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  1. #1
    Forever Is Real bike eagle's Avatar
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    Riding Position Discovery

    I know that some of you have talked about this before, but I made a discovery today that greatly improved my riding comfort and power. I had struggled with neck and back soreness, along with feeling like I had too much weight on my hands, and had tried everything in terms of saddle and bar adjustments.

    Today, I made a simple change in my posture, and improved all of those issues. The change was simply that I made a conscious effort to sit more on the front of my sitbones, and not so much on the bottom of them. Another way to describe the feeling is that I felt like my navel was being pushed more down toward the saddle, rather than pointing straight out in front of me.

    My logic went like this:

    1. My neck feels sore from having to be bent back so much.
    2. If I open my chest up more (or make my back a little concave, same difference), my neck doesn't have to bend back as far.
    3. The easiest way to do that is to rock my hips more forward, so that I feel like I'm sitting more on the front of my sitbones, flattening my lower back.

    Just that subtle adjustment in posture made a huge difference in my riding comfort immediately. Amazingly, it also took weight off of my hands, and put my hips in a better position to activate my glutes, resulting in an effortless gain in power (subjective, no power meter used).

    Again, I know that many of you already knew this or did it instinctively, but I just wanted to throw it out there as a tip for the rest of us. It's just that so much is made of the importance of adjusting the fit of the bicycle, but if that is correct and the rider is still struggling, it might be that an adjustment of the rider is called for.
    Try to do something now that will make a difference one million years from now.

  2. #2
    Senior Member oldbobcat's Avatar
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    That's what's called riding with a flat back. Think about it--if your back is curved, then you need to bend your neck even more to in order to keep your head raised, resulting in an awkward S-bend. With a flat back you have pretty much a straight line from your pelvis to the base of your neck, with just a slight rise from the shoulders to the base of the cranium.

    Fitting people to bikes and watching them ride, I think there are three reasons for riding with a humped back. First is just lack of flexibility at the pelvis, and that can be corrected with moderate stretching. Second, riders are just resistant to the idea of a nearly horizontal torso, so they straighten up at the hips but end up having to bend over to find the handlebar. These are the ones who buy up all the riser stems. Third are riders who hunch up to shift their weight rearward in order to take it off their shoulders. These folks would benefit from just sliding their saddles back a bit.

    Besides a happier spine, another benefit you should enjoy will be increased use of the gluteus maximus (butt) muscles and decreased reliance on the quads.

  3. #3
    Forever Is Real bike eagle's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by oldbobcat View Post
    That's what's called riding with a flat back. Think about it--if your back is curved, then you need to bend your neck even more to in order to keep your head raised, resulting in an awkward S-bend. With a flat back you have pretty much a straight line from your pelvis to the base of your neck, with just a slight rise from the shoulders to the base of the cranium.

    Fitting people to bikes and watching them ride, I think there are three reasons for riding with a humped back. First is just lack of flexibility at the pelvis, and that can be corrected with moderate stretching. Second, riders are just resistant to the idea of a nearly horizontal torso, so they straighten up at the hips but end up having to bend over to find the handlebar. These are the ones who buy up all the riser stems. Third are riders who hunch up to shift their weight rearward in order to take it off their shoulders. These folks would benefit from just sliding their saddles back a bit.

    Besides a happier spine, another benefit you should enjoy will be increased use of the gluteus maximus (butt) muscles and decreased reliance on the quads.
    Exactly. I had been riding with the awkward S-bend you describe, but now I feel much more inline. Also as you say, I suddenly have much more power available from my glutes. During your fitting sessions, do you make this adjustment to riders' posture? I have been looked at by three different fitters in bike shops, and none of them tried to improve my posture. They only made adjustments to the bike, not to me.
    Try to do something now that will make a difference one million years from now.

  4. #4
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    God dammit I need to start doing more core work...

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    Iconoclast rat fink's Avatar
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    It feels good, doesn't it? I love the feeling of being properly stretched out on a bike. Btw, I have found that it is easier to rotate your pelvis forward if your bar is lower. Be sure to make adjustments gradually over time or they will work against you. Oh, and build your core up too, or you will feel heavy.
    "Winning is the best deodorant. Someone can look at your bike and say it stinks, but if you win with it, suddenly it's okay." - Jim Busby

  6. #6
    Hills hurt.. Couches kill RacerOne's Avatar
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    It really is counter intuitive at first but works great if you keep at it.

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    I am still not sure what's this position supposed to be. It's seems that you're saying you decreased the angle between your top tube and your upper body. But in that case, you'd need to bend your neck more (up) to look in front of you.

