When Should You Revisit Your Bike Set-Up?
Often! Are you nursing an injury? Recovering from surgery? Have you lost or gained weight or mobility? Maybe you’re not making the progress you expect toward your goals. Or have you been cross-training and gained strength? All of these scenarios indicate you may benefit from re-visiting your bike set-up. Similar to medical and dental check-ups where you see a trusted expert for an update, your bike set-up is worth using a knowledgeable professional for some individual guidance especially if it’s been awhile since your last check-up.
Is Proper Set-Up Really that Important?
Set-up is everything. Whether you’re on a bike, using suspension straps or swinging a kettlebell, set-up prepares your body to execute a movement safely, efficiently and powerfully. Done right, it fires up the small intrinsic stabilizer and anticipatory muscles to create a solid base for the big extrinsic ‘mover and shaker’ muscles to generate serious work. Watch our videos on proper bike set-up for details on how to get set-up.
Once you’re set up correctly, you’re positioned to excel.
Andy Pruitt, one of the world’s foremost bike fit experts, said cycling involves a “highly adaptable human body and a semi-adjustable mechanical device. The common denominator of riders who enjoy and excel at cycling is an effective position”. In other words, form determines function. The way you connect your body to the bike determines enjoyment and excellence.
Sweet Spot = Comfort
So…once you’re set up correctly, the key to comfort and performance is to stay perched on your sitting bones versus flesh, i.e. perineum or backside. Throughout cycling class, it’s easy to slide forward without realizing you’ve shifted. Make it a habit to continually tune-in to where your sitting bones are, and you’ll not only be comfortable, but you’ll learn how to align your hips and spine using some of the deepest critical core muscles you own. Why? When you’re set-up correctly, form follows. Your spine is basically a slave to your pelvis. If you have good hip alignment, your spine will naturally rise, allowing your shoulders to have the necessary support to relax and therefore, your hands to rest softly on the handlebars.
And don’t be afraid to take a break and sit up. A periodic body break is a good idea for all riders to release the forward flexed position.
Comfort = Efficiency
Comfort involves consistently looking for unnecessary effort and figuring out how to move around to become more efficient. The way you connect to the bike and turn the pedals dictates which muscles are getting stronger and which energy system you are overloading. When you are uncomfortable on the bike, it’s nearly impossible to train your body to do challenging work. It can also be counterproductive, actually causing you to de-train your muscles. Conversely, proper set-up should feel comfortable (as comfortable as one can get on a saddle!) and enable optimal performance.
That said, if you are a new rider, chances are you’re going to experience mild to moderate discomfort for about six to ten rides. You might even develop saddle soreness. Saddle soreness is different than an uncomfortable, incorrect bike set-up. Saddle sores are skin irritations that can develop where you are in contact with the saddle. They are typically caused by chafing, sweating and ill-fitting or too-bulky cycling shorts. It takes time to figure out what the best cycling wear is for you and how to sit right in the saddle, but it’s well worth the wait.
Periodically re-visiting set-up and re-evaluating form is key to continued success. The more you ride, the more important it is to stay tuned-in to your bike set-up. The training principle of adaptation refers to the body becoming accustomed to a particular exercise, movement or training program through repeated exposure. The human body is highly adaptable. Cycling is highly repetitive. Muscles are mindless movers.Excellence and progress occurs when you put your mind in your muscles – and it all starts with proper bike set-up!
Stay safe, stay smart and Stay Awesome!