When I was pregnant, I was always looking for resources on how to make my bike fit and be more comfortable with my growing belly. However, I couldn't find much online and resorted to just trying my best to make it comfortable.
We've had this question come up a lot in the Peloton Preggo and Postpartum Facebook group, and recently Anna from Team Wilpers joined me to answer some questions from members as well as give some of her tips on how to properly fit your bike both during pregnancy and postpartum.
In this post, you'll find Anna's answers and tips on how to make your bike fit more comfortably during pregnancy and postpartum. These tips are not Peloton specific and can be used for any spin bike!
As always be sure to talk to your doctor before working out while pregnant.
How to Fit Your Bike While Pregnant
A big thank you to all the members of the Peloton Preggo and Postpartum group for submitting these questions!
When should I adjust my bike? (when the belly gets a certain size, hit a certain trimester, if I get uncomfortable riding, etc.)
Anna: This is a tricky question to answer because it varies person to person, based on the current fitness of the rider, flexibility/range of motion, and how quickly and large their baby bump grows. I would say as a general rule, the bike fit might need to be changed at the end of the first, second and third trimester.
How should the bike actually be adjusted - seat adjustments, handlebar adjustments, all the above?
Anna: This is tough to say without seeing the rider and the current fit of the bike. Adjustments can range from cleats to seat height, seat fore/aft, to handlebars. Most commonly, people will want to raise their handlebars to accommodate their growing bellies but when you do this the seat will need to be adjusted in tandem to help keep the balance of the rider on the bike as well as keeping the pelvis stable.
Does the bike need to be refitted if a seat cushion is added?
Anna: Yes, as this will add height to your seat height and increase the knee extension. It can also change your relationship with the handlebars because of how the pelvis sinks into the gel cushion and is or isn't able to fully anteriorly rotate (hinge forward) to reach the handlebars.
Most bike fitters will say that a seat cushion is not an optimal option. I tell my riders, if you need more cushion, you are better off getting bike shorts with padding. The shorts keep the padding from shifting around, which is a common issue with the seat cushions, and the padding in the shorts is denser, so it's still providing you with support your sit bones need, while also giving you some comfort. With that said, often, when someone is uncomfortable on their seat, it is due to their bike fit and how their pelvis is situated in relation to the seat.
How often should I evaluate my bike settings?
Anna: Another toughy! It's truly dependent on how quickly your body changes. If you are putting in consistent work to improve stability, muscle recruitment, strength, and range of motion, or have lost/gained weight, you will want to be re-fitted sooner than later. I would put these people in the window of 6-8 months, but that's a generalization. Some people might need a re-fit in 3 months, others in 12 months. I tell my riders never to wait more than 3 years to be re-fit.
Related Post: My Team Wilpers Bike Fitting Experience
Any signs to look for to know if bike fitting isn't right
Anna: The most common signs are:
1. If there is any constant soreness in joints or muscles that isn't associated with exercise exertion. I tell my riders we should be working from the diaphragm down, and that the upper body should feel very relaxed on the bike. If you're bracing yourself with your upper body, then something is off.
2. If you feel like you're sliding forward on the seat or reaching for the handlebars.
3. If you feel like mostly one muscle group is doing the majority of the work. We want all of our muscles on board to be as efficient and as powerful as possible. There is also an increased chance of pain or injury if you have mostly one muscle group working.
4. If you have a past injury or anatomical discrepancy, like a leg length discrepancy, that affects you off of the bike, chances are that it affects you on the bike and we want to make sure that everything is moving smoothly and well balanced while riding.
When to adjust the bike back postpartum (or do I keep it the same?)
Anna: The body didn't change overnight when it grew a small human inside of it, so it's important to know it's not going to bounce back completely right away, and it will never be 100% as it was prior to pregnancy.
For some, they will bounce back much quicker and get back a lot closer to how they were before pregnancy, and for others they will need much more time and there might be more work to do off of the bike depending on how the body handled delivery of the baby and what type of birth it was. Therefore, I would suggest easing back into prior settings and getting re-fit every 3-6 months until the body settles into it's new normal. As an added note, I think it's a great idea to talk with a physical therapist or personal trainer to find good exercises to do prior to delivery, to try to ensure a smooth transition back from being pregnant.
Would love to know if you have recs for when belly gets too big and your knees have to point diagonally!
Anna: In this case, the best bet would be to bring the cleats as far in towards the inside of the feet as possible. In doing this, you will bring the feet further away from the bike, allowing for more clearance of the knees around the belly. If this is not enough, one could get a piece of equipment called Pedal Extenders. These aren’t exactly the easiest items to install, so please be careful and mindful if you choose to try these. I would highly encourage to work with your fitter to ensure proper installation.
The seat for me has become so uncomfortable. Other than moving the handlebars higher, what can I do to less strain on the baby?
Anna: Moving the handlebars higher can often cause us to put more pressure on the soft tissue underneath the pelvis because we are no longer being supported by the pelvis itself. The Bike seat is shaped in a way that we should be hinged forward, similar to a squatting position. The more we come out of that position, the more we might need a different saddle to accommodate this new position of the pelvis on the saddle. Keep in mind, when you change the body’s position on the bike, you change what muscles are recruiting and working. We want to balance these changes out as best we can so that we don’t cause one muscle group to take on too much of the work, otherwise we invite more opportunity for an overuse injury. With that said, sometimes we have to accommodate the body on the bike in a way that might cause one muscle group to do more of the work. When this is the scenario, we check off as many of the boxes that we can to ensure overuse injuries are far less probable.
There’s plenty to be aware of postpartum, such as possible pelvic floor issues, diastasis recti, and many more. The biggest concern we have is not rushing the body back into a possible that will require more bracing of the core and pelvic floor than the rider is ready for. Stated a little more simply: it’s a balance. As the core and pelvic floor bounces back from pregnancy, we can ease the rider more into a more powerful position without compromising anything. Biggest piece of advice: don’t rush!
Also would love tips for getting back into working out postpartum. I will obviously wait till my OB approves but any recs for seat and handle bar adjustments?
Anna: As much as I wish I knew enough on this subject to give advice, I don’t think I’m quite qualified to give postpartum workout tips other than some very basic things: Pelvic stability exercises, pelvic floor exercises, and some very simple core work exercises, but this is so very dependent on the body and what issues might need to be addressed postpartum. I highly recommend working with a physical therapist or personal trainer who is knowledgeable on postpartum working out.
It's not actually bike fit related but it's a part of the body often overlooked that I'm spending a lot of time learning about: the foot. I would add that post-partum work should also include strengthening and stabilizing the foot. The foot and the pelvic floor/core are so interconnected, that it's really important to give attention to both, otherwise issues might not fully resolve.
I’m having knee pain on one knee only. Would this be my setup or position?
Anna: It’s very hard to say, but, from my experience, it’s often a mixture of the two.
I hope this post has been helpful with how to fit a bike while pregnant or postpartum. If you'd like more personalized support, I highly recommend checking out Team Wilpers for a bike fitting (you can read all about my experience here). If you're looking for more workout support (and meeting other pregnant and postpartum Peloton riders), I highly recommend joining the free Facebook group Peloton Preggos and Postpartum!