As a Spinning instructor, one of the most common concerns I hear from new would-be cyclists is “I’m afraid it’ll make my butt hurt.” Of course, my first reaction is to tell them to come take a class with me – because my teaching style doesn’t involve sitting for more than two or three minutes … and that’s only when you include the warm-up and cooldown (and sometimes the lighter sections that start a new building block).
In reality, discomfort during a cycling class can be tied back to improper bike setup. The great thing about most indoor cycles, regardless of the brand, is that they are very customizable to your body. At the club where I teach indoor cycling (XSport Fitness-Alexandria), we were fortunate enough to be one of the first clubs in the U.S. to start riding the newest FreeMotion cycles last summer, and I can’t say enough good things about them. They allow the same adjustments as most indoor cycles, but the one I’ve found the most beneficial (a feature we didn’t have on the Spinners we originally had) is in the handlebars – they not only adjust up or down, but forward and back. I’ve found this helps a lot of riders maintain proper upper body positioning (shoulders down and back, backs relatively flat, slight bend in the elbows, heads up and chests open).
So, when you’re setting yourself up, what should you do? Start with the bike seat. Standing next to the bike, bring one leg up to about a 90 degree angle. This should help you determine the height that will work best for you. Once you’ve figured this out, you can set the seat distance from the handlebars – for most people, it should be about the length from your elbow to your fingers. Some people like to ride a little lower and farther away from the handlebars, and some people are more comfortable riding higher and closer to the handlebars – it’s more a matter of what is comfortable for your body. The most important part is that you can maintain proper upper body alignment, you aren’t feeling pressure in your knees and that you don’t feel that you are reaching for the pedals. It may take a couple of times to get it right, but once you’ve found the settings that work best for you, you should be good to go.
I’ve heard complaints about aching feet or ankles at the end of a class, too, and this is one of the easiest fixes – invest in a good pair of cycling shoes. I was a skeptic at first, too (I said I wouldn’t wear them because they are ugly … well, they are ugly!), but the investment is ABSOLUTELY worth it. Any cycling store can get you fitted for a pair, and they often sell several inexpensive options (make sure you know what kind of pedal clips you’ll need before you head to the store – SPD clips are pretty universal, but there are others out there, so make sure you get the right ones – many shops will install the clips free of charge when you purchase your shoes). I think I paid about $70 for mine, and unlike running shoes, I’ve been wearing them for more than two years (and they still feel good). The hard sole and being clipped into the bike pedals really does make a difference.
Check out some thoughts on this topic from the Women’s Health blog: Pain From Cycling | Women’s Health Fitness Blog: Get killer workouts, learn about new fitness trends, and snag awesome gear#more-739#more-739.