Cycling’s great, you just hop on a bike and ride, right? Well, yes… and no. True, cycling is a truly liberating experience and much of its joy stems from its simplicity. However, there are a few essential gear tweaks that won’t cost a penny but will raise comfort, decrease the chances of injury and heighten your enjoyment on two wheels.
Getting these simple settings right can also overcome common ‘barriers to entry’ for would-be cyclists who have been put off by uncomfortable and inefficient riding positions – so this is an easy way to get friends and family on a bike, or /back/ on a bike.
Platform for success
Whatever bike you ride – and there’ll be plenty to choose from, be it fixed, roadsters or hybrids on Spin’s test track – you have three contact points: the saddle, bars and pedals. And again, whatever your bike of choice, saddle position can significantly impact your ride.
But you can lay the foundations for your cycling success with these two saddle must-dos…
1 Saddle height
Get a friend – one that you trust! – to hold your bike while you sit on the saddle and place the balls of your feet on the pedals. With the pedal at the bottom of the pedal stroke (six o’clock), there should be a slight kink in your knee. Loosen the seatpost clamp and adjust height to suit.
2 Fore-and-aft adjustment
This is the term for the saddle’s movement backwards and forwards. Again, with a friend holding your bike, rotate the pedals until they’re in a horizontal position (three and nine o’clock). With the balls of your feet on the pedals, the knee of your front leg should be directly above the pedal. If it’s not, loosen the fasteners and slide the saddle forwards or backwards on its rails until it’s right. Keep the saddle horizontal.
Bars and brakes
After you’ve adjusted with your saddle, the next most important thing is to get the bars to the correct height. If you’re riding a drop-bar road bike, like those beautiful steeds forged by Cinelli, your torso should be leaning forwards and, with your hands on top of the bars, there should be a slight bend in your elbows. Height adjustment is achieved by re-positioning spacers under and above the stem. As for reach, you shouldn’t feel stretched out or cramped up. If you’re too squeezed, you may need a longer stem, though you can achieve some effective reach adjustment via the fore-and-aft technique above (so long as you’re not inadvertently making that part of fitting incorrect).
With flat or riser bars, like you’d often find on town bikes or some fixed efforts from lauded frame-makers like Mic Bikes, you’ll naturally be in a more upright position. What’s of more interest when it comes to ‘flat’ handlebars is brake-lever position. You’ll discover that the default position for the brake-lever clamp during assembly is often butted up against the grip. This typically reduces both comfort and control. Instead, aim for around 25-40mm of empty bar between grips and the lever clamp, depending on the size of your grips, of course. This will create the most comfort and best performance whatever type of brake you’re using.
You might also go for bike bar ends to give you an alternative hand position. These are suitable for mountain bike and hybrids, in particular. Just ensure you fit them correctly. Their ideal angle is around 5 to 15° from the horizontal (experiment with these angles to discover what feels right for you), which gives you a proficient position to grab onto if climbing or eeking out those extra watts out of the saddle. Set them too high and pointing in the air and you’ll discover they’re near impossible to use.
There are some great professional bike-fitters out there who’ll calibrate your new cycling position via sensors, video feedback and pressure pads. But as you can see, a few simple adjustments to your bike and the ones you’ll unleash around the Spin test track, and you’ll hit the summer cycling season chasing the shirt-tails of Froome and co (well, you’ll get a little closer!).