so please don't be afraid to ask if you need help or just want us to check it for you.
Our bikes also have very handy numbers on each adjustment that you can take a note of.
Now just because you've set your bike up once does not mean you never need to do it again - you should review it as you become more experienced, after a break or even after just changing your shoes! And if you go to different studios, different bikes will fit you differently so you may need to make adjustments.
Do you have questions on bike setup that we haven't answered? Get in touch!