Beyond the Position
Enhancing the body before achieving correct bike position can set you on the road to a higher performing experience.
Dr David Stapleton and Dr Billy Chow look at how enhancing the body through aspects such as spinal alignment before achieving correct bike position can set you on the road to an infinitely more comfortable, injury free and higher performing cycling experience.
Lately we’ve been reading so much on how to achieve the correct bike set-up that we find it all a bit confusing if not sometimes, a bit daunting. Whether it’s on the net, other cycling magazines or hard-back cycling ‘manuals’ there seems to be volumes written about what you need to do to be totally comfortable on the bike in an effort to maximise performance.
It would however, appear that everyone, no matter who and what their background, seemingly has an opinion and while the proffered solutions are very much a ‘variation on a theme’ it seems that most of the remedial action is frustratingly uni-dimentional with a focus primarily on the mechanical. You know, take the saddle up here, extend the stem there, measure this and apply that.
Admittedly there’s no question that this is all very much part and parcel of a proper bike set-up of which we heartily endorse and recommend to everyone, not just the serious cyclist.
Two to Tango
It’s never our intention to become controversial, in fact far from it. We’ve been doing this for far too long for any nonsense, but the reality is this; cycling requires two players. Yes, you and the bike, and like car and driver, instrument and orchestra they both need to be tuned to compliment each other.
Given that once your bike has all the tricks, the carbon additions the ‘you-beaut’ wheels etc, you get to the point of ‘improvement impossible’. That is, your bike has now reached its’ maximum potential, which means that it now leaves you as the weakest link.
It’s well known that a poor fit on the bike consequently leads to skeletal imbalance which in turn, will ultimately create symptoms all their own. Proper positioning on the bike should have the rider’s weight evenly distributed over the saddle, pedals and handlebars so that the entire skeletal structure bears the weight instead of a few muscles of the back and arms.
Commonly, riders experience a wide range of debilitating problems such as low back pain, paraesthesia or pins and needles to the legs, upper body and neck, together with shoulder and forearm pain, just to name a few. It’s fair to say that over the years we’ve seen a huge range of musculo-skeletal complexities ranging from premature bony degeneration, debilitating knee problems to serious compensation of the larger muscle groups especially throughout the upper torso.
All of these ultimately result in loss of power, premature fatigue, and the generation of new injuries and, without a doubt, the exacerbation of old ones. Remember too, that while it’s vital to feel comfortable on the bike it’s also about maximising performance as well. Just as an example, we know that a proper fit is very likely to increase the economy of oxygen consumption.
In fact, research from an Olympic Training Centre in the USA tested elite juniors before and after they were positioned properly on their bikes and concluded that a proper fit reduced their average oxygen consumption by between 8 to 14% at a given workload.
Never underestimate your body’s intelligence and the power of your brain in its ability to ‘rob Peter to pay Paul’ in terms of muscular and bio-mechanical compensation. It will do that without you even knowing about it until such time as the rot sets in and suddenly you have pain.