Tip of the Month – May

Recreational cycling

The following information is tips to help you better position your body to maintain an optimal posture while biking. Adjusting your body’s position on your bike is important to reduce discomfort and possibly prevent injury. Making a few corrections to your bike may also help to improve your performance and speed. Physical therapist can evaluate how your body is positioned, and help offer you suggestions to improve your posture on the bike. Also if adjustments need to be made to your bike and you are unsure how to perform them, you can take it to the local bike shop for help.

The seat of the bike needs to be in a level position. If the seat is tilted too far forward more pressure will be on your arms and hands. In retrospect if it’s tilted backwards undue pressure may be placed on your back.

Correct handlebar positioning is important for braking and taking corners safely. Ideally the handlebars need to be a comfortable distance away, and the width of your hands should be slightly wider then your shoulders. Your elbows should be slightly bent, not locked or straight, so they can act as shock absorbers. The higher the handlebars the more pressure will be on the seat, potentially causing saddle sores. Improper handlebar positioning can result in neck, shoulder, and hand pain.

Physical therapists can measure the knee to pedal angle. Ideally the angle should be between 35-40 degrees, which will place less stress on your knee. As you pedal your knee should be slightly flexed at the bottom of the pedal stroke. The ball of your foot should be over the middle of the pedal for the best control and comfort. You should be flexed at your trunk about 40-80 degrees from the horizontal.

Postural adjustments while you are riding include changing the position of your hands on the handlebars frequently, and keeping a relaxed yet controlled grip of the handlebars. Also avoid rocking your hips while you pedal, if this is occurring your seat may be too high.

Stretching is important prior to biking especially for your hamstrings, quadriceps, and glut muscles as they generate a majority of the force.

Common complaints of bicyclists:

  1. Neck pain – can result from low handlebars, too great or too short of a reach, or a seat that is tilted downward
  1. Knee pain – seat positioned too low, muscle imbalance in your legs
  2. Low back pain – poor back strength, improper handlebar position, poor hamstring flexibility
  3. Hand pain/numbness – misaligned brake levers or a seat that is tilted downward
  4. Foot pain/numbness—shoes are too soft-soled

For more information: