Do you consciously think about your posture or technique when cycling? Unless you’re a professional cyclist, these aren’t things you usually think about, but they are essential.
Tana Bullock, a Principal Consultant at MoveSafe used to be an avid cyclist. She would regularly go for 100km bike rides on the weekends. She was so passionate about the sport that she had her bike adequately fitted by a physiotherapist to prevent injuries. But while riding, she rarely considered whether or not her riding technique was ergonomic and safe.
Fifteen years later (aka today), she’s developed a renewed love of cycling, but with the new perspective of being an ergonomics professional.
Running and cycling: An exercise duo
Cycling has long been the aerobic activity of choice for injured runners. Cycling is a much lower-impact sport than running, often a great accompaniment or replacement for regular running. However, although it doesn’t have the same safety risks as the weight-bearing and repetitive running motions, there is still an injury risk with low-impact exercise.
Looking at the cyclists around town today, we notice that many don’t have their seats at the correct height. This results in being unable to maintain a stable base on your bike. This can affect your balance and lead to falls or injury to your muscles and spine.
Proper bicycle fit and posture tips
First, ensure your bike is correctly fitted for your body. If needed, get the help of an experienced bike shop, physiotherapist, or ergonomics professional to help ensure your bike seat and handles support proper posture. Here are some tips to get you started:
- Your seat should allow you to straighten your leg as you pedal, but not so high that your hips rock back and forth. A seat that’s too low can put excess strain on your knees as you cycle.
- Adjust your handlebar height for comfort. If you are reaching excessively forward to reach the handlebars or they are too broad, you’ll struggle to maintain anchored shoulders and an aligned spine. Adjust them so you’re not hunched over or reaching too far forward or to the sides.
When cycling, try hinging at the hips. It can take some practice, but once you get it, it’ll become second nature, and you’ll notice you have a more comfortable ride.
Also, get into the habit of checking how straight your back is while cycling. While there may be some curvature in your spine, avoid collapsing into the “lazy C” shaped spine where you’re hunched over. Correct yourself and keep cycling if you catch yourself slouching into a C. You’ll know your posture was not ideal if you notice increased lower back or shoulder pain after (or during) your ride. Taking a cycling break often to stretch your arms, shoulders, and back can also help reset your posture.
To help your posture, anchor your shoulders along your ribcage, maintaining a neutral spine. Your head should be aligned with your back to reduce stress on your joints, muscles, and discs in your neck and upper back.
Applying the The 3 Main MoveSafe® Elements to cycling
It’s easy to apply the 3 Main MoveSafe elements into your cycling routine to increase your enjoyment and safety of this popular activity. Here’s how to apply each one to your next ride.
- Prepare & Maintain your body
- Warm-up. Before every ride, do a dynamic warm-up for your hips, neck, shoulders, forearms and wrists. This will prepare them for your workout.
- Interrupt. Throughout your ride, take breaks, and do a few shoulder rolls, the anti-slouch stretch, overhead reach, and neck stretches. These stretches help break up the static upper body positioning from sitting on a bike.
- Vary the position of your hands if possible. During your ride, adjust the positioning of your hands on the handlebars where possible. This is especially important on a road bike. If your wrists feel extra sore or stiff, stop the bike and stretch your wrists while not in motion.
- Move Safe with the Big 3
- Stable Base. While cycling, ensure your hips are level, and you aren’t unnecessarily rocking from side to side with each pedal stroke. If you are rocking side to side, try lowering your seat to ensure a level pelvis.
- Hip Hinge. Keep a neutral spine and avoid an excessively rounded back (a “lazy C” posture). To help, lengthen through your spine and actively bend forward from the hips.
- Shoulders anchored. Lightly tense your upper back muscles to engage the shoulder blades and keep them tucked back and down toward your hips. Avoid letting your shoulders creep forward and up toward your ears.
- Prepare the Work Area and Equipment
- Ergonomics plays a significant role in cycling. Get professional support to ensure your bike is fitted to your body and the type of cycling you’ll be doing (road or off-road biking).
Cycling safety starts with you
At MoveSafe, we always recommend performing a dynamic warmup before starting any physical job or task, even cycling. As cycling includes near-constant, repetitive motions, we suggest taking breaks often to stretch or give your muscles a break. This can help you avoid overworking your body and can help decrease your risk of preventable cycling injuries to muscles, tendons, and bones.