Exercise and Stationary Bikes: Fit Like a Pro

Key Points

  • Exercise and stationary bikes come in many shapes and sizes.

  • Exercise and stationary bikes are popular ways to get fit and improve your biking abilities.

  • Improperly sized bikes cause pain, discomfort, misalignment, injury, and damage to the bike.

You've envied those serious bikers on the side of the road, longing for the day your thighs burn from the sweet success of a long cycle. If you're ready to bike like a pro, you must set it up like a pro. Set up your exercise and stationary bikes to be as prepared as you.

You may not want skin-tight suits or high-profile cleats for pedals, but having a fitted bike is critical to effective riding. Use exercise and stationary bikes to improve your health, wellness, and cycling ability.

Why You Need To Personalize Your Bike

Avid cyclist Ashley Quinlan explains, "There's no shortcut to improving your pedaling efficiency, but there are a number of things you can take a look at to see if you can get more from your pedal stroke, including bike fit."

It's hard to hop back on the saddle if you're uncomfortable. Why look forward to using your bike if you know it'll hurt? Despite your love for riding, sometimes you just have to park the bike and take a break.

Researching more about the types of bikes before buying equipment saves you time and money. You can reach your goals faster — and be ready to set new ones — by setting up your bike to meet your needs.

Woman on pink bike with basket

It's common for bikes to come in different sizes, so paying attention to the dimensions is essential when purchasing. Fit your bike according to your frame. Do you want to use a road, mountain, or stationary bike? Different types of bikes have different measurements.

Despite the bike you choose, there are a few measurements and areas to pay attention to when setting it up. Focus on the frame, cleat fit, seat height, handlebars, and tires. Properly fit your bike so you can ride in the race or rush to work.

Road Bikes

Road bikes come in small, medium, and large, and they may also come in numerical sizes. These sizes typically differ between brands; the numbers aren't necessarily related to a particular measurement or size.

Road bike frames come in a measurement range of 47 to 63 inches and from extra, extra small to extra, extra large.

  • XXS 47-48 in

  • XS 49-50 in

  • S 51-53 in

  • M 54-55 in

  • L 56-58 in

  • XL 58-60 in

  • XXL 61-63 in

Mountain Bikes

Mountain bikes also sell in small, medium, and large, with most sizes staying consistent across brands. Mountain bikes require adjustable seats to alter the height according to the changing terrain and have smaller frames than road bikes.

  • XS 13-15 in

  • S 15-16 in

  • M 16-17 in

  • L 17-19 in

  • XL 19-21 in

  • XXL 21+ in

If you choose a bike that's not the perfect size, you may need to adjust it to fit it more comfortably. You can make several changes to a bike to make it more effective, comfortable, and durable.

Proper Fitting

The bike's tires also have different sizes. Don't buy your bike without researching its specs first. Riding on certain terrain requires specific tires and sizes.

Woman on bike in the city


Tires come in different widths, treads, and sizes, and they also come with various forms of spokes, which are the pieces connected to the inside area of the tire. Choose your tires based on the purpose of your bike.

Opt for a wider tire if you want more traction and a smoother ride. Fat tires are best for snow and sand, and thinner tires are best for speed and turning curves faster. Pick a tire that optimizes the aspects you need to reach your goals.


Some bike manufacturers use letters like "b" and "c" as width codes to measure their tires. Each type of bike utilizes different sizes of tires to be most effective.

Road bike tires are usually 700c x 25 or 28 mm wide, but you may find them ranging from 23-32 mm.

Mountain bike tires measure in inches and have three tire sizes: 26, 27.5, and 29 inches. Most popular mountain bikes have 29-inch tires.

Some of the most common bike tire sizes by discipline are:

  • Road or track: 700c x 23-32 mm

  • Gravel or mixed terrain: 700c x 35-50 mm

  • Gravel or bike-packing: 650b x 45-50 mm

  • Cross country: 26 x 2.1 x 2.3 in

  • Trail: 27.5 x 2.3 x 2.5 in

  • Enduro or downhill: 27.5 x 2.3 x 2.5 in

  • Small road: 650b x 23-25 mm


Bike tire tread may come in three forms: slick, inverted, and knobby. Cyclists use slick tread when speed is their goal.

The knobby tread has raised bumps that help you grip your terrain. The knobby tread is best for mountain, gravel, or trail riding. Some hybrid bikes have a slick middle and knobby outsides for cross-country or mixed terrain.

The inverted tread is best on country or busy roads with loose gravel. With no knobs, you can ride faster, and the inverted areas provide traction for slippery situations.


The knobs provide traction and friction. Tapered knobs have larger tops than bottoms, perfect for muddy conditions.

Ramped knobs have a square design and add rolling resistance. They also improve braking and the ability to ride on edges and thin terrain.

Many gravel and cross-country bike tires have micro knobs, which are compact and shallow, making them light and practical. Avoid these knobs when riding on loose surfaces because they provide less traction than other knobs.

