John Brown, HaveFunBiking
Riding a bicycle is one of the most enjoyable hobbies available when you have your bike fit to your body. Don’t let little nagging annoyances take away from your great ride. Learn the causes and fixes to cycling’s most basic discomforts.
Before You Ride, Visit Your Local Bicycle Shop for a Bike Fit
A proper bike fit can alleviate most common discomforts. To set up your bicycle, I encourage you to find a friend to help look at you on your bicycle and adjust your bike fit. If no one is available, use your phone and take video of you sitting and riding your bicycle.
Look at the two riders above. The rider on the right is in for some sore days. The excessive amount of bend to his legs is making his knee support all his effort at a very acute angle, which puts excess strain on the joint when pedaling. His low saddle overworks his quadriceps and doesn’t engage his gluteal or calf muscles. The rider on the left is bending his leg at a wider angle which results in proper leg extension while pedaling, and incorporates all his muscles (helps with efficiency).
To set saddle height: Sit on your bike, place your heel on your pedal, and rotate the pedals backward (see below). You want your leg completely extended while keeping your hips level (at the bottom of the pedal stroke your leg should be just barely locked out with your heel touching the pedal). If you find you aren’t getting complete extension raise your saddle, but lower it if you’re tilting your hip to reach the bottom of the pedal stroke. Once you begin pedaling naturally (with the ball of your foot on your pedal, rather than your heel), you will have the proper amount of bend to your knee.
Don’t Lean Too Much
The rider on the right above is leaning over drastically, which means his upper body weight is supported only by his lower back and arms. This position will results in a sore back, shoulder, arms, and painful hands. His head is positioned so low he must crane his neck up aggressively just to see. This will also result in a sore neck.
The rider on the left has more support. By sitting a bit more upright he is using his bone structure to support his upper body. Adjust your handlebar so that your back is at an angle over 45-degrees from the ground. Your arms should extend at a 90-degree angle from his back with a very small bend to the elbow. Adjust your grips and controls to be in place when you reach out to take the bar. If you need to turn your wrist up or down to shift or brake you should re-adjust the controls.
The rider on the left also has a very comfortable position for his head. He can see around and in front naturally without needing to stretch.
Once you have a comfortable setup, you should experience hours upon hours of painless riding. If discomfort continues, then consult with your local bike shop. They are trained in advanced personal fitting techniques and can offer insights into potential causes of discomfort.