3 ways to ensure good cycling technique
Whether you’re going for a short ride or want to travel long distances, proper bicycle set up and body positioning can make all the difference. Orthopedic surgeon Thomas Jones, MD, provided some tips on cycling technique to help riders become more efficient and powerful and get the most out of their ride.
“Basic bike setup can provide the most efficient biomechanics and allow you to cycle longer, and hopefully avoid some overuse injuries and discomfort,” Dr. Jones said.
The first thing you want to look at is seat height. “In general, you want your seat height to allow your knees to be bent between 15 and 30 degrees when you’re in the downstroke of your pedal,” Dr. Jones said. “You don’t want it to be fully extended or too flexed. Just flex a little bit and that should give you the most comfort and will allow you to generate the most power for an extended period of time.”
The second thing you want to look at are the handlebars. The area at the top of the handlebars is called the hoods, and the area at the bottom is called the drops. Then you have the crossbar for when you’re upright. Most of the time, you’ll be in the hoods.
“Appropriate setup for your handlebars is going to be with your elbows bent, usually between 10 to 15 degrees,” Dr. Jones said. “Again, not board straight, and not too flexed or crunched over. We’re looking for comfort.”
Your weight should be evenly distributed between your upper and lower body, so that your center of gravity, which is a few centimeters above your bellybutton, is directly over the center of the bike. You also want a straight back and your shoulder joint at about 90 degrees or almost a right angle.
The position of your shoulder joint, elbows and hands (in the hoods), as well as the position of your knee at the bottom of your pedal stroke, give you a reasonable place to start.
“For the best cycling technique, you should have a nice, smooth stroke and a solid, firm base for your pelvis without one side or the other rocking back and forth. Your pelvis can remain relatively stable. And that gives you a good foundation, which is where most of your pedal power will come from. You don’t want one side of the pelvis going up or going down.”
That overall position is also generally the most comfortable and efficient.
“It will allow you to cycle the longest without numbness in your hands or buttocks, or nagging muscle aches or pains,” Dr. Jones said. “Obviously, this is just a starting point. Any fine tuning to further improve your position or setup can easily done by a cycle pro at your local bicycle shop. Other than that, wear your helmet, wear your sunscreen, hydrate, and have fun!”
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