How to Adjust your Indoor Cycling Bike

by Garneau

Indoor Cycling Class
Indoor Cycling Class

Indoor cycling class is a great equalizer for newbie and veteran cyclists alike. Because no matter how many (or few) races or Time Trials you’ve competed in, the sight of a Spin bike is enough to confound anyone. So don’t worry: you’re not alone in your bafflement!

But don’t let that stop you. For one thing, all reputable indoor cycling classes are taught by a certified instructor who is there to help you. For another, you’ll get the most out of your workout if your bike is properly adjusted—and it’ll also help you avoid injury.

So don’t be shy: part of your instructor’s job is to help you dial in your bike fit. If it’s your first time in a Spin class (or if you simply need a refresher), be sure to arrive early, introduce yourself, and ask for help. Here’s what your instructor will be looking at when they size up your bike to fit.

A quick note: Indoor cycling bikes vary in the way they’re constructed and adjusted, but most have knobs that pull out and spin so you can adjust each part of the bike. Remember: righty-tighty, lefty-loosey—you’ll need to twist the knob counterclockwise to loosen it for adjustments. Also, take note of your final adjustment: most indoor cycling bikes have numbers to help you remember your perfect fit.

Start From the Floor

A good cheater tip: most people’s seat height roughly corresponds to hip-height when you’re standing on the floor next to the bike. So don’t be surprised if you see your instructor eyeing you up before you even throw a leg over the saddle; they’re estimating where to start from. You can use the same trick to save time before you get on.

Adjusting Indoor Cycling bike's Seat Distance
Adjusting Seat Distance

Check Seat Height

Once you’ve gotten on, rotate pedals down so they’re at 6:00 and 12:00—straight up and down. Your instructor will be looking for a slight bend in your knee while you’re in this position. Too high, and you might feel pain behind your knee or under your rear. Too low, and you might experience knee pain.

Check Seat Distance from Front to Back

Now hop back on. Your instructor is looking for a position that lets you engage your core with a straight, lengthened back while your hands are resting on the handlebars. Your elbows should be slightly bent while hands are resting on the part of the handlebar closest to you—not locked, or bent so much that you feel cramped. Check it by putting your pedals at 3:00 and 9:00. Could you run a string from your knee to the ball of your foot? Perfect.

Now that you’re seated correctly, it’s time to dial in the distance from the seat to the handlebars. Want to look like a pro? Hop off and stand next to the bike. Rest your elbow on the nose of the saddle, and stretch out your fingers. Can you brush the handlebars with your fingertips? Good. No? Turn the knob on of your handlebar to move it forward or backward until the distance from the seat’s nose to the handlebars is about the length of your forearm.

Check the Handlebar Height

This adjustment is (more or less) up to you: Some people feel more comfortable with a slightly higher handlebar height, as it feels more like a relaxed-geometry bike. People who ride road bikes typically prefer a slightly lower handlebar adjustment; your instructor will likely give you a few opportunities to find which setting is comfortable for you. Most people are happiest when their handlebars more or less line up with their seat height.

Now, Clip In

Adjusting Indoor Cycling Bike Clip In
Clip In you Indoor Cycling Bike

A pair of dedicated Spin shoes can go a long way toward improving your ride. You’ll feel more secure when the shoe is firmly clipped into your pedal, and that attachment to your pedal also ensures you use your hamstrings on the up-stroke—rather than simply mashing down with your quads on the down-stroke. Plus, you can work on smoothing out your stroke so it’s one continuous rotation, making you a more efficient, powerful cyclist both inside and out. Clip in by sliding the tip of your cleat down into the pedal and pressing down until you hear a click. Clip out by twisting your shoes until the cleat releases.

Remember: That red dial just behind your handlebars controls your rolling resistance—turn it to the right for a harder ride, turn it left for an easier spin. And press down hard if you need to hop off for any reason. Hopping off and adjusting your bike mid-ride isn’t a crime. It’s better to lose a few pedal strokes than it is to ride on a bike that doesn’t feel right.