Being able to find the correct riding position for yourself is important not just for optimal performance and comfort, but also your every day health as well.
When you are perfectly set up on your bike and have the correct riding position, you reduce the risk of injury, and that can mean those slow injuries as well like niggling knee and hip issues that will eventually have you limping to a chiropractor.
It’s important to remember that people come in all shapes and sizes, no two people are the same, even identical twinswill have something about them that is unique, like shoe size, which might mean that a different bike position works best for them. It’s about knowing what to look for and how to adjust for your preferences, rather than mirroring your body to look like someone else’s.
That also means if someone gives you advice out on the road you can take it with a grain of salt. If you are comfortableboth on and off the bike and are happy with your energy output for the distance and speed you are traveling, so be it.
You know when you are on a good thing when you are comfortable in the saddle, when even over long distances you get off and can move about easily, when your ride is efficient and you have total control with great handling.
Here are some things to watch out for if you feel you are not currently at your bike fit best.
How to find the correct riding position
Trouble often starts from an incorrect bike purchase, so if you buy the incorrect frame size for your body, all the adjustments in the world aren’t going to get you in the correct riding position.
It’s not just about how tall you are either. A tall person might have a longer torso and arms than usual, so a bigger bike frame might not be best, it’s this reason exactly why women’s frame sizes are different to men’s.
Most road cycling shops are owned or managed by avid cyclists, so you can usually get a hand with the best fit in store. Again though, you know you best so it’s good to have the information you need before you walk in and make your big purchase.
When you purchase your bike there are a number of important factors that indicate that the bike is right for you.
How high is your seat?
The height of the saddle is measured only to the extended pedal position, not the ground, so make sure when you measure you take into account it’s from the top of your seat to the lowest pedal point. You want to give yourself about 109 per cent of your inner leg length, so just over the length of your leg from groin to sole.
Test this on the bike by feel. You want your leg to be fully extended at the lowest pedal point although not in a perfectly straight line. If you do not allow for a slight bend (about 25 degrees) you won’t get ultimate performance from your muscles, a slight bend keeps them activated when you need them most so you have the power to turn the pedals over quickly.
Too much bend can cause knee pain and can also result in lowered performance due to an uneven pedal stroke.
If you notice a back and forth rocking motion when you pedal it’s an indication that your seat is too high.
Make sure you factor in your cleats when you measure the seat height. If you experience pain in your Achilles check your cleats. The ball of your foot is the part that needs to attach to the pedal so if your cleats are positioned too far forward on your sole (i.e. under your toes) you’re exposingyour ankle to subtle twisting or rolling motions that can lead to swelling or injury to both the ankle and knees.
You will know if your handle bar settings are not correct if you are experiencing tension or pain in your neck or if your breathing is laboured or feels restricted. You want your upper body position on the bike to be supportive and allow plenty of space for air to enter your lungs.
To test in the showroom, when you are riding in a relaxed position, (more upright) your reach to the top of the brakes should have your body angled at about 45 degrees to the top bar of your bike.
Make sure your handlebars are positioned slightly below the level of the top of the saddle, although not too low. If you are bending over too far you restrict your breathing, cause lower back or shoulder pain and possible even hamper fertility for female riders (not to worry, if you notice disruption to your cycle or feel your fertility might be hampered just raise the handle bars slightly to correct the issue).
You can also adjust your reach by changing the handlebar stem length.
Keep a good bend in your elbows so that your forearms aremostly horizontal. This will help reduce shock and keep you safe on the road. If you do experience pain in your hands when you ride for long distances know this is normal, although avoidable. Improve shock resistance where you can with high quality cycling gloves and handlebar tape and keep your hands moving around. Flex and use different holding positions to help shift the weight to differed parts of the hands and improve circulation.
If your time on the bike is less than enjoyable then it’s important to take the time to stop and evaluate your setup before injury strikes. Mostly though it’s just about getting out there and enjoying your ride to the maximum. That’s freedom!