In order for a bike to perform to the maximum it is essential that its rider is focused in both mind and body. A state that is sometimes referred to as being in tune with the machine.
So just as tennis players speak of their racket being an extension of their arm, the cyclist has to become an integral component in the forward momentum of the pedals and the smooth manoeuvring of the handlebars.
In order to achieve this perfect interaction between man and machine, the former must feel both relaxed and comfortable. Poor posture resulting in pain from one or more areas of the body is going to remove clarity from the mind and impair both rhythm and judgment.
This, in turn, can result in a rider coming to earth with a bump. Definitely not what the doctor ordered. It doesn’t do much for your dignity, either
Like a Torpedo
Posture is dictated in part by what the rider is attempting to achieve. A more aerodynamic body shape, the back arching forward and head down like a torpedo, is utilised by road racers to increase their speed.
For a wider field of vision, for example when negotiating rough terrain, the back is more upright and the head is raised. For those in search of a more sedate pace and the widest field of vision possible, then a straight back with the weight of the body removed from the arms is the answer.
All the above body positions rely on the correct alignment of both the saddle and handlebars. More fundamentally, the bike has to be the right size. Without such “tailoring”, posture is guaranteed to suffer whatever adjustments are made to body shape.
Is it possible to know when good posture has been achieved? Well, the most reliable measure is whether a rider feels completely comfortable. Their neck feels loose, arms nice and light, hands firm on the bars without exhibiting “white knuckle” and the legs and ankles relaxed and rhythmic? Sound like a rider in good shape.
Good, relaxed posture will aid performance because the bike will be able to handle the road surface easier if the body is working with it, absorbing the dips and bumps both horizontally and vertically, rather than acting as a rigid weight working against rather than towards smooth progress.
If comfort is the best guide as to whether good posture has been achieved, it is also an idea to employ another set of eyes, in the form of a friend or cycle club member.
Their perspective may be able to pinpoint aspects of the riding profile that could be improved. Sometimes, just the smallest adjustment can bring big dividends. Don’t think you know it all; fellow cyclists are indeed a valuable source of advice.
Finally a word on a few exercises for improving posture, concentrating on the back and stomach areas. These are vital points of support for the cyclist so following a small programme of weights either in the gym or at home will be of benefit in improving your central “core”. This, in turn, will reduce tension; relax the chest area, resulting in better breathing.