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Bike Fit and Safe Cycling Tips

August 10, 2015

Company founder and League of American Bicyclist Instructor Rick Price and nationally recognized fitness expert Joe Friel have some tips for getting the perfect bike fit and how to stay safe on your bike!

The Right Bicycle Fit

We know how important bike fit is when you are spending day after day pedaling. But what does a “good bike fit” mean? Here are some tips:

  1. The saddle is properly raised so you get enough leg extension for maximum efficiency. When your seat is too low you don’t get good extension which can put undue stress on your knees. This is often something we see with inexperienced riders or for those cyclists coming back to the bike after many years.
  2. The saddle is correctly positioned front to back with the correct tilt. If you find your hands getting numb, for example, tilting the seat slightly can change that. Alternatively, sliding the seat forward a little will allow you to sit more upright, taking pressure off your hands, wrists and shoulders.
  3. Selecting the correct saddle for your anatomy. Seat comfort varies with everyone’s individual anatomy. If you have had problems with uncomfortable seats in the past and finally found one you like, bring it along whenever you can!

Efficiency and Safety

Falls are often caused by losing control of your bike.  Cornering, turning and descending are when we most often see cyclists lose control of their bike.  Here are some ideas on how to avoid these types of crashes:

  1. Avoid applying the brakes in a turn. Instead, control your speed as you go into the turn by braking before the turn. The goal is to lean your bike and complete the turn without breaking.
  2. Quit pedaling in the turn. Pedaling, especially on a sharp turn, can cause the down stroke to hit the pavement, causing a crash. This can happen both on the flat in a simple 90-degree turn or on a downhill where the road curves as it descends.
  3. When descending your “inside” pedal should be up while your “outside” pedal is down. Shift your weight off the saddle so that as much weight as possible is on the down pedal. Another way to think about this, if you are coasting through a right hand curve in the road, stop pedaling and put your right pedal up with all your weight on the left pedal. When the turn shifts to a left hand turn shift your weight to the right pedal, which should be down while the left pedal is up.
  4. Watch for debris on the road especially sand, gravel, and leaves or even water. These things can cause you to skid and crash.

Keep your eye on the road ahead, especially while descending, but also as you turn on the flat. Watch for potholes, debris, pedestrians, and unpredictable dogs!

Pedaling and Cadence
We often see people on the bike path at home pushing as hard as they can on the pedals. There is a common misunderstanding that the more you push, the better the workout. In fact, pushing a hard gear is very hard on your knees and it is difficult to keep up day after day over a long ride. You are better off if you spin the pedals in an easier gear while keeping a pedaling cadence of 80-85 revolutions per minute. This gives you a good aerobic workout while developing efficient cycling skills.

So on the flat, the rule of thumb is to keep a cadence of 80 rpms or even higher. As you climb, shift to a lower gear as the climb begins and continue shifting to try to keep your rhythm at 80 rpms or slightly lower.

The “mantra” that racers use for this technique is “spin to win,” since they know that the rider who spins will last longer than the rider who pushes a bigger gear.

Pedaling a bike seems simple, but doing it efficiently takes practice. It also involves proper saddle height so you get just the right leg extension. Stand on one foot and let your other leg “dangle” naturally. The slight bend in that leg shows you where your proper extension is when pedaling on your bike.

Most importantly – have fun on your bike!