What Muscles Are Used Biking

image woman riding bike
More muscles are used riding a bicycle than you would think. No, I am not talking about stationary bikes. I’m talking about a bicycle that you actually ride outside. Just think about it. You are not only working the muscles in your legs,but all the core muscles required to balance.

So why am I talking about what muscles are used biking on my strength training site. First, because I think it is important to do activities that we love to stay fit. Second, because I bought a bike at a yard sale and am working up the courage to get on it. I have not been on a bike in years, and hope I can get the confidence to get back on it and find some joy in the activity. My fear is based on the fact that older people don’t bounce as well as young people, and I’d prefer to not break anything while trying a new hobby.

What muscles are Used Riding an Outdoor Bike image woman balancing on a log

The most obvious muscles used are in our legs, just take a look at the legs of bicycling enthusiasts. The not quite so obvious are the muscles worked are the muscles of the butt. My real curiosity was whether it works our core muscles. This question occurred to me because of a physical therapy exercise I was once given for a stubborn Achilles issue. Once most of the pain was gone from my heel, I was told to start balancing on one leg at a time. Unlike the yoga Tree Pose, in this exercise you do not touch your foot of the lifted leg to the leg on the ground. I was told this exercise not only strengthens all the muscles in my legs, but also hip and core muscles.

The research that I did confirm that balancing the bike while riding does strengthen the core muscles in our abdomen and back. The articles also stated that for serious bike riders having good core strength is important for improving riding performance. It was suggested that the serious rider do more than just riding for core strength training such as including the plank into their exercise routine.

image woman doing plank

So You Want to Start Riding Again – My Words of Wisdom?

Let me share my story with you. I have a tendency to start a new hobby, invest some money, and decide I don’t like it. My plan with bike riding is to invest money more slowly to prove to myself that I can get over my fear and that I will stick with it. I considered renting a bike, but did not want to be in public with my first attempts trying to ride away from a rental bike shop. I thought about borrowing one, but never found one that inspired me.

image of flea market

This past weekend I saw one at a yard sale that I liked and that was in pretty good condition. The tag sale was for a non-profit charity I support. The guy running the sale said that it is nice bike which had just been hanging in some woman’s garage for a while gathering dust. It helped my decision that I thought it was pretty and seemed to fit me when I stood over it. Part of my first impression was that it is a woman’s Schwinn mountain bike, a pretty blue, and had gears. The only issue I could see was that the rear tire was off the rim in one section. Due to the tire, I could not take it for a spin. Given my fear of trying out riding a bike again especially with an audience, that would not have happened anyway. The asking price was $25 and I paid $20. My thought was that if it does not work out, the money is going to a good cause and it will be back at their next tag sale.

Was My Tag Sale Bike Find a Treasure? – Things I’ve Learned?

image of my bicycle

Above is a picture of my tag sale bike. I’m very happy with it and have learned some things I can share with other novices. A friend, Scott, put the tire back on and said it was no big deal. He took it for spin and said I might want to have it tuned up, but is fine for practicing riding again as it is. I now know that the bike has 21 speeds, is aluminum and therefore lightweight, and it has nice levers that make it easy to adjust the seat and pop off the front wheel for transport.

Are you wondering if I tried it out? I was very tired when I stopped at my friends house to see how he made out with the bike. I’m so glad he was there because, Scott is one of those people who are great at encouraging people to try something. New. He talked me into taking the bike up and down the street once. I was very wobbly, but that I did it! It was not the brightest idea to try it in flip-flops and without a helmet, so I have put off more attempts for later.

Getting some Safety Gear – Think of it as Health and Life Insurance

A friend of mine suggested that to help get over being afraid I will fall as I practice riding a bike again, that I should consider some elbow and knee pads. She does the same now that she is older and has not been riding a bike in a long time. I’ve also been admonished from a few people for not wearing a helmet, so off I was to figure out what to get. image woman wearing bike helmet

Helmets: I still feel a bit clueless about helmets. I can’t figure out the purpose of the pointy end. Some helmets have the pointy part going to the front and some the back. I thought the pointy part always goes to the back, rather like a spoiler on.a car for aerodynamic purposes like this picture. Yet I see pictures where some go to the front. Why do some go to the front? Is it like a brim on a baseball cap to keep the sun out of your eyes or for protection if you fall forward. Feel free to let me know in the comment section below. From what I read researching the most important thing about helmets is how you wear them. It should be leveled on your head as shown on the left and be secure enough that is does not wobble.