Woman commuting on bike


The bike's frame is the two metal triangles that create the body. Frames are different for men, women, and children. The frame holds all other attachments on the bike, such as the handlebars, seat, and wheels. A frame that fits well improves your performance, aerodynamics, and posture.

When straddling the bike's top tube bar, you need up to two inches of space between your groin and the bar when both feet are flat on the ground. Some top tube bars are horizontal, and others have a slant, so adjust accordingly.


The frame has three essential parts: frame reach, stack, and top tube. The frame reach is the space from the center of the bracket where the pedal connects to the bike to the end of the top tube by the handlebars.

The frame stack is the space from the middle of the bracket where the pedal connects to the bike, and the handlebars connect to the top tube. The top tube is the space from the part where the seat and top tube meet to the spot where the handlebars and top tube meet.

Cleat Fit

You should only use cleats with road bikes. The fit must be secure and comfortable for your best performance. The cleat fit is the connection between the cleat and the pedal. You must have a little room around your toes to avoid restriction or pinching.

If your cleat is too far forward on the pedal, you may experience knee pain, heel discomfort, numbness, or hot spots. If it's too far back, you're wasting energy because you can't put pressure in the right area for adequate power on the pedal.

The cleat needs to apply the most pressure on the pedal through the ball of the foot. Placing pressure on the ball provides maximum force applied to the pedal.

Seat Height

The height of your seat is the distance from the base of the bar holding the seat to the seat itself. Sit down on the saddle, put your foot on the pedal, and push it down. Your leg needs to be almost straight in this position on a properly fitting bike. If you're straining to reach the pedal, or your knee bends when the pedal is down, you need to adjust your seat.

Girl smiling riding bike

Bring your pedal to the three o'clock position. In this stance, your knee should be directly over your toes, and your shin slightly tilts forward. This position provides the best angle for pushing the pedal.

The seat also tilts backward and forward. Start with the seat parallel to the ground and adjust it as needed. If you feel pain in your groin, the saddle might be too far back. If you feel pain around your sit bones, the saddle might be too far forward.

High or Low Handlebars

Your handlebars are best around one inch above or below the seat's height. If your seat is 30 inches off the ground, your handlebars should be between 29 to 31 inches tall.

If you're experiencing pain in your lower back, your handlebars may be too low. Shrugging your shoulders forward or shoulder and neck pain after riding is a sign that your handlebars are too high.

The stem is the bar that connects the handles to the frame. You can replace the stems and handlebars to alter your position on some bikes. Find handlebars that are as wide or close together as you feel comfortable.

Choose Your Bike

Now that you know the common terminology, sizes, and what to look for, it's time to determine which bike is best for you.

Whether you're using a stationary, hybrid, road, or mountain bike, setting up a bike is essential to being a successful cyclist. Decide which bike you like most by learning more about each of them.


Stationary bikes are safer and more sturdy than moving bikes, improving cardiorespiratory fitness and leg strength in the comfort of your home. You may buy a stationary bike or create your own by using your regular bike and a converter kit.

Girl on stationary exercise bike

This clever device holds your tires in place, turning your road or mountain bike into a stationary one. Adjust the device so it's secure on your bike. If you have a stationary bike, ensure the seat and handlebars are at an appropriate height to prevent back pain.


Hybrid bikes are a mixture of road and mountain bikes. These bikes are great for changing terrains and provide benefits from road and mountain bikes.

Hybrid bikes are great for both fun and commuting and need to be comfortable. Focus on seat padding, height, and handlebar placement so you're focusing on your ride instead of your bike.


Buy a road bike if you typically travel through a city or residential neighborhood or want to train for mileage and speed. Many road bikes have a drop-bar handlebar, which means it curls down and toward the back of the bike. This placement puts you in an aerodynamic position. Set it up so your seat is the same height as the handlebars.


Mountain bikes are slightly different because they have unique suspensions supporting the changing terrain. To set up your suspension, stand beside your bike and compress the fork with your hand.

Let go of the fork and let it quickly return to its original position. Keep adjusting the rebound until it rebounds as fast as possible without making the front tire leave the ground.

Woman riding mountain bike

Online Shopping and Setup

It's best to shop for a bike in person to ensure the fit, but shopping online is also doable when you've adequately researched the different bike types and specs. Measure your inseam and find your total height to help with online purchasing.

If you're worried about setting up your bike, it's okay to have your bike set up professionally. Find a professional bike fitting service for a consultation, or take your bike to a cycle shop. Of course, it's wise to visit a shop to get measurements and suggestions before purchasing.

There are many characteristics you're able to change about your bike to personalize it to your needs. Sometimes these aspects are harder to change, like if you choose new tires or handlebars. Having a professional set up your bike prevents chances of damage and error.

Pedal Faster

Biking is a fun way to stay happy, healthy, and fit. Setting up an exercise or stationary bike like a pro makes you a more effective rider. Make changes as you go, or ask for professional help to fit the bike to your needs.

Cycle over to Fit&Fab for more information on fitness, workout gear, and nutrition.

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