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    Quote Originally Posted by bike eagle View Post
    I have been looked at by three different fitters in bike shops, and none of them tried to improve my posture. They only made adjustments to the bike, not to me.
    Did they make these adjustments before or after seeing you on it? Was it more of a "basic fit" where they adjust the saddle position and maybe put a different stem on?

    A real fitting usually costs around $100-$150 and is at least an hour and a half long. Usually starts with a 15 minute interview about the type of riding you do, checking out how flexible you are and your range of motion, followed by the fitter hooking your bike up to a trainer and watching you pedal for a while (possibly taking pictures or video during the process). The fitter will usually start by making adjustments to your cleats, followed by saddle height/fore/aft position. Then they'll work with you on your posture. Most people need to make the same adjustment you did. Another way to think about it is to rotate your pelvis back. Instead of your pelvis being horizontal (like you sit in a chair), it is rotated back so that your sitbones take the weight of the body.

    The fitter will look at the angle of your legs, length of your cranks, etc... Then they will look for reach to the hoods and drops. The fitter could possibly make some adjustments to the rotation of the bar and swap out a stem. When you see the before and after pictures/video of yourself on the trainer, you will immediately notice how much smoother your pedaling is and how much more comfortable you are.

    If your fitting didn't involve most of these steps, you need to find another fitter.

  9. #9
    Tyrannosaurus Rexitis Harlan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by rat fink View Post
    It feels good, doesn't it? I love the feeling of being properly stretched out on a bike. Btw, I have found that it is easier to rotate your pelvis forward if your bar is lower. Be sure to make adjustments gradually over time or they will work against you. Oh, and build your core up too, or you will feel heavy.
    This man knows. I slowly made my way from 90mm -6 degree stem flipped up at the top of the stack to a 110mm -10 degree flipped down on the bottom of the stack. I was actually less comfy with a shorter stem in between. Now-so golden.

  10. #10
    Senior Member KoYak's Avatar
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    I accidentally discovered this over the last few months. increased my saddle to bar drop from about .5 in to about 1.5-2 inches. I lost 25 lbs in the last 3 months. for me the flat back did not work when I was 25 lbs heavier. my thighs would touch my belly and it forced me into a curved back position. now, my back flatter and am thinking about lowering the bars a little more.

  11. #11
    Forever Is Real bike eagle's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Excelsius View Post
    I am still not sure what's this position supposed to be. It's seems that you're saying you decreased the angle between your top tube and your upper body. But in that case, you'd need to bend your neck more (up) to look in front of you.
    Yes, this change did result in a decreased angle between my upper body and the top tube, as you say, but the strain on my neck went away. I know it sounds counter-intuitive, but I'll try to explain it better. To me, neck strain is caused by the angle between your upper back (in the shoulder blade area) and your head. The smaller that angle, the more strain on your neck. You can reduce this strain one of two ways. You can either lower your head (which we all do occasionally on long rides by temporarily looking down at the road close to our front tire), or you can flatten your back.

    Here's a simple experiment to see what I mean by flattening your back. Sitting in your chair, with your back away from the seat back, look up toward a spot on the wall about 4 or 5 feet above your head. While continuing to look there, allow yourself to slouch forward, so that your back is convex. Feel how the strain on your neck increased? Now while still looking at the spot, rotate your pelvis forward and allow your back to flatten out and become more straight. Feel the neck strain go away? Your head didn't move, but because your back went from slouched to flat, the angle between your upper back and your head increased, taking the strain off of your neck.

    Incidentally, another benefit of this better posture is that your upper chest is more opened up, improving your breathing.
    Last edited by bike eagle; 03-26-11 at 07:05 AM.
    Try to do something now that will make a difference one million years from now.

  12. #12
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    Bravo to the OP. It takes some courage to think "outside the box" at a personal level. To analyze a problem and think of a solution (and that works) is always a good thing.

    http://sprinterdellacasa.blogspot.co...ive-thing.html

    +1 on the "you need to be reasonably fit" statement by KoYak. When I was much heavier I rode with a much higher bar set up. I also watched a "much heavier" rider in a race a while back:
    http://sprinterdellacasa.blogspot.co...-mr-belly.html

  13. #13
    Forever Is Real bike eagle's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by neneboricua View Post
    Did they make these adjustments before or after seeing you on it? Was it more of a "basic fit" where they adjust the saddle position and maybe put a different stem on?
    It was more of a "basic fit."

