5 Tips on Proper Cycling Form

Monday, January 23, 2012 | By Ben Greenfield
 
 
 
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Do you ever think about how you’re sitting on your bike when you’re riding? How are you gripping the handlebars or pressing against the pedals? Do you let your butt just go where it wants in the saddle, let your arms just “hold on”, and only think about making your feet go around? If so, you can probably benefit from working on proper cycling form. After all, does a race car driver just push the gas pedal, lean back, and casually steer around the track? While this might make for a relaxing afternoon drive, it won't get good results on the race track. Cycling is no different.

With proper cycling form, you can ride your bike more efficiently, ride your bike faster, and ride your bike with less elbow, hand, neck, knee, lower back or butt pain. From toes to head (literally), here are five tips on proper cycling form.

Pedal In Squares

Yes, I know your feet are actually moving in circles, but when you think in squares, you’ll improve your pedaling efficiency. Push your foot forward along the top of the square, and then down against the front side of the square. Next, scrape the bottom of the square and then pull up the backside of the square.

Don't Go Gumbi

If you watch many cyclists from the front, their knees go in or out at the top of the pedal stroke. This is somewhat normal, but excessive movement that looks like Gumbi riding a bike often indicates very tight inner thigh muscles, a tight IT band (the band of tissue that runs down the outside of the leg), and a weak butt. Focus on range of motion in the legs and core and hip strengthening, and you’ll be able to have a more efficient pedal stroke with less side-to-side knee movement.

Listen to Your Mother

Listen to what your mother said and don’t slouch – especially not on the bike. While it's fine to be leaning forward with a curved back, you should not be letting your pelvis “slouch” in the saddle, which restricts activation of your cycling muscles.  Especially if you’re riding in the aero position, you should learn to rotate the hips forward, or "push the butt back" while riding. This pelvic “tuck” is similar to what you’d feel if you were doing a front plank exercise in the gym.

No White Knuckles

Unless you’re in a dead sprint, don’t hold your handlebars in a death grip. Instead, hold the handlebars (or aerobars) with a light relaxed grip, which will save energy, slightly lower blood pressure, and keep you from feeling too tight and stressed on the bike. It’s a small adjustment, but can make a big difference in your comfort during long rides and events, which will ultimately improve your performance.

Pay Attention 

This is probably the most important part of proper cycling form. Just as you wouldn't simply let your mind wander when swimming or running (unless you don't mind your speed and efficiency slipping), you shouldn’t lose focus while cycling either. Be sure to enjoy yourself, but don’t use it as an excuse to aimlessly push the pedals. Your race splits will thank you!

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