Most of us learned to ride a bike during childhood, and even if you’ve not been on one in years, it’s unlikely that you’ve forgotten what to do and how it works. But feeling apprehensive is normal, especially when you’re new to exercising or using an exercise bike for the first time.
Fortunately, one of the benefits of a stationary bike is that it’s static: you don’t have to worry about other road users, keeping your balance or even check what the weather is doing. You can exercise conveniently and privately in your own home or sign-up and enjoy the atmosphere of a live studio class, but there are some tips worth knowing for first-time users.
Using an Exercise Bike for the First Time
1. Correct set-up of the bike is vital for comfort and safety. It’s easy to overlook this part, especially if you’re participating in an indoor cycling class where the adjustments on each bike are set to the previous rider’s height and posture.
Adjust the handlebars first. According to Class Pass, it’s personal preference as some people prefer lower handlebars whilst others like them to be at ‘seat height or higher’. Generally speaking, seat height or higher is the most common advice. Female indoor cyclists should always pay attention to handlebar height. One study found that ‘genital numbness’ was often caused by having the handlebars too low, exerting too much pressure on the venereal region. Raising the handlebars helps alleviate this. Once you’ve positioned the handlebars, check seat height. Your leg length dictates this. Once seated in the saddle, you should put one foot on the pedal and the other flat on the floor with a slight bend at the knee. You’ll also need to adjust the saddle’s position. Johnson’s fitness explains this as ‘ensuring that your knees come slightly over the centre of your foot but do not extend past the middle of your shoelaces’.
Of course, it’s not just aligning the bike for your physical form and comfort. A correct setup ensures that you’ve followed the manufacturer’s instructions and that the bike is safe to use. Use the right tools and pay attention to any safety warnings. There are many helpful tutorials online to guide you through the process (because we all know what instruction manuals can be like…). Setting up the bike properly will also ensure it remains in good working order and within warranty.
2. You may also benefit from putting a mat under your exercise bike. Some people sweat during intense exercise. Some people sweat A LOT. You don’t want perspiration pooling on your hardwood flooring or carpet because it’s going to stain and smell. Beginners may find this hard to believe, but it does happen and is well documented on Reddit and other internet forums. Another reason for adding a mat is to reduce the vibrations travelling from the bike into the floor. Indoor cycling bikes can be noisy, especially during hard sessions. You don’t want to upset the neighbours underneath your apartment or the other occupants of your home each time you exercise. If you do find that you’re sweating a lot and an exercise mat isn't working, you could put a large fan in front of the bike to simulate a breeze. This can help keep you cool when riding intensively in classes or if the weather is frequently hot where you live.
3. Your bike will offer some level of resistance, and it’s worth understanding this before you start exercising. Resistance occurs naturally when cycling outdoors. It’s the weather, the hills, any inclines or changes in terrain, etc., providing the real workout. In indoor cycling, resistance is controlled digitally or manually by either the rider or the instructor. The higher the resistance, the harder the workout. Check what resistance your bike uses and familiarise yourself with it. If you’re taking indoor cycling classes, the instructor will often control resistance for the entire studio. We’re developing the Energym App to work with the RE:GEN. Included in it is a game where riders race head-to-head, ‘throwing resistance’ at one another to make it more difficult for their competitor. The weight of the bike’s flywheel (if you’re using an indoor cycling bike), will also help recreate the outdoor biking experience for the indoors.
4. You’re going to have to accept (especially in the beginning) that indoor cycling bikes are uncomfortable. The saddles are narrow, hard, and often painful if you’re not used to them because it isn't really there for you to sit on, but to support you in your riding position. The position and width of a person’s sitz bones usually dictates whether a saddle is comfortable or not. The RE:GEN’s universal post means riders can swap the saddle out for a more comfortable one.
