Key Cycling Advice for Beginners
Cycling technique is a serious matter. A balanced and relaxed body position is the most essential skill here. Correct body positioning not only gives the best fitness results, but is also the key element of injury prevention. Minding your body position not only regulates fatigue, but also makes riding itself more enjoyable.
In general, for a road bike, the three main points of contact are the arms, hips, and legs, and the corresponding points of contact are the handlebars, saddle, and pedals. The height, front and rear position, and width of these three parts affect the correct cyclist’s posture, so it is said that the correct cyclist’s posture begins at the head and reaches the feet.
As you ride, your elbow bends at a certain angle, hangs in a stance, does not extend outward like spread wings, when you encounter potholes or road bumps the arm can absorb the impact and reduce the pressure on your shoulder. In addition, bending the elbows improves balance and reduces the risk of falling off the bike.
If your shoulders are not down and relaxed while riding, you may feel discomfort in your back and neck. To promote neck flexibility and prevent back discomfort, keep your shoulders relaxed while riding and do not allow them to reach for your ears.
Toes and knees
A good riding posture can be maintained by consciously keeping your knees in line with your feet. Excessive bending of the knees will only reduce efficiency and overall comfort.
Neutral spine position
An important tip when cycling is to keep your back straight, but not excessively straight until your lower back hurts, and to relax your spine a bit. To keep yourself from unknowingly arching your back, focus on the strength of your abs. When your abdominal muscles are tense, it is natural to straighten your back and relax your arms and shoulders.
There should be a straight line from your elbow to your fingertips. If you have difficulty holding it while riding, there may be a problem with the position of the bike components. Observe and adjust your bike to make sure each component is in the correct position for you.
Make a conscious effort to avoid moving your knees in and out when pedaling; they should move up and down, not sideways. Many cyclists experience sideways movement when pedaling, and this is a major cause of knee pain. If you find yourself with a related problem, you can train yourself to move your knees up and down and keep them in a straight line.
Means of adjusting cycling posture
- Saddle angle
The saddle angle should be approximately horizontal. You do not have to make it rigid, but you can adjust it to suit you. For example, some men may feel pain from the front of the cushion pressing harshly, so you can tilt the front of the cushion down slightly to reduce the pressure, about 10° might be enough.
- Saddle height
Saddle height is one of the most important aspects of bike setup, especially with regard to knee joint and pedaling force. A saddle that is too high affects the efficiency of pedaling because a straight pedaling line that is too long can easily overstrain the muscles, causing energy waste and cramps. Insufficient cushion height may cause muscle fatigue, affecting the efficiency of riding.
There is a common formula for adjusting saddle height: inseam x 0.883 = distance from the center of the lower bracket to the top of the saddle. For the average cyclist sitting on a bike with legs not fully extended with one pedal at the lowest point, it is sufficient to maintain an angle of 25°. If the cyclist swings back and forth in the saddle, the saddle is too high. The most appropriate total saddle height is 109% of the inner leg length (+ some adjustment for shoe thickness).
Raising the saddle may seem unsafe for beginners. When you first get used to it, you can adjust the saddle height accordingly. When you’re done, restore the saddle height to the standard, otherwise the ride will not last long and it will be impossible to stick to long distances such as 30 miles or more in one direction. This way you will prevent damage to your knees.
- Handlebar height
The last adjustment is the handlebar height, which should match the height of the saddle. As a rule of thumb, the difference between handlebar and saddle should not exceed 2 inches. If the difference is more than 2 inches when you first start cycling, your body will lean too much forward and your wrists will be overloaded, resulting in slight fatigue. It’s best to lower the handlebars as low as possible, up to 2 inches, until you get used to it.
Some older riders with mountain biking experience who are just starting to master road bikes intentionally push the saddle up too much to cause too much of a fall, which is actually a big safety hazard and may harm you if you make it a habit.
- Proper pedaling
- Pedaling with the heel. When pedaling with the heel, the wrist joint cannot move because of the limited force application area. As a result, the muscles that control the wrist joints cannot use all of their power while riding. Not only are the wrist muscles unable to use their full force during long rides, but they can also cause cramps due to prolonged strain. Therefore, this position may not be the right one. 4 in 5 cyclists prefer to ride on the forefoot.
- Midfoot. In this position, the wrist joint maintains some mobility, and you don’t have to exert all your efforts to keep the front of the foot at an angle. Most city cyclists adopt this position. It is relatively easy, but it does not help to engage all the leg muscles in the movement of the bicycle. As your legs are not fully extended, they do not have the opportunity to fully contribute. In addition, the saddle must be lowered to apply force to the midfoot, which can be uncomfortable on bumpy and uneven surfaces.
- Pedaling with your toes. By using your toes, you can train yourself to pedal at a high frequency. However, pedaling this way for too long can easily exhaust you. It requires a lot of muscle strength in your calves, and you may feel soreness after a long ride. If you pedal with your front foot, this position allows the foot to pivot up and down more, thereby forcing the Achilles tendon to pull on the muscles on the back of the calf to bring the entire muscle group into motion. You won’t feel any tension and you’ll strain easily, which is very effective. Also, the design of interlocking pedals usually involves placing the shoe locking clasp on the front of the foot.
When riding a bicycle, you should pedal smoothly with your front foot, relax your arms, and keep your hands loose, holding the handlebars with the same strength you would hold a child’s hand when crossing the road. Press the pedals evenly so that they spin at an even speed, rather than just pushing the pedals hard.
- Knee angle
To check this parameter, hold the pedal horizontally so that the plumb from the center of the knee is perpendicular to or behind the center of the shaft. If the knee is in front of the center of the pedal axis, this will cause the cyclist’s knee to deviate from the correct position.
Riding a bicycle is an enjoyable and rewarding activity. And it doesn’t matter whether it’s your bike, a friend’s one, or a rental. New York City residents and visitors, for example, can use a bike rental near Central Park that offers different types of bikes, one of which will undoubtedly suit your needs.