Check Your Position
Before you bump up your training miles, it’s a good idea to check that your bike’s a good fit. You can’t beat a pro bike fit (Evans offers a full bike fit service at its London Waterloo and Guildford stores ond offers a 'Bike Size It' service at every store) but there are checks you can do at home, as bike-fit expert Phil Cavell explains.
Saddle up or down
Saddle height and knee extension – an objective measure of how bent your legs are at the bottom of the pedal stroke – are intrinsically linked to hamstring length. The more hamstring length you have available – in other words, the more flexible you are – the higher the saddle height you can tolerate before you cease to be ‘functional. This is when your pedalling economy and force production drop, or you start to experience pain.
Touch Your Toes
To assess hamstring length do a ‘straight leg toe touch’. Stand with your arms crossed and bend at the waist. When you reach your comfort limit, drop your arms. If you only reach your knees, knee extension could be inhibited at higher saddle heights, so use a lower height relative to someone with more flexibility. A saddle height giving a knee extension of 140-145 degrees, with the heel lifted 15 degrees from horizontal, would be preferable.
Angle of dangle
If you have the hamstring length – the flexibility – to put your palms on the floor during this test, you’re likely to be able to tolerate a saddle height that results in 145-150 degrees of knee extension, creating a longer and potentially more forceful down-stroke. If saddle height exceeds your flexibility, the muscle simply ‘switches off’ reducing the effectiveness of your pedalling.
Reach for the bar
Hamstring length also affects your ideal ‘drop’ and ‘reach’ of the handlebar relative to the saddle. If the bar is too low, or too far away from you, relative to your hamstring flexibility, the action of the powerful gluteal muscles is compromised. A big drop and long reach als requires functional core strength 0 the capacity to hold your trunk stable with good spine posture to improve comfort, breathing and muscle action.
To start with, set your bike up with a drop of 5cm from the top of the saddle to the top of the bar. For an idea of functional core strength, time yourself in the plank position – it’s like the press-up position except you’re propped up on your elbows and forearms. For every minute you can hold it without shaking, remove a headset space to drop your handlebar by 1cm. If you can’t manage holding the plank for a minute, consider raising your bar further.
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