- 4 October 2012
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|
|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!