‘Buying the fastest bike in the shop’ is a common and very expensive mistake for first-time road bike buyers, though some seasoned cyclists looking for an upgrade might fall into this trap too. Most of the time, spending top dollar on top bike does not necessarily bring the best to your performance if the frame geometry is not well matched to your natural cycling posture. In this article, we will explore in detail the factors that should be considered while on a search for a bike that you can best perform with.
Posture & Performance
As most of us know, a well fitted bicycle helps maintain a comfortable cycling posture that allows consistent performance along the journey, and time saving can be achieved without the need for frequent resting stops to stretch out sore and painful muscles. The key influence to our body’s cycling posture is our cycling capability.
Cycling Capability – Pedaling Effort
As cycling movements are dynamic, our body naturally adjusts its weight distribution between contact points to maintain body balance while we pedal. A portion of body weight will be taken up by the legs when we crank, and remainder of it distributed through upper body onto saddle and handlebar.
When a heavier gear pedaling effort is being practiced, a larger portion of body weight is distributed to the pedals, which in turn relaxes upper torso by bearing less weight burden. This heavier gear pedaling method is the most efficient as body weight is used for propelling the bike, and leads to a lower lean angle that’s commonly associated with road biking.
Other the other hand, spinning with lighter gears will naturally straighten the body into a more upright posture as pelvis bears more weight, which is common for beginners, leisure cyclists or simply cyclists who are too exhausted to maintain a consistent pedaling effort. This brings us to next part of cycling capability – which is effort sustainability.
Cycling Capability - Effort Sustainability
Cycling beyond usual training distances, cycling too fast or pedaling too heavily early in a long distance ride are the culprits to discomforts that emerge when the miles build up. Why is it so?
Imagine yourself as a bucket of water with a faucet tap attached to the side. The bucket size is your endurance level and amount of water flowing out of the faucet will be your pedaling effort. On normal days when you train, your fitness level will improve. The further your ride, the better your endurance level become, basically expanding the bucket size. If you practice strength based training by pedaling heavier gears, you’ll increase capability for higher pedaling effort, just like changing to bigger faucet to allow more water flow when you need it.
Keeping a consistent pedaling effort across the distance you intend to ride is simply controlling how much water is released through the faucet. Cycling too fast or pedaling too heavily early in a long ride is basically letting more water out from the faucet and draining the bucket in a faster rate, emptying it early before you reach the end of the ride.
What happens when the bucket dries up? There will be no water flowing out of the faucet, similarly your legs will be out of energy and become too tired to pedal, and possibility of having leg cramps when continuing to cycle forcefully.
How will this affect body posture? Without strength to uphold body weight at the legs, we will naturally resort to spinning lighter gears and transition to upright posture. The more tired your legs are, the more upright your posture will be. When upper torso gets so upright that the saddle and handlebar are beyond your natural reach, holding onto them simply overstretches the limbs and causes discomforts, numbness and pains at the lower-back, shoulders and arms.
Hence, performance itself is not measured by how strong the legs are, rather it should include one's capability in maintaining a consistent pedaling effort that allows minimum change in body posture across the ride journey.
In this first part of a series of articles looking into getting a bike frame that would bring the best performance out of your cycling, we address how cycling capability affects your natural posture during rides.
In the next issue, we will look into how positioning of contact points affects your posture and how to differentiate bike frame designs that would fit you best to gain maximum performance from it.
*Written by Chuah of Little Rock BikeFit Studio. First published in Cycling Malaysia Magazine as article contribution.
Contact: Chuah +60122324868