    Quote Originally Posted by neneboricua View Post
    Most people need to make the same adjustment you did. Another way to think about it is to rotate your pelvis back. Instead of your pelvis being horizontal (like you sit in a chair), it is rotated back so that your sitbones take the weight of the body.
    Funny how different people describe the same feeling in different ways. To me, sitting in a chair feels more like my pelvis is "back." Maybe "vertical" is a petter word, in reference to my lower back. The correct pelvis angle (to me) feels more like my pelvis is rotated "forward." If you imagine your pelvis as a bowl, I would say that the pelvis it sitting flat or "back" when sitting normally in a chair, but should be rotated "forward" some while cycling. Another way to say it is that it feels to me like your weight should be more on the "front" of your sitbones, rather than on the "bottom" of them.

    Man, describing feelings is difficult!
    Try to do something now that will make a difference one million years from now.

  14. #14
    Forever Is Real bike eagle's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by carpediemracing View Post
    Bravo to the OP. It takes some courage to think "outside the box" at a personal level. To analyze a problem and think of a solution (and that works) is always a good thing.

    http://sprinterdellacasa.blogspot.co...ive-thing.html

    +1 on the "you need to be reasonably fit" statement by KoYak. When I was much heavier I rode with a much higher bar set up. I also watched a "much heavier" rider in a race a while back:
    http://sprinterdellacasa.blogspot.co...-mr-belly.html
    Interesting link. Thanks for posting it, and for the kind words. Somewhat different from the author, I wouldn't say that the improved position feels "hunched over," though. I would describe it more as "bending from the hips," as opposed to "hunching over," but that may just be me.
    Last edited by bike eagle; 03-26-11 at 07:58 AM.
    Try to do something now that will make a difference one million years from now.

  15. #15
    Sloth Hunter Trouble's Avatar
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    Finally, a thread that talks about how to sit on the bike.
    Like the OP, I have found comfort in sitting properly on the bike and like some others have mentioned, lowering the bars instead of raising them.
    What also helped me was moving the saddle back and down and shortening the stem.

    What I don't understand is the sitting on the front or anterior of the ischium (Sitz Bones). That is where I get the most discomfort, not only from the tissue at the front of the SB, but it applies pressure to my perineum. When I position my pelvis so that the SB is directly on the saddle with my pelvis in a more vertical position (terminology), I can ride all day with no ass pain and there is a comfortable and natural shock absorbing position to my whole back (lumbar-thoracic-cervical).

    Also, the term "flat back" is confusing to me.

    I do understand getting flat and when I need to get low or flatten out, I bend forward at the waist keeping the bottom of my SB planted on the saddle rather than rotating my pelvis forward...there may be a slight pelvic rotation...???
    There doesn't seem to be an deficit to my ham/glutes engaging or any lower back pain or soreness.

    Am I missing something here? Is it terminology?
    I enjoy this thread.

    The first article that carpediemracing posted was great reading.
    Last edited by Trouble; 03-26-11 at 12:53 PM.
    The problem with the gene pool is that there is no lifeguard and the shallow end is much too large.
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    Iconoclast rat fink's Avatar
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    This needs to be here:

    "Winning is the best deodorant. Someone can look at your bike and say it stinks, but if you win with it, suddenly it's okay." - Jim Busby

  17. #17
    Don't Believe the Hype RiPHRaPH's Avatar
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    I discovered this while pulling through on both the up and downstroke of the pedal motion. Being aware of the 'scraping mud off the bottom of your cleat' action is condusive to this position.
    I have enough words to get me into trouble, but not enough to get me out of trouble.

  18. #18
    Sloth Hunter Trouble's Avatar
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    Hey rat fink, I like the concept of the video about sitting upright-weight bearing along with the back explanation and visualization. I like the second position, not sure how comfortable the third position would be.
    The rotating forward off the sitz bones is still a problem for me...what do you end up sitting on? He calls it something at the 6:00 mark. Rami horns and abductor muscles?
    The other thing, I wish he had stayed consistent with the elbow bend from 1st to 2nd position.
    Lastly, how comfortable is this if you're NOT a Cat I racer and NOT hammering the pedals?
    The problem with the gene pool is that there is no lifeguard and the shallow end is much too large.
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  19. #19
    Forever Is Real bike eagle's Avatar
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    Yes, thanks for the video link. John Cobb references another video for what he calls "B-style backs," which maybe even better describes the feeling I was trying to convey. Especially early in the video where he talks about rolling the pelvis forward. Here it is:

    Try to do something now that will make a difference one million years from now.

  20. #20
    Forever Is Real bike eagle's Avatar
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    Also, just found this. Scroll down to "Road Bike Posture."

    http://www.trainingbible.com/joesblo...e-posture.html
    Try to do something now that will make a difference one million years from now.

  21. #21
    Senior Member oldbobcat's Avatar
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    The Cobb videos are helpful, but my approach has more to do with balance and a straight spine.

