Cooler temperatures and a worldwide pandemic have many of us taking our bike rides indoors. Here are some tips to help you optimize your home bike setup.
By Amy Schlinger
You’re not alone if you’ve decided to take your riding indoors. With freezing winter temperatures and many indoor cycling studios temporarily closed, the best way to still get in those RPMs and pedal for miles is at-home on an indoor bike or trainer. But riding indoors differs from biking outside—for one, you don’t have to battle any of the elements, and another thing missing inside is the need for aerodynamics. Keeping the differences in mind, we spoke with experts to help you dial in your at-home bike setup so you can get the most out of your indoor rides.
Tips To Optimize Your At-Home Bike Setup
Align your seat properly
Indoor cycling bikes are created with larger increments for adjustments than conventional bicycles. The goal is to pick the increment of adjustment that will be most functional. “It doesn’t have to be perfect,” explains Chris Jacobson, North American brand manager for bikefitting.com and PRO Bike Gear. “Most individuals who are indoor cycling are taking a class or doing a workout that’s an hour or less, so it’s OK to ride in a range of seat heights without injuring or damaging your body or joints.”
The easiest method to find an ideal seat height? Locate the top of your hipbone, and align the height of the seat with it before getting onto the bike. When pedaling, you should have some bend in your knee, but not too much that it feels uncomfortable. If you feel any pain or discomfort, try raising or lowing the seat one increment.
Your handlebars should feel comfortable to you
There are no aerodynamics in indoor cycling. Therefore, there isn’t a performance advantage to having your handlebars extremely low. In other words, if you don’t love the feeling of your handlebars being low, you don’t need to set them up that way on your indoor bike. “It’s all about finding a place of comfort indoors,” says Jacobson. “A good place to start is by setting up the handlebars an inch or two above the height of the saddle, and then feel it out from there.”
Handlebar height affects torso angle, too, so if you’re used to riding at a more aggressive angle and you enjoy that, you can definitely set your handlebars low. But if you don’t, you can ride with them at whatever height feels best for your body.
If you’re riding on a trainer, be sure your bike wheels are even
Trainer setup can affect your entire ride, so it’s important that you do it correctly. For starters, you need to make sure your wheels are even. If you’re using a rear wheel trainer, be sure to raise the front wheel to match the height, so that the bike sits evenly and spins freely. Next, make sure you have ample ventilation, especially if you’re planning to cycle on the trainer for a lengthy ride. Jacobson recommends having fans on standby in case things get too steamy. And lastly, “wash your gear at the end of every ride,” says Jacobson. This will help keep things running smoothly.
Invest in a pair of indoor cycling shoes
If you’re getting into cycling, indoor cycling shoes with clipless pedals are an investment you won’t regret. Because the shoes clip into the pedals, your foot and pedal essentially move as one. What’s the advantage with that? Not only will you create power on the downward push of the pedal stroke, but you’ll also be able to create power with the upward pull motion, too.
Most shoes are sold separately from pedals, so you’ll have to buy and attach the pedals yourself. “Almost everyone pedals with five-degrees of external rotation, so we set up the cleats accordingly as a good starting point,” says Jacobson. “Mount the cleats a centimeter behind the ball of your foot, pointing the cleat between your big toe and second toe to accommodate for that external rotation.” Most cleats have a bit of margin for error when it comes to movement, also known as “rotational float.” If the initial mount position isn’t a perfect fit, you’ll have some wiggle room and won’t be locked into one position. But if the fit still feels off, you can change the placement. “Figure out whether you feel inhibited moving your heel inwards towards the bike or away from the bike, and then adjust the cleat slightly in the opposite direction,” says Jacobson. “Try just one adjustment to start and if that doesn’t work, you may want to consider asking a bike fitter for help.”