How To Use An Exercise Bike Effectively 

Updated April 2022

If you own an exercise bike, or are thinking of getting one, then this article will help show you how to use it to great effect.

Unfortunately many people buy one of these, and then find that it can cause them problems. They can also find out that they are not getting the benefits, that they thought riding an exercise bike would actually bring them.

Hopefully, by the time that you finish this article, you will know the importance of setting your bike up properly, and then what you should actually do, once you start to use it.

Click Here for a Top 10 List of the Best Exercise Bikes in the UK

Benefits of Using an Exercise Bike

You may already know this, so apologies if we rattle on for a few moments. These bikes are ideal if you are someone who wants to have a good workout in the privacy of your own home. Later in this article we offer some advice on using exercise bikes at the gym. However this article is mainly aimed at those using a bicycle for exercise at home.

Generally speaking, these bikes are good for the legs, bottom and for a good cardio workout. They also help strengthen your back and arms, and can really help with burning fat, burning calories and as such losing weight.

So clearly there are plenty of benefits to be had. However that is only possible if the exercise bike is used properly.

Potential Problems of Using the Bike Incorrectly

It is all too easy to quickly set up your bike and get started. If you have splashed some cash and the bike arrives, there is a natural tendency to want to get started as quickly as possible. However that can come with its own problems.

If not set up to suit your body, it is very easy to cause or agitate knee and ankle problems. If like me you are older, it is all too easy to give yourself a lorry load of aches and pains. That you will not want to do, so setting up your bike may take a little time, but worth every second to do it right.

Now there are different types of exercise bike on the market. However almost all of them will have 2-3 basic adjustments. The reason those are there is to make sure that when you exercise, it is comfortable for you. That usually takes a little tweaking.

Adjusting the Seat - this is the most important thing that you can do. The seat should be set up so as the legs are always slightly bent when pushing the pedals. Never ever have the seat in a position where the legs are fully stretched out. Likewise never have the seat so low that your legs are fully bent.

Adjusting the Handlebars - Not every bike will have the option of adjustable handlebars. If your bike does have this option, then set the handlebars, when in the seated position, so as the arms are fully extended, without over reaching.

That will stop and risk of lower back ache.

So in summary, at the lowest point the legs should be stretched, but with a little bend at the knees. That will prevent any unnecessary strain on the hips, thighs and knees. The arms should be fully extended when gripping the handlebars.

How to use an exercise bike to lose weight?

As I mentioned it may take a few tweaks to get this perfect for your body shape. It is worth the effort though. Don't forget that after periods of use, it may be worth checking these again, in case they have moved slightly. The video below is a great beginner's guide. It shows how to achieve weight loss, when beginning to use an exercise bike.

If your main goal of using an exercise bike is to lose weight, then it is always a good ideal to have a plan in place. For beginners to using an exercise bike, never overdo this at the start. Start slowly, and as your body adjusts to the new routine, you can then start to increase both the time spent riding and the intensity of the workout.

  1. We would recommend starting at a slow cycle pace for 10 minutes just to get the legs moving and developing a nice steady pedaling pattern
  2. Once that is completed then increase the rate at which you are pedaling to what we would call a medium intensity and do that for 5 minutes
  3. Once those 5 minutes have passed then go as fast as you can for 5 minutes (known as high intensity)
  4. To complete the cycle then slow down to a low intensity again and start to cool down

We call that a cycle that lasts for 30 minutes. When starting out that is enough if you are new to using an indoor cycle. We would recommend doing this once a day for the first week. On the second week you can attempt two cycles of this which will bring your riding time to one hour a session.

It is also OK to miss a day or take a short break at the weekend. They key to using a bike for weight loss is not to overdo it at the start and slowly build up your strength and then you can work on the cardio and sweating which is what will burn the calories off.

As all of this improves, you can change the slow start up to a medium one so that will be 15 minutes at a medium intensity, a 5 minute high intensity burst and then a 10 minute medium intensity to cool down.

A 30 minute ride as described above can burn up to 250 calories. So if you can do 30 minutes a day for 7 days you can lose around 1lb of weight. (This varies depending on the body size, metabolism and the intensity of the workout)

Using an Exercise Bike for the First Time

The exercise bike arrives in the post and like most people you can't wait to get it put together and start using it. It is the most natural thing in the world. We all know how motivated people can feel at the start. We also know how many exercise bikes we have seen at the back of garages and for sale on eBay.

It is a fact that the majority of people simply overdo their first few days on an exercise bike. The novelty and the thoughts of seeing vast improvement drive people to overdo their use of the bike, and it is a huge mistake. The legs get sore, so sore that they stop using it. The bike gets put away and often that means out of sight and out of mind.

Our Strong Advice for Beginners

  • Set up the bike - Please take the time to set the bike up properly to suit your height and weight - comfort plays a major role in how often you are going to use the bike. Make sure the seat is at the right height, the handlebars are at the right height and that you start on the lowest resistance setting
  • Warm up - Once that is done, then warm up by doing a few simple stretches, especially the legs. You don't need to go crazy just stretch the legs, and do a little work on the arms, shoulders and back so as you are not sitting on the bike cold
  • Length of time - At the beginning set a timer of some kind and make sure it is no longer than 30 minutes at the start. If you are a first time user or badly overweight, then limit your time to around 15 minutes
  • Always start slowly - start at a slow pace and gradually build up the speed and when coming to the end slow down again as that allows the body to cool down naturally.
  • Stay hydrated - As you sweat the body loses water and salt. Stay hydrated and all you need for that is a bottle of water to keep you going.
  • Know your heart rate - Most good indoor exercise bikes will have pulse sensors which measure your pulse and that tells you what the heart rate is. This should increase when you workout, and get higher during any high intensity pedaling. Keep an eye on this and don't overdo it.
  • Cool down - don't go from a high intensity to a sudden stop. Revert back to a medium or slow intensity to allow the body to cool down naturally.

We get asked a lot is 10 minutes enough, or is 20 minutes enough on an exercise bike? There is no straightforward answer to this. It truly depends on the level of fitness of the individual user. Someone who hasn't exercised for a long time, or who is very overweight would be better starting with a shorter time period and building that time up slowly. A younger fitter person will not get any benefit from a slow 10 minute period of time.

You will start to better understand your body as you spend time on the bike. That is when you can start to plan out a nice daily routine that can increase in intensity and duration over time.

Posture, Posture and Posture

We have actually seen people hopping on to their bike wearing their slippers and then being in the most awkward shape ever, when exercising. You should always ride a bike with your back as straight as possible. You should of course wear some form of training shoes, or sneakers to give you plenty of grip.

You should never hunch over when grabbing the handlebars either. Think straight back at all times and you will not go too far wrong.

How to Properly Use a Gym Cycle?

If you have used an exercise bike at the gym, then hopefully someone has helped you out with which one suits you best. Always remember, that the bike should always be just a part of your overall fitness program.

Because these are so effective, and relatively easy to use, it is all too easy to spend more time that you really need to cycling. Bikes like these will help strengthen the legs, work up a sweat, burn calories and fat, and also help your cardio style workouts.

My advice is not to overdo it though. You want to try and avoid muscle bound legs, which can actually slow you down in certain sports. The video below shows you how to get the most out of your exercise bike.

Make Use of the Pre-Programs

Lots of exercise bikes these days, come with a series of pre-set programs. These have actually been thought out by experts, and we should all make use of them. They help give you a plan and give you some structure to your riding exploits.

This is a more structured method of giving your body a proper workout. They are certainly better, than just hopping on a bike, and pedaling at random for 5-10 minutes.

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Enda MclArnon