We've all been there: You step into your first indoor cycling class, and you're instantly intimidated. Dim lights, loud music, and a whole slew of pedaling people who all seem to know exactly what to do. Even though you should never be scared to ask a question (and hey, the instructor should break the ice and ask if anyone is new first!), we get that it can feel a little overwhelming.
With that in mind, we tapped cycling instructor and Equinox trainer Wil Ashley to show us exactly how to set up an indoor bike. First pro tip: Don't rush into your class 60 seconds before it starts. Get there a few minutes early and follow this guide:
1. The saddle height should be even with your hip.
Raise your leg so knee forms a 90-degree angle from hip. Adjust your saddle (or seat) to be level with thigh. "It's a visual point of reference to use as your base," Ashley says. (You'll fine-tune it in the next step.)
2. When seated, your knee should have a slight bend.
Get on the bike and allow leg to fully extend, so pedal is at the bottom of its rotation. Your leg should be neutral, not locked, with a slight bend at the knee, Ashley says. If you're unsure what this feels like, Ashley suggests standing and shifting all your weight to one leg (think a slight hip pop to the side). Your other leg will naturally bend—that's the same small bend you want on the bike.
3. Your elbows should have a slight bend.
"This is really dependent on how comfortable you are," Ashley says. For most, the handlebars should be far enough away that your shoulders can relax and you have a small bend at your elbows. Slide the saddle forward or backward to adjust. The height of the handlebars depends on how flexible your hips are, so raise or lower them according to where you feel comfortable in and out of the saddle.
If you have back problems or are pregnant, start with the handlebars closer to your seat, which will force you to sit upright and prevent pressure on your back.
4. Use the cage to your advantage.
If you're wearing sneakers instead of cycling shoes, push your foot as far forward in the cage as possible and tighten the strap, Ashley says. Sneaker-wearers may feel numbness in their feet midway through class, which is likely because you're bending your foot each time you pedal and cutting off some circulation. Shoes with stiffer soles (think trail shoes instead of flexible, cushioned running shoes) will help prevent that.
5. Or invest in a pair of cycling shoes.
Cycling shoes with cleats will clip into the pedal and relieve pressure from the top of your foot. They also allow you to utilize your upstroke, rather than just pushing down on the pedals. (It really makes a difference, trust us!)
6. Ride like a pro.
See how to ride properly—and the most common mistakes to avoid—in our next article.