There’s a reason most spin classes have a strict “get here five minutes early” rule. It takes (at least) that long to get set up on a stationary bike. And if you’re new to spinning, that could stretch even further, as you struggle to adjust your seat and figure out proper form.
Even among class-goers who actually manage to clip in, a whole lot of them are doing it wrong, says Jessica King, a coach with Peloton Cycle in New York City. “Proper bike set up is one of the most important parts of a successful ride. It puts your body in proper riding form, preventing injury, ensuring the most effective workout, and giving you one less thing to battle on the bike,” King says.
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How to Ace Your Spin Class Set-Up
To make your rides smoother, easier, and way more beneficial, here are the top four mistakes spinners make on their bikes — and some simple tips for fixing them.
Mistake #1: Setting the Seat Too Low
Listen up, low riders. “One of the best aspects of indoor cycling is that it is non-impact,” King says. “However, if the saddle is not high enough, and you’re riding too low, you’ll put undue pressure on the knee joint and can experience knee pain.” Meanwhile, sitting too low can make getting out of your saddle (say, to switch to second position) slower and more difficult, says Los Angeles SoulCycle instructor Tina Davis. When you’re riding low, you tend to overwork your quadriceps and risk tuckering out way before you should.
How to fix it: “To find the sweet spot for your saddle, stand next to your bike with your feet flat on the floor,” King says. “The [seat] should be adjusted so that it comes right up against your hip. Once you clip in, bring your foot flat and to the six o’clock position [the base of the pedal stroke]. You should have a very slight bend in your knee.”
Mistake #2: Positioning the Seat Too Close to the Handlebars
Feel like you’re all crunched up on the bike? This common setup mistake also puts injury-risking pressure on your knees by forcing them too far forward forward, says New York City Flywheel master instructor Danielle Devine Baum.
“Clipping in has a way of simultaneously infuriating and embarrassing every new rider in the history of spin classes.”
How to fix it: To find your seat’s ideal distance from the handlebars, sit on the saddle with both pedals at an equal distance from the ground. “Imagine a weighted string dropping down from your knees. If the seat is appropriately adjusted, the string would land right over the ball of the foot,” she says.
Mistake #3: Ignoring the Handlebars
If you go to town trying to get the seat positioning “just right,” and then totally neglect the handlebars, this one’s for you.
How to fix it: Davis recommends adjusting your handlebars to align with the height of your seat (make sure you adjust your seat first). This goes a long way in preventing neck and back overuse and injury, she says. If you have back issues or are pregnant, you may want to position the handlebars even higher, Baum adds. Over time, as your core becomes stronger and you’re better able to keep your torso upright, you can begin to drop the bars, King says. But remember: The handlebars are only to assist your ride. Your weight should always be in your legs, not your arms, she says.
Mistake #4: Furiously Trying to Jam Your Shoes Into the Pedals
Clipping in has a way of simultaneously infuriating and embarrassing every new rider in the history of spin classes. “My advice here: relax. The quick, frustrated approach will get you nowhere fast,” King says.
How to fix it: First, make sure the pedal is flat and right-side up (you should see an opening shaped like the cleat on the bottom of your shoes). While two types of clips exist, most require the same motion to clip in, King says. Slide the lip of the cleat down into the pedal and then press down through your heel — you should hear a click. “Before starting your ride, do a double check to make sure your shoes are aligned forward, they feel steady and solid, and aren’t sliding around,” Davis says. Otherwise, you risk flying out of the pedal mid-stroke or crashing down from third position. Trust us, it’s happened before.