Riding Technique

We’ve all heard of carpal tunnel syndrome and of tennis elbow. These are injuries that stem from repetition of normally harmless activities. Particularly with carpal tunnel, the everyday mundane activity of typing at your computer can lead to an injury. But has anybody ever heard of biker back? Or biker butt? These might not be official medical terms, but the same rules apply when cycling.

When you’re cycling, you’re repeating the same motion over and over… and over again, thousands of times. A slight discomfort or problem in each of those repetitions can lead to bigger problems down the line. And a problem with one area of your bike, your form or your body can lead to other, bigger problems with other areas.

The body is interconnected, and everything that it has to compensate for or go through in turn affects another area even worse. That’s why so many people with back or neck problems actually had a pulled hamstring or a foot injury and never knew it.

The great news is that your riding technique is fully adjustable. By learning some tips to find and keep great riding technique, “biker back” will never be a worry for you.

Perfecting Riding Technique:

•    Flatten your back – Not everybody can lean all the way forward for a completely flat back, but you can flatten your back and practice on it being comfortable. You want to lean forward, with your hips rotating forward. Notice this is not the same as hunching over, which can lead to the dreaded “biker back”.

•    Keep your elbows bent – Your elbows should be bent as your arms maintain a solid position, without being locked into place. Your arms are your body’s shock absorbers when used properly and they should also be kept in a straight line with the rest of your body for proper riding technique.

•    Don’t move your shoulders – This doesn’t mean trying to not move at all, it means minimizing any movement from your upper body which is ultimately unnecessary. Swaying back and forth and constantly adjusting with your shoulders, or tricking yourself into thinking you’re moving faster by rocking with your body is all really just wasting precious energy.

•    Move your grip often – Gripping the same spot of your handlebars can lead to numbness in your hands, as can gripping too tightly. You want a tight, but not vice-grip lock on the handlebars, and you want to move your hands around them often to get comfortable and depending on the riding situation you’re in.

•    Keep your head up and straight – Keeping your head up does two things, it helps you stay alert to any impending dangers and also helps keep your neck and back aligned, preventing avoidable strain and discomfort. Repositioning your hands and arms can naturally keep your head and neck in a slightly different position, ensuring you don’t get stiff.

•    Get your feet aligned – You want the widest part of your feet to be centered with the pedal axle.

•    Move your butt – This isn’t a motivational slogan to get you peddling faster, but it can lead to that. By repositioning your body either forward or backward on the saddle, you can call different muscles into play, allowing others to rest. Moving forward brings in more of the quadriceps and moving backwards brings in more of the hamstrings.