When I had a professional bike fit a while back, the fitter kept pushing down on my back with a curt, “Flatten out!” I’d respond with something about old habits taking a while to choke out, and promise to branch out into yoga or something. I still have to remind myself, when I’m getting tired in the saddle, to flatten out my back and bend at the hips. I’m not alone in this bad habit, and many folks who have a difficult time finding a comfortable saddle may discover that it’s actually their cycling posture that’s causing them pain. Here are a few tips to make sure you’re riding right, and avoiding the pain.
ROLL YOUR PELVIS: Keep your back long and straight by leaning forward at your hips, not your waist. If you bend at the waist, you’ll not only find your lung capacity restricted, but your sit bones won’t properly contact the saddle. In order for you to know whether or not your saddle fits properly, you’ve got to have the most contact with the sit bones, otherwise no saddle will fit comfortably, and you’ll find yourself scooting forward to relieve the pressure.
If you round your back or hunch, you’ll also pretty much cut off the strongest muscles you have–the gluteals. Keep your hips bent, back straight, and drive with your rear-end! Well, you know what I mean.
ARMS BENT: Bending at your back will also force you to stretch your arms in order to reach the hoods properly. You want a nice, slight bend in your arms that can act as shock absorbers, and give you plenty of relaxed control.
STANDING: When you get out of the saddle to climb, make sure that you’re still engaging your gluteals by keeping your rear end over the saddle slightly–in other words, carry the same form as when you were sitting on the bike, bend at the pelvis, in order to keep your chest open, and back straight.
CONSIDER A FITTER: It’s always important that you’re properly fit to your bike. If you’re experiencing pain in any areas, it’s definitely worth it to get a professional fitter to get you set up properly. For only about $150 or so (at my local fitter www.foothillcyclery.com, your closest professional may charge more or less) you’ll get a detailed set up. If you’re interested in getting a comprehensive, professional fit, read my blog post detailing my experience.
Although there’s not much to it here, keeping these few ideas in mind will make sure you’re riding the correct saddle. It’s not rocket science, but the key is finding a way to equalize pressure on all three of your points of contact: handlebar, pedals, and saddle.
This post is paired with my review of new pressure point technology developed recently to diagnose saddle pain problems. Check out that post for more information on bike fitters who are implementing this cool new machine–and creating saddles customized for you.