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  1. #1
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    form and/or fit question - hamstring tightness

    over my last handful of rides, i've started to notice some tightness in both my hamstrings. if i shift forward a bit on my saddle it almost instantly goes away. i dont know enough about cycling form and/or fit on the bike to know why moving forward on the saddle relieves the tightness. any thougts/advice on this?

    a couple thoughts i had:
    -saddle shape isnt ideal for me
    -saddle fore/aft isnt in the right place
    -saddle height isnt in the right place
    -foot placement isnt in the right place on the pedals
    -shifting forward in the saddle changes my hip angle/positioning causing me to use my quads/glutes and not my hamstrings

    do any or all of these sound like possible culprits?

    initially i assumed it was the fore/aft position so i moved the saddle foreward. however, i still noticed the hammy tightness with the saddle moved forward quite a bit unless i shifted myself forward in the saddle.

    any enlightenment you can share is very much appreciated. thanks!

  2. #2
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    Get a pro fit and stretch.

  3. #3
    Senior Member Nachoman's Avatar
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    Since the tightness goes away when you shift forward a little on your saddle, maybe it's worth moving your saddle forward just a bit to see if that alleviates the whole problem.
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  4. #4
    Senior Member 99Klein's Avatar
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    I have problems if I ride too wide of a saddle. MTB saddles or very narrow road saddles fit me best.
    When you argue with an idiot, from a bystanders point of view, it may be hard to discern which is the idiot. (dis·cern: Verb - Perceive or recognize)

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by generalkdi View Post
    Get a pro fit and stretch.
    pro fit would be nice, but $200 isnt in the budget right now unfortunately. i have and will continue to stretch before and after rides (dynamic and static stretching). doesnt seem to make much of a difference.

    Quote Originally Posted by Nachoman View Post
    Since the tightness goes away when you shift forward a little on your saddle, maybe it's worth moving your saddle forward just a bit to see if that alleviates the whole problem.
    i've moved it forward quite a bit, but i'm running out of room to do so. even with the the saddle moved quite a bit forward, i still have to shift myself forward to relieve the tightness. this fact is what made me wonder if it's related to hip angle/position.

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    Quote Originally Posted by 99Klein View Post
    I have problems if I ride too wide of a saddle. MTB saddles or very narrow road saddles fit me best.
    hmmm. could be on to something. the saddle that came with the bike is pretty wide. and when i shift myself forward i land on a narrower part of the saddle.

  7. #7
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    As your position moves forward, you shift emphasis from quads to hamstring/gluteus. So you might have a strength imbalance
    You're just trying to start an argument to show how smart you are.

  8. #8
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    ttt for the nighttime crowd.

    any other thoughts?

  9. #9
    Senior Member Cookiemonsta's Avatar
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    These questions are SO hard to answer on a forum. You know more about your comfort and bike geometry than anyone else. However, since you indicate that a small shift in position completely gets rid of the problem, I would re-evaluate your fit on the bike.

    I know for a fact that saddle height can affect how much you feel your hamstrings because I have experienced it. But I am afraid no one here will be able to pinpoint what the issue is.

  10. #10
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    I don't remember if you posted pictures of your position but it's too tough to guess without some reference. It may be that part of it is simply fitness. As you get more aerobically fit you'll be able to stress your muscles more. Your heart and lungs don't fatigue in the same way as your muscles so you don't get the impression that your heart/lungs are getting much better. Your legs have a more immediate mechanism for feedback - cramps.

    For me (and this may be different from what you're experiencing) I find that when I focus on pedaling form and pull up more I cramp more at first. Then as I get more fit (relative to hamstrings) the cramps ease. It still happens but only when I exceed my current limits either in time or energy. Earlier this spring I wasn't riding much and I was cramping within an hour. Towards the end of that period, after effectively taking two weeks off, I did a 5 hour ride and spent over 4 hours of it fighting off cramps. Now, after a bit more regular 1-2 hour rides, I can go 2 hours fine. On the other hand I would guess that if I entered a 50 mile crit I'd be cramping inside of 2 hours.

    Other thoughts as I have really tight hamstrings and don't bother stretching, so they may be pertinent. Obviously I can ride a bike fine with minor preparation, meaning I have to have some minimal training (5-10 days of riding) but then I can go and do a 5-7 hour ride without problems.

    If you slide forward on your saddle you reduce the hip angle. I found that having the saddle further back allowed me to (over)stress my hamstrings, beyond my fitness stuff, and I'd cramp easier. It also hurt my knees but that's a different story. I've ended up with a pretty forward position for a number of reasons, my short quads being one, but the hamstring cramp issue being another. It also helps with my speed - there's a reason everyone slides forward on their saddle when they're working hard.

    However too far forward can cause me to cramp my hamstrings too - although sliding forward is normal when under duress it's also normal to slide back a bit when going a little less hard. Having the saddle too far forward made me unbalanced in terms of muscle load (I can't think of exactly how or which muscles) and I ended up moving the saddle back a bit. This was a relatively minor amount of movement, 10mm or so max. I tried this after racing for about 10 years and I just don't remember the specifics.

    Wrong saddle height makes me cramp my hamstrings quicker. I tend to have my saddle relatively high (but not high enough that my hips rock). When I tried to make a lower position work I found that my hamstrings cramped really quickly, maybe because I could pull up so much harder, I don't know. I gave it a good 5-6 months of regular training and some racing before I gave up on the lower position. I found that although my steady power seemed good (this is before powermeters so I don't have reference numbers) I totally lost my sprint. Since my sprint is my only strength I went back up. It was a relatively minor change, maybe 10 mm total. I say minor because I'll move my saddle up and down about 5 mm depending on various situations but almost never more than that.

