Bike Position Blueprint - Tips for Cycling Posture Part 1
Author: Jeffrey Bell
It's as easy as riding a bike, right? Not quite...
Part 1 of 2
As you're training for the Nations Triathlon, there's no doubt you have a head full of information focused on technique. From every moving body part of the proper swim stroke, to each deliberately calculated step of the run, the last thing you need to burden your triathlon brain with is cycling technique - after all, biking is just as easy as, well, riding a bike...right? Not quite...
Below are tips on 5 components of proper body posture on the bike to help you improve efficiency, power, and avoid injury. Some of these tips may seem second nature, some may never have entered your mind, but applying these principles during training is sure to make the middle portion of triathlon that much easier.
When riding, keep your eyes focused 20 - 30 feet ahead. Don't look down at the front wheel or your feet! While it's tempting to look at how quickly your cool new shoes are spinning, this tends to translate into wobbles that slow you down and cause a loss of balance. This is not only a problem when riding with friends, but becomes multiplied when you dramatically increase the amount of racing traffic you will encounter on race day. Remember to keep your eyes focused on where you want your bike to go and you’ll be fine.
Try to keep your hips at a 90 degree angle. This doesn't mean sitting straight up on your bike. But hunching your lower back and slouching your shoulders will eventually become very painful and ultimately generates much less power in your pedal stroke. As you lean forward on your saddle towards your handle bars, you should be able to draw a 90 degree angle from your knees to your lower back. And yes, if you’re new to cycling, your back will be sore for your first few rides. But don't worry, it's part of your new portfolio of triathlon muscles! (and the pain typically goes away in a few weeks)
Sit bones should be the primary point of contact on your bike seat (saddle). What are sit bones? Sit on a hard surface, bring your knees to your chest, then rock forward. The pain in your butt is your sit bones grinding on the floor. You can get up now :) Avoid mistakenly planting as much of your butt surface area on the bike as possible in attempt to gain more comfort . Try to envision leaning your sit bones against your saddle, as opposed to planting your whole butt on top. Bike saddles are designed to accommodate your sit bones and efficiently transfer energy to your legs and feet, not just protect your butt from soreness. You should eventually draw an equal balance between the amount of pressure you place on your saddle, handle bars, and pedals.
Relax! Most beginner cyclists tend to "white knuckle" the handle bars, squeezing too hard with their hands and fingers. Relax your grip enough so that the fleshy part of your palm/thumbs are resting on your hoods or drops, instead of your fingers wrapped around the bars in a clench. Also, tentative cyclists tend to lock their elbows in classic Heisman straightarm position. Arms should be about shoulder-width apart with a slight bend in the elbow. That bend in the elbow provides all the manouevering capabilities crucial to turning, cornering and even generating power for climbing or sprinting.
Keep your knees pointed forward. Sounds crazy, I know. Due to poor bike fitting, previous injury, or basic comfort, a lot of cyclists tend to let their knees flare outwards. In most cases, if that hasn't caused injury, it likely will. And you’re losing power. A good tip is to think of being filmed from behind with a camera – if you’re pedaling properly and moving your knees up and down parallel to each other, the camera shouldn’t see the sides of your knees from behind.
*This is part 1 of 2 entries on cycling posture - next week's entry will focus on pedaling technique and cadence.
A native of the frozen tundra of Toronto, Canada, Jeff attended college in upstate NY and has lived in the DC area for eight years. In his younger athletic days he played varsity hockey, rugby, basketball and volleyball, but never dreamed he'd enter the sport of triathlon. Five years ago, he took that initial leap of faith by signing up with Team In Training to complete an olympic distance triathlon. Five years later, Jeff is proud to have completed 13 events with TNT as a participant, mentor and now Triathlon coach, and is incredibly grateful for the impact TNT has made on his life. He has now completed over 25 triathlons in total, including 2 Ironman events, 5 Half-Ironman events, as well as qualifing for the US Half-Iron Championships and the Boston Marathon. As someone who grew up on ice skates and not in the swimming pool, he credits the support of TNT and the DC Triathlon community for instilling in him the desire and confidence to tackle athletic anxiety and succeed in the world of multi-sport.
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