October 2012

Bring the spring back into your step!

When walking, roll through the feet well to avoid tripping and have bounce.

The feet and ankles need to articulate to walk without straining the hips and back.

When stepping forward, the ankle has to flex so you can strike with the heel pad. Stretching the calves is essential to this movement.

Before taking the next step, you roll through the sole of the foot, in slight supination (outside of the foot) first, then in pronation (ball of the foot), pushing off the toes to bring the body forward. The movement requires stable ankles, flexible toes and arches. Refer to ‘my feet are killing me no more’.


  • When stepping forward, strike with the heel pad not the back of the heel.
  • Roll through the foot and push off with your toes to move forward.
  • Don’t lean forward; stay upright and tall.
  • Carry your head on top of your spine and relax your shoulders.
  • Be aware of your surroundings, gaze level with the horizon.
  • Allow your arms to swing, opposite leg and arm. Relax your hands. Swinging the arms rotate the spine slightly and keep it healthy.
  • Avoid wearing high heels. If you do, stretch your calves often.
  • Avoid walking with your hands in your pockets as it promotes slouching.


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On your bike!

To conclude, Nina Jackson recommends:


General riding tips

1.   Always make sure that your knees are directly over your toes – don’t allow them to slant inwards or outwards, as this is very bad for them.

2.  Always ‘zip up your core’ when cycling. This allows your core to take the strain and not your back and legs.  This is particularly important when going up hills or pedalling on a long, flat straight.

3.  Never grip hard on your handlebars.  Consciously try to relax your grip, again, particularly when going up or down hill.  This will alleviate strain to your neck, shoulders and upper back

4.   Using toe clips or straps makes pedalling much easier as they enable you to pull up as well as push down, and when you go over bumps your feet won’t bounce off the pedals.

5.   After a ride, especially a long one, always remember to stretch throughout your body.




If you are only cycling short distances to and from your home, specialist cycle clothing is not necessary, however high viz and helmets have to be recommended at all times.

If you are going further afield certain items of clothing will make all the difference to your comfort:

  • Padded shorts (they can be worn under trousers or track suit bottoms     but NEVER wear knickers under your padded shorts)
  • Padded gloves
  • Specialist cycle top
  • Breathable, windproof and waterproof jacket


I hope this basic information will help you find enjoyment from your bike and please feel free to contact me if you think I might be able to help you further.

You can find my contact details on www.celebratedcyclejourneys.co.uk

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The right gear

To get the best performance out of your bike it is essential that you know how to use your gears correctly.


Left hand gear leaver operates the triple front cog:

3 = highest resistance (for down hill and flats)

2 = middle resistance

1 = lowest resistance (for up hill)


Right hand gear leaver operates the small seven ring back cog

7 = highest resistance

1 = lowest resistance


i.e. if you are going up an extremely steep hill you will be in 1 on the front cog and 1 on the back cog and if you are going down hill or cruising along a flat stretch you will be in 3 on the front and anything between 5 and 7 on the back.


The best way to practice is to find a good flat stretch of tarmac and be in 2 on the front and then run through all the gears on the back.


When you are comfortable with this there are a few rules, which make the transition smoother and easier:


  1. Never put a strain on your chain whilst changing gear – i.e. if you are needing to push hard on your pedals you should ease off just for the moment that you change gear even if you are going up a hill.  If you don’t do this, the chain will jam or come off, or you may even break the derailleur – expensive and not repairable if you are out on a ride.

2.Always try to be in a middle back gear when changing up or down on the front triple cog.  The gear system doesn’t like it if you change through 1 to 3 or vice versa on the front cog when you are in 1 or 7 at the back.  Sometimes you have to quickly come out of 1 or 7 at the back before you can go up or down in the front.  If you don’t do this, your chain will lock and your pedals then won’t turn and you will probably fall off!

3. Always pre-empt the hill.  By that I mean change down before you hit the hill, especially on the left hand side (front triple).  If you don’t do this, you will almost certainly put strain on the chain whilst changing down during the climb and your chain will more than likely come off or jam – very important.