    Too high of a saddle makes me cramp my calves because I'm doing a tippy toe thing. When the US National Track Team had really high positions I tried to emulate them. Didn't work. I was a good 15-20 mm higher than I am now when I was in my "high saddle" phase.

    Keep in mind that my BB-saddle distance was close in all those scenarios. Moving the saddle forward required moving it up as well to keep the distance close. The numbers I listed were the differences in fore/aft (x axis) or up/down (y axis). I'd have adjusted the saddle in the other plane (y or x) to keep the BB-saddle distances close.

    Finally, as I said at the beginning, keep in mind that this may be a fitness thing, you're training harder than your body can adapt. Chasing fit won't help because it won't let your body settle into a set position. As you get more fit minor changes will have more of an effect on you.

    I am thinking that I did see position pictures and stuff before. If I did then I think you're close to optimal position and it's a muscle fitness/adaptation thing.

  11. #11
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    thanks gents. definitely some good stuff for me to think about. either way - it doesnt hurt so bad i can't ride so i'll keep making minor tweaks until i get it worked out and my fitness level increases.

  12. #12
    Senior Member thehammerdog's Avatar
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    I my humble opinion and I no I am not a Dr. but an avid cyclist with over 20 yrs of in the saddle competition under my belt. I offer you this. It sounds like a "fit" problem. Good luck

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    Try moving the saddle down 2-4mm.
    ...

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by valygrl View Post
    Try moving the saddle down 2-4mm.
    Yup! Worth a try. Unless your saddle is WAY back, I bet it's a bit too high, straining your hammies.
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  15. #15
    Senior Member Nachoman's Avatar
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    Also, from a person that has torn both hamstrings, the above stretch is the one that most seems to keep my hammys most loose and nimble.
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  16. #16
    Senior Member danielrbaer's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by 99Klein View Post
    I have problems if I ride too wide of a saddle. MTB saddles or very narrow road saddles fit me best.
    This his has been my experience, too. My bike came stock with a 143mm wide saddle, and I would have tightness in my hamstrings when I was positioned towards the rear of the saddle such that my sit bones were properly supported. I just moved to an arione last week (132mm), which seems to be a much better fit.

    It may be worth while to measure your sit bones to verify if your current saddle is relatively too wide.
    Last edited by danielrbaer; 05-31-13 at 07:39 PM.

  17. #17
    Portland, OR, USA pdxtex's Avatar
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    start with proper seat height using a known formula, lemond method/109% method and see how that works. i used to ride around with my seat set up for what felt good, more like tolerable. seems my seats have always been set low and my knees and hamstrings would get tight. now that i set my saddle height up properly, things are way better.
    we've got both kinds, country and western.

  18. #18
    Portland, OR, USA pdxtex's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by danielrbaer View Post
    This his has been my experience, too. My bike came stock with a 143mm wide saddle, and I would have tightness in my hamstrings when I was positioned towards the rear of the saddle such that my sit bones were properly supported. I just moved to an arione last week (132mm), which seems to be a much better fit.

    It may be worth while to measure your sit bones to verify if you're current saddle is relatively too wide.
    also, this. if you have a specialized dealer, they have the specialzed ass-o-meter which is really just a board with some memory foam that you sit on. other bike shops might have a similar contraption.
    we've got both kinds, country and western.

  19. #19
    Senior Member JasonCarp's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by pdxtex View Post
    also, this. if you have a specialized dealer, they have the specialzed ass-o-meter which is really just a board with some memory foam that you sit on. other bike shops might have a similar contraption.
    Was at the Specialized dealer today trying to work out saddle issues and sat on the Ass o Meter. Surprisingly I was thinking I needed a narrower saddle,thi said I needed a wider one.

    Jason

  20. #20
    Portland, OR, USA pdxtex's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JasonCarp View Post
    Was at the Specialized dealer today trying to work out saddle issues and sat on the Ass o Meter. Surprisingly I was thinking I needed a narrower saddle,thi said I needed a wider one.

    Jason
    yeah for years, i was just tooling around on what take-off road saddle was sitting around at the bike shop. usually just some low end san marco with out a cut out. probably too narrow too. when i actually got serious about getting comfy on my bike, i got my sit bones measured (with ass-o-meter, had to type that again!!) and bought the proper width seat (specialized romin). man, my ASS thanks me.
    we've got both kinds, country and western.

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by danielrbaer View Post
    This his has been my experience, too. My bike came stock with a 143mm wide saddle, and I would have tightness in my hamstrings when I was positioned towards the rear of the saddle such that my sit bones were properly supported. I just moved to an arione last week (132mm), which seems to be a much better fit.

    It may be worth while to measure your sit bones to verify if your current saddle is relatively too wide.
    Definitely going to have to measure the ol sit bones and get a saddle that fits. That, along with tweaking my saddle height, feels like the best options to start with.

    Thanks for all the help - oh wise patrons of the 41.

  22. #22
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    went up to the LBS today. hopped on the 'ol specialized ass-o-meter to get the sit bones measured. got a new saddle (specialized avatar comp gel) that is a MUCH better fit than the one i had been using. lowered the seat height just a tad as well. then...i enjoyed 10 hamstring pain/tightness free miles.

    i just love a happy ending. now if i could only figure out how to go faster...

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