Im a certified athletic trainer and Im also a triathlete. The weather down here in southern California has been unseasonably wonderful lately I went for a ride today and Im pretty sure I got a tan! While riding, I was wondering what I should blog about and low and behold, an idea flew right past me! As I watched Speedy Gonzales pass me, I noticed how horrible his form was. After the bitterness wore off that this guy with horrible form could ride so much faster than me, I thought it would be interesting if I blogged about proper cycling form. Riding with proper form can prevent overuse injury, unnecessary soreness, and can also lead to more speed. Who doesnt want more speed, right?
Making sure ones bicycle is the right size and fitted appropriately is step one. Your local bike shop can help you out here, or they can tell you where to go to get the help you need. Step two is mechanics in the saddle. Here are just a few tips based on my education and training regarding posture, biomechanics, and efficient and functional movement:
1. When cycling, try to keep your neck in neutral as best you can. This means dont have your head so far up that your neck is cranked into extension. Keeping your neck near neutral and looking upward with your eyes can help keep your neck muscles, trapezius muscles, and other shoulder musculature more relaxed, and consequently less tight.
2. Keep your shoulders down and relaxed. If your shoulders are up near your ears, youve got a problem for reasons similar to the things listed in item 1. Your upper trapezius muscles and your latissimus muscles should be relaxed and your rhomboids should be the muscles that are contracted. This will keep your shoulder blade flush against the rib cage in a more stable position and lead to less tightness in your shoulders and form that is more biomechanically sound. This problem is more common among people who take a lot of spin classes because on a spinning bicycle, the bike doesnt move so your shoulders have to. On a real bicycle, the bicycle should rock, not your shoulders.
3. When you pedal, your lower back shouldnt move a whole lot. Your hips and legs should move like pistons without really disturbing your lumbar spine. A good way to prevent lower back pain is to learn to move your legs and hips independently from your lumbar spine. A good way to check this is to have a friend ride behind you (like I did with Speedy) and tell you if your back is wiggling around a lot. If it is, turning on your core muscles and focusing on moving your hips and not your back can help break this habit.
4. The knees. Oh, the knees! When cycling, the knees should move straight up and down. So many cyclists knees are all over the map, making a pattern like a question mark or any other myriad of something thats not a straight line. Remember, the shortest (and most efficient) distance between two points is a straight line. Making this change may eliminate knee or hip pain, and may improve tendonitis or IT band syndrome symptoms.
5. When pedaling, you should have equal weight across the entire ball of your foot. Often when we push and pull on the pedals, we put more pressure on the outside of our foot. Make sure to press evenly throughout the foot during your pedal stroke, and also do not pedal with your toes pointed. If you want the most power out of your pedal stroke, push flat through the ball of your foot and your heel.
I hope these tips prove helpful! Happy cycling!