With the sun on your back and the wind in your hair, there are few more exhilarating ways to work out than a mood-boosting cycle ride. But as with any form of exercise, it’s important you know the basics to help you stay safe and get the most out of your time on your bike.
It’s important to align your body in the correct position if you’re going to stay safe and happy on the bike for any significant period of time. ‘Aim to cycle with a neutral spine, with your chest coming forwards rather than down over the handlebars, your core engaged and your shoulders back and down,’ says Cathy Bussey, author of The Girls’ Guide to Life on Two Wheels. ‘This will help protect your back and keep you injury-free and cycling comfortably for miles.’
Ultimately, the important thing is to feel comfortable, and that means that the ideal cycling position is unique to each and every one of us. However, there are a few simple rules to follow too, so read on to discover the tips and tweaks our experts recommend to keep you safe in the saddle.
GET A HANDLE ON HANDLEBARS
‘A good place to start is with your handlebars at the same height as your saddle,’ says Hamish Belding, of Sustrans, a charity that encourages people to walk and cycle. ‘This will help you control the steering and brakes. In time, if you prefer a more aerodynamic “head down” stance, you can lower the bars.’ Always make sure you can easily reach your brakes.
BEND THOSE ELBOWS
Riding with relaxed, bent elbows can help protect you. It works a bit like suspension, so your arms can safely absorb some impact when you hit a bump in the road.
Unlike elbows, your wrists should be straight. A common problem for new riders is numb hands, which means your circulation is affected by your position. Try to keep your wrists relaxed, without a bend. Engaging your core muscles will also take some pressure off your hands, as you won’t be pulling your body forwards.
Try to keep your body relaxed and lower your shoulders down from your ears – it will make it easier to turn and keep an eye out for traffic as well as making you feel less tense.
If your feet are on your pedals in the wrong position, you could experience numbness, leg or knee strain or inflammation of the nerves between your toes. Position your foot so that the ball is roughly in the centre of the pedals, at the axis where it tips up and down. Getting it right means better control too.