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Old 05-16-13, 09:32 PM   #1
KL66
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seat position

I am in my third year of road biking as an alternative workout. This year I conquered my fear of clips and really enjoy them and feel dumb that I waited so long. My question is, I know the height of the seat has an affect on how much you push vs. pull. As a new clip user I need to strengthen the muscles to pull and learn to consistently pull, I'm use to pushing so much, especially up hill, so I try to think about pulling. So how does the height of the seat affect which muscles are used more and or less? Any advise would be appreciated. Thanks

Last edited by KL66; 05-16-13 at 09:34 PM. Reason: more info
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Old 05-17-13, 04:32 AM   #2
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If your seat is low, you will use the quads more and put pressure on the knee. It might also cause you to drop your heal working the top of the calf too (which may cause pain behind the knee). A seat that is too high will cause you to reach, point the toes, rock the hips and work the hamstrings and hip flexors more. Make small adjustments over time to find the right height.

I'm not sure pulling up is the right way to think about the pedal stroke. If you pull up too much, over time the hamstrings will cramp. I tend to try to smooth out the spin by pushing forward over the top and scraping back at the bottom. Really the best way to work the pedal stroke is to do spin ups. Start at 30 sec and spin as fast as you can in a very easy gear on flat ground. Try not to bounce. Can you do 120 rpm? 140? Work up to 3 min reps with equal rest. Training at high rpm will make your spin super smooth at 90 rpm.
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Old 05-19-13, 05:36 PM   #3
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Thank you, that is the type of information I need to hear and think about my spin. I raised my seat a lot and obviously got a different leg workout. I lowered it halfway from the original position and it is more comfortable. I like your suggestion of training at high reps. Lots of up and down in Pittsburgh, I may need to o to the track to experiment. Thanks BikeWNC
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Old 05-19-13, 06:35 PM   #4
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From what I've heard from others, the best way to think of "pulling up" is to imagine trying to hit your handlebars with your kneecaps. I combine that with imagining that I'm trying to kick my own buttocks with the heels of my feet, and "kicking out" at the top of the stroke. I think the real trick to pedaling sustainably, is not to put too much effort into any part of the pedaling. Rather, concentrate on keeping cadence without applying noticeable force at any part of the stroke, as if you were pedaling your feet in the air.

I have to do it this way myself, because if I concentrate on the pedal stroke, I always suffer from "cadence creep" where I suddenly find that my pedals are going 'round faster than my feet can keep up with. I end up in too high a gear ratio, and end up "mashing" just to maintain my pace. If I concentrate on my cadence instead, everything else sorts itself out.
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Old 05-19-13, 08:35 PM   #5
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A good way to determine proper saddle height is to put your bike on a trainer. Pedal for awhile, and then stop when your crank is parallel to the seat tube or the 6 o'clock position. The angle of your leg at the knee should be about 155 degrees, or 25 degrees form the vertical. Fine tune it a mm at a time from there.

Another suggestion to smooth out your pedal stroke is to pedal one legged. While the bike is on the trainer, unclip one foot and put it on a stool or chair pulled close enough to the bike to reach. put your free leg on it and pedal away. This is also a good exercise to determine if one leg is weaker than the other. Sometimes at the gym I'll use one of the spin bikes to exercise my weaker (injured in an accident) leg. This forces it to work and not just be along for the ride.
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Old 05-20-13, 05:49 AM   #6
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If you can ride rollers you will find that they are excellent for smoothing out your pedaling.
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Old 05-20-13, 05:53 AM   #7
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^^^, +1 Bruce, this was true for me in the late 70's, worked out very well. It will also tell you if your bike fit (seat height, et al,) set up is correct too.

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Old 05-20-13, 08:36 AM   #8
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^^^, +1 Bruce, this was true for me in the late 70's, worked out very well. It will also tell you if your bike fit (seat height, et al,) set up is correct too.

Bill
When I got into cycling in the early '80s I knew nothing about the sport. I concluded early on that I needed a coach to help me learn the basics. This after reading a Greg LeMond book and some others. Since that was not going to happen I decided that the rollers would be my "coach." Never regretted it.
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Old 05-20-13, 09:30 AM   #9
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Just ride more - everything will eventually sort itself out, you will pedal efficiently and you won't think about it. The best thing to help with form is to find someone else with really good form and ride behind that person. People don't have to be fast or strong to have beautiful, efficient form. I rode with a 60'ish woman a couple times who had the smoothest pedaling form I've ever seen.

Using rollers for the first time if you're over 50 is unlikely, but they would certainly help with your form. Next winter, try to ride a trainer or spin bike (or rollers) in front of a large mirror and focus on your form. Minimal upper body movement forces you to develop the overall muscle support that results in smooth pedal movement. Rollers enforce good form through physics, but you can accomplish the same thing on a fixed cycling platform if you have visual feedback.

Core exercises also help with control, especially when climbing.
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Old 05-20-13, 09:38 AM   #10
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Using rollers for the first time if you're over 50 is unlikely...
Oh, I don't know. I never used them when I was a kid, but bought a set after returning to cycling. i was certainly a few years past 50 when I first used them, and as you say, they do promote smoothness.

OP, remember saddle position is not just about height, but about how you adjust it fore and aft. If you move the saddle forward, you'll need to raise it slightly to retain the same distance between saddle and bottom bracket. Move it back - the opposite. Some people like to sit well behind the bottom bracket, others prefer a more neutral position. Tinker around with things until you find what suits you.
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Old 05-21-13, 05:55 AM   #11
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There is that magic moment when you are surging forward with legs revolving fluidly and torso perfectly still. It is a beautiful thing. Until you go back to rocking your body and shoulders like any other straining cyclist :-(
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Old 05-21-13, 07:37 AM   #12
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... Using rollers for the first time if you're over 50 is unlikely ...
Using rollers if your physical coordination is as poor as mine is also unlikely.

Seat too high -- your pelvis rocks from side to side and your knee extends fully or even hyperextends at the end of the pedal stroke.

Seat too low -- as noted above, this puts undue stress on the front of the knee, not a good thing for those of us with a history of patellar dislocations.

Adjust your saddle height in very small increments and pay close attention to your pedaling form as you do so.
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