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Bicycle Discomfort? Check Your Posture

A common complaint among casual cyclists is discomfort: numbness and tingling in the arms and hands, shoulder tightness, and numbness or pressure in the crotch are the most common complaints. Usually, these issues are symptomatic of a bigger issue, though, and that issue is posture.

With all physical activities, there’s a proper form. When lifting weights, muscle isolation is desired–at least partially to ensure proper form and reduce possible injury to the lifter’s body. The concept of form applies when running and even when sitting. So bicycling is no different: Bottom line, your form matters, and your body’s position on the bike (its posture) is the key ingredient in good form.

A rule of thumb when fitting cyclists to a bike (or adjusting their existing bike) is to check three areas: legs, arms, and back. Starting with the legs, the ideal posture has the rider’s leg nearly straight when its foot is in the 6 o’clock pedaling position. This is achieved mainly by raising or lowering the saddle.

Of course, that also raises or lower’s the rider’s pelvis, and therefore affects their arm reach. If the bike frame is too small for the rider, the handlebars will be too close, and the rider’s arms and shoulders will be stressed with unwanted pressure. If the frame is too big, the opposite issue occurs, and the rider’s back will be stressed as she stretches to steer the bike. So having the right-size frame is critical.  For riders with particularly long legs and short arms (or vice versa), we sometimes take this a step further and upgrade their bike to a longer or shorter stem (a piece that fine-tunes the distance from the handlebars to the rider’s torso).

Finally, we look at the cyclist’s back. For relaxed riding, an upright, almost sitting position is a must. On beach cruisers, riders sit almost straight-up.  For athletic or competitive riding, or for an effective fitness workout, the rider is going to be leaning forward. (A racer will be leaning all the way forward–this is known as the “aero” posture.)  In any event, having the right posture generally means that the stress on the back will be reduced, the center of gravity will be primarily toward’s the rider’s rear.

Back posture usually falls into place once the arms and legs are addressed, however for people with nagging back issues, chronic pain, or post-surgical back conditions, supportive measures may make it possible to ride in comfort. This is why we offer semi-recumbent bike frames, and even seats with back-rests, and why our cruisers have swept-back handlebars. These are all geared toward enabling proper posture on the bike.

Have a question about comfort or posture while riding? Give us a call at 239-331-2065 and we’ll give you a hand.