How to Ride an Exercise Bike

Young woman exercising on an exercise bike
Exercise Bike (Image: George Doyle/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

Riding a stationary exercise bike is an effective way to get your cardiovascular workout in, either at home or in the gym. Exercise bikes also strengthen your glutes, quads, hamstrings, hip flexors and calves. You’ll find stationary exercise bikes in upright and recumbent models. Upright and recumbent bikes will typically have an electronic readout that guides you through your workout. There are also statonary bikes, used for group indoor cycling classes, guided by an instructor.

Step 1

Sit down on the exercise bike and place your heels on the exercise bike pedals. Check that each leg is completely straight, with knees fully extended when its pedal is in the position furthest away from you. If so, the seat is in the proper position. If not, adjust the bike seat either up or down (on a standard stationary bike) or forward or back (on a recumbent) until your knees are fully extended when your heels are on the bike pedals.

Step 2

Place the balls of your feet on the bike pedals; this is your standard riding position. Pedal briefly to check your positioning; if you adjusted the bike seat as directed in Step 1 you should now have a slight bend in each knee when that foot's pedal is at the furthest point from you in the cycling motion.

Step 3

Sit up straight. Think of tucking your chin back, keeping your shoulder blades squeezed down and back, and bringing your belly button back toward your spine. Grip the bike handlebars lightly, if at all.

Step 4

Pedal slowly, with even pressure, to power up the bike’s console. Press “Quick Start” for immediate access to the controls, or select a pre-programmed training option, if available, for an extra challenge.

Step 5

Pedal slowly for the first 5 to 10 minutes of your workout. This is called a warm up and allows your body time to adapt to being in a state of motion, decreasing your chance of injury. Most pre-programmed exercise routines will prompt you to do a warm up; if you’re using the Quick Start option you’ll have to watch the timer and monitor yourself; just remember to take it easy for the first 5 to 10 minutes.

Step 6

Grasp the silver heart rate monitors, if present, to allow the machine to monitor your heart rate. The machine will prompt you to pedal faster or slower to keep your heart rate in the ideal range; most beginners will want to begin working at about 70 percent of their maximum heart rate (as displayed on the bike’s readout). As your fitness improves, you will be able to work out at a higher percentage of your maximum heart rate.

Step 7

Continue pedaling for at least 10 minutes. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend getting at least 150 minutes (30 minutes, 5 days a week) of aerobic activity every week; but if you can’t pedal for 30 minutes at a time, whether because of health or time considerations, it’s okay to break those 30 minutes down into 10-minute sessions.

Step 8

Cool down, just as you warmed up, by pedaling slowly for the last 5 to 10 minutes of your workout. This helps your body adapt back to a state of rest.

Tip

If you’re using a stationary bike or upright exercise bike wear padded bike shorts if at all possible; they’ll make your ride much more comfortable. If you’re self-conscious about being seen in padded bike shorts, slip a pair of light sweats on over them. Those who can’t tolerate a narrow, upright bike seat, or who are very overweight, may be more comfortable starting with a recumbent bike as recumbents usually have much wider seats.

Arrive well-hydrated, bring a water bottle to drink from during the exercise session, and expect to drink plenty of water afterward. Riding a stationary bike is a sure-fire recipe for sweat.

Consider stretching gently after your bike workout; your muscles will be warm and flexible, in the optimal state for improving flexibility.

Warning

Always consult a physician before beginning any new exercise program.

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