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Saddle Height and Sore Hamstrings

February 2013
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I wrote last week about a running injury that I’ve been nursing for the past couple of weeks – nothing too bad, just a sore hamstring.  I took last week off from running after only making it about a tenth of a mile before the hamstring started hurting again.  Instead I went for a seven mile walk.  That seemed to help quite a bit and I was feeling quite good after my spin on Monday.  Tuesday was an easy zone 2 effort for an hour.  On Wednesday I had some afternoon traveling to do so I put in a rather hard half hour effort (zone 3 warmup, zone 4 20 minutes, zone 3 cooldown) and my hamstring was just a little tight afterward.  Yesterday I settled in for a zone 2/zone 3 hourlong spin and about 30 minutes into it my hamstring started barking at me.  Ten minutes later I was a little more than uncomfortable and intensely curious as to what was going on…

I ended up narrowing it down to saddle height which seemed “outside of the box’ because my knees weren’t hurting at all (front of the knee hurts, lower the saddle – back of the knee hurts, raise the saddle).  I thought about looking it up on Livestrong while I was still on the bike, but the more I pedaled, the more it made sense so didn’t bother trying to look it up.  I unclipped and grabbed my multi-tool off of my desk.  I lowered the saddle 1 – 2 millimeters and hopped back on…  The difference in feel actually had me laughing, I just wished I’d known earlier.  Really though, that’s just how these things work when you’re talking about a millimeter or two.  I’ve got no way of knowing that I’m off until something starts hurting.

I was overextending my hamstrings trying to get down to the bottom of the pedal stroke…and the funny thing was that I was favoring my left leg a little too.  I was just ever so slightly listing to the left. 

After lowering the saddle that millimeter or two and finishing my spin, the pain stopped.  Lesson learned.  I would complain about wishing it had come a little easier (my saddle has been in that same spot for months) but it really doesn’t matter all that much.  I only missed one run – all things considered, that’s nothing.  It is funny though, just how much a millimeter or two matters on a bicycle.

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11 Comments

  1. Conway Training says:

    It’s funny the tiniest things you notice when pushing yourself hard that you wouldn’t otherwise notice. I just encountered a similar hamstring issue because of my seat being a few millimeters too far back.

  2. You did the right thing! Just don’t get all obsessive like Merckx:

  3. piracetam says:

    The result? I can’t say that my times were improved or I became a faster cyclist. BUT, I could absolutely feel a difference. All the little nagging pains, pings, and odd sensations were gone! Yes, my butt still hurts after 30 miles in the saddle … that’s not gonna change!

    • bgddyjim says:

      Your but shouldn’t hurt after 30 miles – not even close, unless you only ride once in a while. If your bike is set up properly then you probably do just need more saddle time, but if you have a decent saddle and have it set up right, you shouldn’t start hurting till 80 miles or so. If you have a saddle with a lot of cushion – that’s the one other problem that I can think of. You want only a millimeter or two of padding, any more than that will restrict blood flow and thus, make you hurt.

  4. […] 2 days ago I re-read this blog post about seat height and sore ham strings & decided to apply the same theory to my knee joints. […]

  5. […] From there, I’m hobbled and before long I can’t even run.  I covered this once before, here.  The funny thing was the few posts before that, I’d thought it was a running form […]

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