I looked to see what helmet I liked online, and then decided that I should buy it in person so I can try it on. Little did I know that there is an adjustable band inside. Here is a tip for others – Where I live is going into fall and not the best time of year to buy biking gear at a sports store. I ended up having to order the helmet I wanted.

Elbow and Knee pads: I’m glad I went to the store. I did not realize that many sports elbow and knee pads have a soft covering. If you want to buy ones for riding a bike, you are better off with a hard covering like the ones sold for rollerblading.

Guess what? Also, a bad time of year to buy them. There was none in the store so I had to order them to be delivered. I went to the store because I wanted to try them on. Reviews said the pads ran small. The store clerk recommended that I get 2 sizes and return the one to the store once I decided which fits better. I went with that option and look forward to their arrival in a few days.

One last tidbit from my going to the sporting goods store. One of the managers told me that I was really lucky to find a used bike. Due to COVID-19 many people are talking up the hobby, causing a shortage of used bikes. He was also amazed at what I paid, and said I could easily get more than twice that much if I sold it.

Just an FYI and off topic, but my other big find for the day was a metal detector. Something I have always wanted to try as I love walking the beaches. Maybe I have more good treasures to find with that!

Bike Adjustments – Maximize Enjoyment, Comfort and Fitness

Some advice I have been given:

Seat height – You want your leg to be almost straight when at the lowest point on the peddle. A straight line is 180 degrees, you want your leg to be about 175 degrees. That feels a little scary for newbies as your feet don’t touch the ground when sitting on the seat, but remember you just have to lean a little to get your foot on the ground.

Bike fitting – I was trying to figure out how to adjust my seat on line. Sites started talking about getting out the measuring tape and measuring some distances on the bike and yourself. Rather, over the top for me, but I am told that if I continue to ride that it makes for the best riding position, comfort, and good posture. For now, the 175 degrees I discussed above is fine.

Tires – I went with a mountain bike. Big bumpy tires aren’t efficient for road or gravel. I’ve been advised that I can change out my tires if I decide I want to be riding on pavement.

Are You Ready for a New Adventure

Anyone interested in building their legs, butt, and core muscles might want to consider getting out on a bike. For some, that means dusting one off. Others may need to just find some new places to ride to feel adventurous. Then the folks like me, might need to borrow, rent, or buy to try it out again. What a great way to social distance outside with friends during this pandemic!

image of people on bikes

I am very excited that I am able to get into riding a bike again for under $100. In my 30s, I tried riding a bike again but listened to some bad advice for me. I ended up with more of a racing style bike with toe clips that made me very nervous. The type of handle bars was also an uncomfortable position for me due to an old neck injury. My advice to folks is to think about where you want to ride and about things like speed and distance. I am not the type that needs to go fast. I want to see the scenery and stop to look at things.

I would love to hear your thoughts on riding bikes, be it about muscles gained or enjoyment.

Best Regards,


Founder of Strength Training for Women

3 thoughts on “What Muscles Are Used Biking”

  1. Haha Denise you sound like me – start a new hobby, spend some money, and then decide that it isn’t for me.

    Funnily enough I was actually talking to someone about biking the other day. Well in truth we were talking about calf development and how hard it is to achieve.

    We eventually decided that most people who regular cycle tend to have a fantastic set of lean, muscular and strong calves.

    Nevertheless, I completely agree with you about the core being worked, and even though it’s not the same (as you’ve mentioned), this is why you often see people who seem to know what their doing in the gym warming up on a stationary bike.

    Not only does it get the blood pumping through the legs, but it’s a great way to warm up the core, and I will say that a lot of strength exercises actually originate from the core. You wouldn’t think it, but they do.

    I must admit I’m not into biking much nowadays, however, during the pandemic lockdown of this year my partner managed to snare a great deal on a second-hand bike, and absolutely loves it.

    In fact, 5 months on I still can’t her off it, LOL.

    Another enjoyable read Denise, great job.


  2. Wow I really had no idea that using a exercise bicycle was different with regards to the muscles we use and is a better form of exercise. I will have to dig out my old bicycle that is gathering dust in my shed and look at some of the knee and elbow pads that you recommend and start cycling again.
    After reading this I can’t wait to give it a go again, thank you!

  3. I wonder if the people who wear their helments with the peaks facing forward have them on the wrong way?????
    I got on a bike years ago, after not being on one for the twenty previous years. I rode it for five days around Southern England. Man, the first few days were torture on my body. I found muscles all over that I didn’t know I had! I was also carrying a small backpack which was not a good idea. If I ever try anything like that again, I will somehow strap my gear to the bike.
    Biking way a good way to travel, as you say, it’s nice to be able to go slow and enjoy the scenery.
    Thanks for sharing 🙂


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