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Although avid cyclists will spend time and money having their road bike fit precisely to their bodies, exercise bike owners might overlook proper fit. Improper seat position can hurt your knees, strain your lower back and cause uncomfortable chafing and sores on your rear end. Whether you ride a spinning bike, upright stationary bike or recumbent bike for your indoor workout, taking a few moments to adjust your seat will give you a happier and safer workout.
Spinning bikes have a seat and riding position similar to a road bike. The height of your seat on a spinning bike is based on the length of your leg. You don't need to break out the measuring tape; just find a friend or a full-length mirror to observe your leg. When the pedal is in the six o'clock position, your leg at the knee should have a 25- to 35-degree bend in it. If it doesn't, adjust the seat height. As you bring the pedal up to the three o'clock position with the ball of your foot on the center of the pedal, the front of your knee should line up with the center of the pedal. If your knee is not in line, adjust the seat forward or backward. Your seat should also be more or less level. Some riders want to tilt the seat front or back slightly, but this can strain your back.
Upright Bike Seats
Seat positioning on upright bikes is similar to that of spinning bikes. The main difference to note is that the seat that comes with most upright stationary bikes is a wide saddle with a fair amount of cushion. While this looks comfortable, the wide seat can cause leg pain as the backs of your thighs continually hit the edge of the seat. This causes you to want to scoot forward on the seat, and forces your body into an awkward position that can cause back pain. If it is removable, swap out your seat for a slightly narrower one from a bike shop or fitness store.
Recumbent bikes have a back support with a wide bucket seat, and can be a good option for people with back pain as long as the seat is positioned correctly. As you sit on the seat and pedal, your knees should remain either level with or above your hips. When your leg is at the end of the pedal stroke, there should still be a 10- to 15-degree bend in the knee. Less than this will overextend your knee; more than this will leave you feeling cramped. When your leg comes to the top of the pedal stroke, your leg should be bent 90 degrees at the knee.
Troubleshooting Seat Problems
Cycling shouldn't hurt. When it does, it is often related to seat position. If your knee hurts, check that your seat is neither too high nor too low, and make sure you keep the ball of your foot centered on the pedal. If your neck or arms feel fatigued, you may be straining to reach the handlebars and need to move your seat forward. Back pain can be caused by your seat not being level. If you feel cramped on the bike, your exercise bike may be too small or your seat needs to be put farther back from the handlebars. Any intense pain should be seen to by a doctor.