    Try this. First, stand straight and tall, shoulders back, head level, neck stretched upward. Feel the relative straightness of the back from the pelvis to the base of the skull. Next bend forward at the hips, maintaining the straightness of the torso. Notice that the hips move back to keep your weight centered over your feet. Try different levels and notice how the lower you go, the farther back the hips go. Also try raising your arms as if grasping a handlebar. Notice that your hip position instinctively responds to this small shift in the center of your upper body gravity. Last, from this bent at the hips position, raise your head enough to focus on a point across the wall. Notice that it doesn't require a whole lot of effort or strain.

    Next, for contrast, do the same exercise but with bending throughout the entire length of the back. You might notice that breathing feels a little constricted because your torso is essentially curved around your diaphragm. Raising your head in this position is more stressful because your shoulders are level or or even aimed downward. To raise your head easily you need reduce the bend in the neck by raising the angle of the shoulders.

    I arrived at my theory of fit through several influences. First, I swam competitively in high school, the butterfly. With a horizontal torso and shoulders, it isn't difficult at all to raise the head enough to see where you're going and inhale through the mouth and nose. The second was through observing riders who appeared to be most comfortable on the bike. One model was "Smilin'" George Mount, a national team racer of the late 70s. I believe that one reason Mount was always seen with a smile on his face is because he was supremely comfortable on his bike. While his torso angle was low, his shoulders were always aimed slightly upwards and his eyes focused far up the road ahead. His saddle was also far back enough to be balanced over the saddle so he didn't need to support his upper body with his arms.

    I maintain that a moderately flat, horizontal back is best on the bike mainly because it reduces direct jolts up the spinal column. Road shock doesn't have a chance get transmitted up your spine if you're almost lying down. But any way you cut it, a straight back better than a hump.

    Your mother says straighten your back!

    And eagle, it's amazing that we arrived at a similar place intuitively and independently. Common sense and listening to your body really works.
    Last edited by oldbobcat; 03-27-11 at 12:10 AM.

  22. #22
    bike whisperer Kimmo's Avatar
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    I figured this out by reading Road Bike Action and looking at Euro pros in the early 90s... once I tried to flatten my back and bend as much as possible from lower down, right above my pelvis, seat to bar drop followed; everything was easier.

    Now, I have a freakishly flat spine... the normal S curve is almost gone; I have x-rays around somewhere to prove it.

  23. #23
    Sloth Hunter Trouble's Avatar
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    Thanks for that post oldbobcat, great perspective and excellent description. It makes me think that I am heading in the direction with my own fit.
    I'll have to experiment with rolling my pelvic bowl forward onto the front of my SB and softer tissue. It's a place I fought with for a long time...but, I'm hoping that moving the saddle back/down will help in being able to do this while lowering the bars some...and stretching. It has helped me so far in being more stable on the saddle and resulting in less issues elsewhere.

    Since lowering my saddle, I have been a lot more comfortable on the saddle. Steve reading up on seat height.
    Here is a quote from Steve Hogg's blog: "All 5 had been "professionally fitted" (their words) and the major cause; or at least a large part of the cause for the issues that brought them here was too high a seat height. And I don't mean a couple of mm; I mean between 12mm and 25mm too high."

    Anyway, I hope this thread continues with the awesome insightful knowledge. It's helping me a lot. Thanks.
    Last edited by Trouble; 03-27-11 at 07:46 AM.
    The problem with the gene pool is that there is no lifeguard and the shallow end is much too large.
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  24. #24
    Senior Member roadwarrior's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bike eagle View Post
    Exactly. I had been riding with the awkward S-bend you describe, but now I feel much more inline. Also as you say, I suddenly have much more power available from my glutes. During your fitting sessions, do you make this adjustment to riders' posture? I have been looked at by three different fitters in bike shops, and none of them tried to improve my posture. They only made adjustments to the bike, not to me.
    No, we adjust the bike so that the rider can sit on the bike properly taking into consideration your flexibility and any physical issue you may have...we have a rider last week that had a leg 1/2" shorter than the other. Fixed the setup.

    Most of the time when a rider sits with a hunched back it's due to setup. So you changed...can you sit like that for a long time or do you revert back? If you revert back, it's setup.
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  25. #25
    has a Large Member Campag4life's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by roadwarrior View Post
    No, we adjust the bike so that the rider can sit on the bike properly taking into consideration your flexibility and any physical issue you may have...we have a rider last week that had a leg 1/2" shorter than the other. Fixed the setup.

    Most of the time when a rider sits with a hunched back it's due to setup. So you changed...can you sit like that for a long time or do you revert back? If you revert back, it's setup.
    Roadwarrior, what metrics in 'a bike set up' or fit promote a hunched back?
    Thanks.

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