4. The purpose of gears is to make your life easier –you shouldn’t need to ‘labour’ on your bike – other than when going up a difficult hill. Pedalling should be easy so don’t be afraid to change down even if you are not on a hill.  Increasing your revolutions so that you are cycling in an easy, comfortable rhythm is best but not to the extent that you are ‘spinning’.

5. To cover the ground efficiently you should pedal continuously except when you are going down a steep hill when freewheeling is the only option – and a treat!

6. Remember to change down before you come to a halt as this will make it easier for you to make a quick start again – e.g. at traffic lights or road junctions – important in towns and cities.



You will find your own comfortable rhythm and quickly get the feel of what gear works for you best to give you maximum efficiency and speed in whatever situation.

Please feel free to contact me if you think I might be able to help you further.  You can find my contact details on www.celebratedcyclejourneys.co.uk

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About cycling



Before I begin, Murielle may call me a ‘bike pro’ but I am not – I am just mad about my bike! I have pedalled my way around many corners of the globe, and closer to home, discovered a secret landscape, both rural and urban, often from my front door here in Barnes, that without my two wheels (and the help of an OS map) I would never have known existed.


The very small cycle holiday company which I run gives me the opportunity to share many of my favourite destinations and routes with others, and at the same time allows me to encourage some less enthusiastic people to discover the joys of pedal power – and they always come back for more!  www.celebratedcyclejourneys.co.uk


Not everyone finds riding a bike so easy, or comfortable, and for those people, I hope I can persuade you, too, that cycling is a most liberating way to get around and it really is worth trying to overcome this barrier.


There are a few elementary tips that, if followed, will undoubtedly make life easier and more comfortable on the saddle.  Painful knees, aching backs and sore bottoms etc. should not be a feature of this wonderful pastime, and it is a myth to think that cycling will make your condition worse.  On the contrary, if your bike is set up correctly, and you cycle in a good position, it is good, and often healing, for knees and backs, and certainly the mind, and a sore bottom should not be an issue!


Remembering that different types of bikes have very different riding positions and techniques, the following basic guidelines are aimed at gentle, leisure riding on a hybrid (commuting) bike, or mountain bike.


Suggested bike frame


Rider Height        Suggested Frame Size
Feet    Cm        Inches   Cm  Size
4’10–5’1    147 – 155       13 – 14   47 – 49   XS
5’1–5’5    155 – 165       15 – 16   50 – 52   S
5’5–5’9    165 – 175       17 – 18   53 – 54   M
5’9–6’0    175 – 183       19 – 20   55 – 57   L
6’–6’3    183 – 191       21 – 22   58 – 61   XL




A saddle too low is the most common fault. This puts enormous pressure on the knees and thigh muscles, and makes it much harder to push the pedals.

To achieve the correct height, sit on the saddle, making sure your hips are level, and allow one leg to hang free. Your other heel should just reach the pedal at the bottom of the rotation. (This means that you will have to come off your saddle before you stop and put your foot down on the ground).

When pedalling, don’t allow your hips to rock from side to side. If they do, it means that your saddle is too high and it will push you onto the narrow part of the saddle, which will be uncomfortable and have the same effect as if it is tilted downwards (see *below). This will eventually put strain on your hips and mean that you are riding on your toes. If this happens, lower/adjust your saddle as suggested above.


The tilt of your saddle will be personal to you but generally it should be parallel to the ground. *If the nose is tilted down too much it will slide you onto the narrower part of the saddle, a movement which tends to be countered in the hands, putting strain on your arms and shoulders.  If it is tilting up too much you will feel it in your genital area.


Ladies – Don’t be persuaded that a big ‘arm-chair’ saddle will be comfortable. It won’t. The less there is between your legs the better!  There are some great padded saddles available with a hole positioned to alleviate pressure in just the right place!



The height and the reach of the handlebars is more difficult to determine and the emphasis should be on comfort, but a good guide is for the bar to be the same height, or an inch below the saddle with the longest reach. To achieve the correct reach you may need to move your saddle backwards (or forwards). This position allows more power when standing or accelerating.


NB: if your bicycle is set up very different to that suggested above make the changes gradually.  You will take a while to get used to, and have confidence in a different riding position, especially if you are used to being able to put your foot on the ground when you stop whilst remaining seated.  Your muscles will also need to get used to a different riding position. Stick with it though – you won’t believe the difference!

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