Sitting comfortably? Then we’ll begin. Or rather there really isn’t any need because if you aren’t finding cycling a pain in the backside, then you’ve got at least one aspect of the process spot on: your saddle.
Your behind is the fulcrum of the cycling action, supporting the upper body and providing a solid base for the hips and thighs to perform to the maximum. So treat it with care because feeling saddle sore isn’t the preserve of cowboys.
First of all, ensure that your seat post is of the correct length for your height – legs that are stretching to meet the pedals or are cramped up because they are too near are not going to get you very far.
Raise or lower the seat post a few millimetres at a time until you feel completely comfortable with both your position and your resulting cycling action.
Needless to say, there are a number of injuries that can result from getting all of this wrong, so make sure you get it right. If in doubt, seek the advice of the local cycling shop or a local club member.
Once you are sitting comfortably, think about the tilt of your saddle. Many riders are perfectly happy with the upright position of their body that a level saddle affords.
The back is straight and supported while the road ahead is, quite literally, right in front of your eyes. A more laidback approach is afforded by a slight backwards tilt. This has the added advantage of taking some of the weight of your body away from the arms.
The opposite approach is the forward tilt, which some riders prefer because it reduces some of the pressure of the saddle on the groin area.
The saddle can also be shifted backwards and forward horizontally in order to adjust the distance to the handlebars. As ever, the golden rule is to settle on what you feel completely comfortable with.
Don’t, for example, shift the saddle too far back as this will put strain on the arms and wrists, resulting initially in discomfort and, as a consequence, possible injury.
It should go without saying that whatever adjustments you make, ensure that all nuts and bolts are securely tightened before getting back in the saddle.
In similar fashion to a preference for a level saddle, higher handle bars mean a level back and a wide field of vision. However if you want a more aerodynamic approach, lowering them will bring the body forward and the head down.
But ensure this is not putting too much strain on your back. All these adjustments are made via the handlebar stem, and as with the saddle, securely tighten it after any adjustment.
As a general rule, handlebar width should allow you to take hold of the grips with each hand in line with the corresponding shoulder.
There may be the temptation to opt for a narrower position because it affords a greater “feel” for the front wheel, but as a consequence your upper arms will cramp in on the sides of your chest, resulting in inefficient breathing.