The Value Of Good Bike Posture

by: Paul Buick

Book a fitting with Paul Buick, purplepatch's cycling coach for all PPF professional athletes.

The Need For A Quality Bike Fit

Almost all triathletes embrace the need for a quality bike fit. Unfortunately, the way the industry and athlete landscape has evolved, this typically means a couple of hours in a bike shop or fitting studio, after which the athlete is sent on their way to go train and race. Review any field of riders on race day, and it looks like 90% of them are in dire need of a proper fit. If we trim out the newer athletes, who truly haven’t been exposed to fitting, it is startling how bad much of the field looks on their bikes. Ironically, it isn’t typically a fit they need, instead, they need an education (and maybe a new saddle!). For many, the ‘points in space’ are well within standard fitting protocol guidelines, but the athlete is unable to maintain the appropriate posture on the bike. This leads to a host of negative consequences on performance that include:

  • Increased metabolic cost at any given output
  • Decreased ability to produce power
  • A cascade of negative consequences for run performance mostly derived from unnecessary structural load due to poor posture

Case Study: Biking Posture With Sarah Cameto

This is a snapshot of a very common sequence of symptoms that apply to most riders.

  1. Bad Posture

If you review the rider (Sarah) in our example, you can see a host of serious issues that will impede performance. She has poor posture on the bike, with her hands choked back on the aero bars, plenty of tension in the shoulders, a compressed diaphragm, and rotated hips (backward) on the seat. Collectively, she is:

  • Compromising her breathing ability
  • Creating fatigue-inducing tension through the upper body
  • Seated in a bio-mechanical position that reduces power

Now let's compare this bad posture with some great posture. 

  1. Great Posture

 Here are some positive adjustments that I notice. 

So what’s changed?

Well, as it relates to bike fit, NOTHING! It is the same set-up, with no alterations at all. The only evolution is HOW she is sitting on the bike.

Many of the problems actually stem from seat choice, and finding a seat that is right for YOU! Beyond that, there are a host of educational tools that will help you refine your pedaling, find the right set-up, and hone in on a sustainable posture that allows for both optimal bike splits and the opportunity for running well off the bike. Remember, a bike fit is not just about flash computers and gadgets, and it also isn’t something that is finished when you walk out the door. It should be as much about an education (a real understanding of the method) and coaching. 

If you would like to book a fitting with Paul Buick, the bike coach that works with all PPF professional athletes, click here!

How To Apply

When we think about bike posture, the first step is to always ensure you have the right equipment choices, as well as the correct ‘points in space’ (or fit). That is the first step. Beyond this, it is all about an ongoing creation of positive habits that will ensure you always default to posture that maximizes power, comfort and the ability to run off the bike. We like athletes to begin and end every single ride with great riding posture. This habit ensures you that you optimize your riding potential and also finish the ride with the best opportunity to set up a a positive run. As you likely already understand, running posture is every bit as important as the riding we discuss here. With this, here is a simple checklist that you can learn and integrate into the warm up and finish of every ride. On a trainer? Great! After all, you have no external stimuli to distract you from great posture.

Bike Posture Checklist

Please refer to the pictures and video link for visual confirmation if you are confused. 

  • Fingers relaxed
  • Wrists straight in both planes
  • Elbows flexed
  • Neck and shoulders relaxed
  • In control of breathing and heart rate
  • Sitting in the correct part of the saddle
  • Recovering the foot through the bottom of the stroke
  • Unweighting the retreating leg
  • Relaxing the foot 

Notice how it begins at the hands, goes through the body, and ends at the feet. Even if you miss a step or two, this is a great way to retain your suppleness. If you are feeling fatigue in intervals or a race, go through this checklist.