Cycling set up for road bikes

According to Australian figures, push bike sales have outnumbered car sales for six consecutive years.

Many good bike shops are offering professional fitting services to make sure your bike is set up to your body type and style of riding, but there are plenty of people I see that ride in ways that really put a lot of stress on their knees, back and neck.

Short of getting a pro set up, here are some pointers that will have you cycling more comfortably and more efficiently.

  • Bike seat height.

Whether you are on the road or in the gym, you need to get this right. When your leg is at the bottom of the pedal stroke, or in the 6 o’clock position, you should have only a slight bend in your knee. The ideal angle is about 150 degrees. (or about 30 degrees off 180) I see plenty of people, especially recreational riders, with the seat too low and not nearly enough straightening in the knee. This can cause low back and knee problems.

  • Forward/Back position of the saddle.

The easiest way to measure this is to drop a plumb line (I use a piece of string with a weight on it) This one usually requires a helper to support you on the bike when it is standing still. With the peddle in the 3 o’clock position, when you hang the plumb line from the bottom of your knee cap, it should pass through the axle of the peddle. If it doesn’t, you need to move the saddle forward or back.

  • Handle bar height and forward/back position

This will depend on your style of cycling. If you look at the pro road bike riders they will have the bars below the level of the seat and far forward so that when they are in riding position their upper body is leaning far forward. This has aerodynamic advantages and also biomechanical advantages in terms of power output. If I tried this position, I would probably tear the hamstrings off my pelvis. Depending on your flexibility and the purpose of your riding, you will need to modify this position to suit. Your bars should be far enough forward so you are not cramped but not too far so that you feel you need to over stretch to reach them. If you are riding for speed on a road bike, your bars are generally at the level of the seat or below. If you are riding more recreationally, by all means raise them a little above the seat height. These modifications, if done correctly, will have you riding more comfortably and will reduce the chances of injury.

For more advice, consult a good bike shop.

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