Many of our Practice members have embraced “Bike Week” and found riding a bike to work to be an enjoyable and comfortable experience. At the same time a few people found it unnecessarily uncomfortable and were put off after short distances. However, by following the simple steps below, you can easily find your perfect bike posture guarantee a comfortable ride.
A good starting point for determining if a bike is roughly the right size for you and safe to ride is to assess stand-over height. Simply straddle the bike with your feet flat on the ground and the top tube should be approximately an inch beneath your groin. If you’re unable to straddle the bike in this way, it’s definitely too big for you.
Setting the correct seat height is probably the most important aspect of bike setup for ensuring comfortable and efficient cycling.
Too low and you’ll feel cramped and put excessive strain on your knees. Too high and your hips will rock from side to side and potentially put strain on your lower back.
With a friend holding the bike, sit on the saddle and place the balls of your feet on the pedals. With the pedal at the bottom of the pedal stroke (six o’clock), there should be a slight bend in your knee. You shouldn’t feel as though you are having to stretch but your leg should feel extended and not cramped.
You should cycle with the balls of your feet on the pedals and with your feet facing straight forwards. Avoid splaying your feet outwards or rotating them inwards and try to drive your legs up and down in a straight line. If you’re using cleated bike shoes you’re feet should automatically face the right direction.
Saddle fore and aft
It’s also possible to move the saddle forwards and backwards. This will require an Allen key. This adjustment is made to ensure optimal pedalling efficiency and not to adjust reach to the handlebars.
Again, with a friend holding the bike, bring the pedals round until they’re in a horizontal position (three and nine o’clock). With the balls of your feet on the pedals, the knee of your front leg should be directly above the pedal.
When on the saddle, if the bars are the correct height, your torso should be leaning forwards and, with your hands on top of the bars, there should be a bend in your elbows. A common mistake many people make is, if they suffer from a sore back on the bike, they’ll raise their handlebars higher to give them a more upright position. In most cases, this will only compound the situation as it’ll will increase the compressional load on your back.
Once your saddle and handlebar height are correct, check your reach to the handlebars. Again, look for that forwards lean and bend in the arms. You should not feel stretched out or cramped up. If the reach isn’t quite right, don’t use the saddle fore and aft adjustment to alter it. If the positioning isn’t quite right it can be adjusted by fitting a shorter or longer stem.
Especially on mountain bikes and hybrids with flat handlebars, adjusting the brake levers so that they are in the correct position is important to avoid sore wrists and to ensure optimal braking performance. Your wrists should be straight when using the brakes and the levers should be positioned so that they are in the correct position for your fingers. Some brands of brake also allow you to adjust the reach of the levers.
A helmet may not make your journey more comfortable but it will make it a lot safer. A proper fitted helmet should ALWAYS be worn. After all how many times do you want to risk your skull coming in contact with the road without a helmet?
A great wenbiste for further information is http://www.livestrong.com/article/321809-correct-cycling-posture/
Dr Luke Mulvihill
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