If you really can’t get on with your bicycle saddle, it’s worth swapping it out for another type. Unfortunately, most bikes are sold with a generic one-size-fits-all approach which does not reflect the many physiological differences in riders. You can buy saddles based on gender (male or female), but some women will be more comfortable on a men’s saddle and vice-versa. You can also buy padded saddles which, sometimes, are more uncomfortable than thinner ones. It can even depend on your height or how tight your hips and hamstrings are.
Some bike shops will let you borrow a saddle for a small fee to try out. Others will at least have display models for you to sit and ride in the store.
Unfortunately, if you're in a cycling studio then you'll have to make do with whatever bike saddles the gym uses but if things are really uncomfortable, talk to your instructor.
5. If you’re indoor cycling at home, it can get repetitive and a little dull. Signing up for indoor classes and on-demand workouts can help. Several well-known apps use a subscription service to give you access to various classes and activities. You could try Zwift, too. It’s an online cycling platform where riders race and train either alone or against others in virtual environments. Zwift isn’t compatible with all bikes, but it does work with our electricity generating indoor bike. If you don’t want to join an online platform, then try putting your bike near to a speaker or television so that you can watch or listen to something as you exercise. Some indoor bikes come with a screen that often ties you into a specific app or software and may not allow general streaming.
6. Please don’t overdo it. Beginners can go too hard too quickly, leading to injury. Start slowly, focusing on time rather than distance and building up from there. Don’t be surprised if your first few classes leave you feeling aching and exhausted. Our team took part in a head-to-head challenge during the first public demonstration of our technology at Bloomberg HQ in London, and there were more than a few shaky legs afterwards! It's why warming up and cooling down is so important. This helps reduce the risk of injury during exercise and may help with aches and pains afterwards. You don't have to go too crazy, just a gentle ride is suffice. It's mainly about raising body temperature and heartrate during a warm up and then reducing it during a cool down. Warm ups are especially important as it helps improve flexibility in the muscles. It can also be a great way to get you into the mindset of exercising before you really have to dig deep.
7. It’s important to understand the metrics you want to track on your fitness journey. Smart bikes can record a lot of data, some of which may not be relevant to you. For example, the Watt Bike was designed for professional and serious cyclists, but much of its recorded data isn't necessary for an ordinary rider or someone just getting into the sport. Other bikes offer only limited analytical data. The RE:GEN is more than just an electricity-generating bike, its Ohm battery turns into a personal power meter during a workout, allowing riders to quickly and easily see how efficiently they’re exercising, allowing less opportunity for poor performance.
8. Try to schedule a time to exercise into your day. Beginners often find it challenging to maintain a regular exercise routine, and it’s easy to lose steam and keep putting it off until tomorrow (only tomorrow often doesn’t come). It can take between 18 to 254 days to build a habit, so you can’t only rely on motivation. Motivation is finite. Making an appointment to exercise will keep you on track to completing your fitness goals.
Using an exercise bike for the first time can be daunting, but static bikes are easy to use, and you get a lot of bang for your buck: offering a low-impact but high-intensity cardiovascular workout both in the home, in the gym or in studio classes. If you’re working out in a class, always ask the instructor if you’re unsure about the set-up of your bike. At home, reach out to the manufacturer or find guidance online.
9. If you’ve never exercised before, it’s worth chatting to a doctor before beginning any fitness program. One of the biggest benefits of stationary bikes is that they don’t put the body under the same amount of physical stress as running, for example. But it’s still cardiovascular exercise. The whole purpose is to raise the body’s temperature and heartrate. This type of exercise may not be suitable for everyone (at least initially), and it’s better to be safe than sorry.
If you can, then hiring a personal trainer can be helpful. They can tailor exercise plans that fit into your routine and will take into account your fitness history and goals. You may also find that being held accountable for your progress is a great motivator. PTs can also advise on any discomfort arising from a workout.
If you're looking to start your indoor cycling journey, take a look at the Energym RE:GEN. It's an electricity generating smart bike that helps make working out more fun and rewarding thanks to the AI integrated into the ap, and the ability to earn Sweatcoin with each workout.