Below are some tips for a more comfortable bike ride:
- Seat positioning affects several body parts and comfort on the bike. Adjusting the seat height is the first step in any bike fit. The height should be so that there is a slight knee bend when the pedal is at the 6:00 position (end of down stroke). If the seat is too low, this can contribute to knee and quad pain. If the seat is too high, the cyclist may experience hamstring or low back pain. The tilt of the seat is also important in that it affects the amount of pressure on the upper extremities (hands, elbows, shoulders). If the seat has too much downward tilt, the cyclist will have too much pressure on the upper extremities and it may feel like they are sliding forward off the seat and they have to constantly push back with the upper extremities. Too much tilt downward or upward in the saddle can also effect the cyclist ability to get into a neutral pelvic position and then neutral spine position.
- Try to achieve a relatively neutral spinal and pelvic position. The spine has natural curves to absorb shock and to keep a good length tension ratio on the muscles and ligaments for optimal performance. Often bikers will round too much through the thoracic spine (upper back), not keep a good neck position (chin sticking out, forward head), and posterior tilt in the pelvis. All of these things can cause abnormal strain on the spine and decrease power and speed. Tight hamstrings, hip flexors, glutes and pectoral muscles as well as weak core muscles can all contribute to poor spinal posture on the bike.
- Shoulder posture is another area that can lead to pain in the neck and arms. Ideally the shoulders should be down and back. Rolling the elbows in towards the body can also help cue this. Cyclist will often hang on the shoulders especially when fatigued, which can put the neck in a poor position. Think of keeping shoulder muscles active and pushing out with the shoulders similar to the end range of a push-up (push-up plus position).
- Core and scapular (shoulder blade) strength are very important in being able to maintain a good posture on the bike especially for longer rides. The legs need good core stability and a solid base to work from. Core stability is also needed for bike handling, balance, and cornering.
- Flexibility in the hamstrings, glutes, hip flexors, and pec muscles all are important for good posture, power, and comfort. Road bikers especially need good hip range of motion and hamstring flexibility since their positioning is more flexed (bent forward) and more extreme position.
- Spinal mobility (lumbar, thoracic, and cervical) and range of motion is important in being able to maintain a neutral position on the bike. For example, someone that has a very stiff neck with forward head posture along with rounded upper back, will have difficulty getting into a neutral position on the bike. They will also have more difficulty seeing traffic forward and side to side.
- Helmet and sunglasses fit, as silly as it sounds, can play a role in neck posture and comfort on the bike. If the helmet sits too low or the sunglasses do not fit well, it may cause the cyclist to hold the head and neck in a poor position (forward or too much extension).
- Handle bars should be positioned so the elbows can be slightly flexed not locked out and there is not any strain on shoulders or neck.
Enjoy the ride!