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Home » Cycling » Riding a Bicycle; Eight Signs You May Not Be Doing It Right and What to Look For If You’re Not.

Riding a Bicycle; Eight Signs You May Not Be Doing It Right and What to Look For If You’re Not.

January 2020
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First, this is not going to be some “go out an buy a $10,000 featherweight road bike for your first ride” snob post.  To be fair, I wouldn’t know how to come at it from that angle, as I’ve never owned anything approaching a $10,000 featherweight road bike, myself.

do have a $6,000 featherweight road bike, and it is indubitably sexy.  If you can afford one, I highly recommend picking up one or two.  They’re unquestionably fun.

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Here’s a list of eight things that will help you identify something wrong and what to do to correct each item.

  • Your butt feels like you’re riding on barbed wire after ten miles.
    • Okay, so this isn’t exactly perfect, because one must get some miles in before one’s heinie stops hurting.  On the other hand, it won’t hurt bad enough that you actually check to see if someone put a piece of barbed wire on your saddle.  If someone did, check your friends – you’re doing something wrong there.  Just a guess, of course.  Otherwise, your saddle is one of these:  Out of position (too high, tilted too far forward or back), or too narrow/wide for your sit bones, or has too much padding.  That’s right, too much padding.  Those big-ass seats, all irony aside, stop blood flow to the nether-regions.  That’s no bueno.
  • Your hands go numb in the driveway.  On your way out.
    • Your hands shouldn’t go numb unless you’re on a very long ride.  Hours long.  If they do, there are a few simple things you can do to correct this.
      • The drop from the nose of the saddle is either too great or too little.
      • The saddle nose is tilted down too far, it’s sliding you into the handlebar.
      • You’re gripping the handlebar too tight.  Think of gripping a baby bird in either hand.  Don’t kill the birds.
      • If the drop from the nose of your saddle to the handlebar is off, you probably need to raise or lower the handlebar.  Lowering the bar may seem odd, but I had to do this myself on my mountain bike to get some of the pressure off my hands.
      • If you’re gripping the handlebar too tight, stop it.
      • In all seriousness, if you’re gripping the handlebar – hoods, bar top or drops – with a decent amount of pressure, you’re definitely doing it wrong.  The idea is to hold on just tight enough that if you hit a bump, you don’t let go.
  • Your neck hurts.
    • Your neck shouldn’t hurt too bad, from looking up the road.  If it does, the problem is related to the drop from the nose of the saddle to the handlebar.  Don’t raise your handlebar quite yet, though.  Do some yoga or stretches or anything to fix your neck first.  Low is fast.  Fast is cool.  Therefore, low is cool.  By default.
    • Riding is cooler than not riding.  If you can’t get your neck comfortable, raise the handlebar.
  • Your knees hurt.
    • Your knees shouldn’t hurt.  There are three things that cause this
      • Your saddle is too high (front of the knees will hurt)
      • Your saddle is too low (back of the knees will hurt)
      • Your cleats are misaligned.  Believe it or not, this is a really big deal.  You can do some damage if this isn’t addressed.  Your local bike shop should have what’s needed to get you sorted out.
  • Your feet hurt.  There are a couple of issues, maybe a few, related to the feet…
    • Your shoes are too small.  This ain’t hockey.  You don’t have to cram your size 11 foot into a size 8.
    • Your shoes are too tight.  One would think, especially for those who clip in, that the shoes should be ratcheted down pretty tightly.  This isn’t the case.  Snug does the job.  Tight increases pressure unnecessarily.
    • Again with the cleat placement – in this case, too far forward or back depending on where the pain is.
  • Your back hurts.
    • Check your bike setup.  Get your bike fitted if you haven’t already.  Doing so is incredibly important.
      • There are quite a few things that could cause this.  Saddle too far back, too far forward, too high, too low… you’d need a shotgun and a lot of hope to hit the answer on this.
  • Your butt hurts, but your saddle is right.
    • You need better shorts.  Click here and learn.  You don’t have to feel the burn.
  • You’re not having any fun.
    • Dude, how can one not have fun riding a bicycle?!  That doesn’t even make sense!
    • Seriously, if you’re not having fun, maybe try a different type of cycling.  Don’t like paved roads?  Try dirt.  Don’t like roads?  Try mountain biking.  It’s supposed to be fun, and a lot of it.

7 Comments

  1. Sheree says:

    Exactly! How can you not have loads of fun riding?

  2. Brent says:

    When I got fitted for my road bike, the fitter pointed out that I did something that would lead to back pain: I flexed my back reaching for the bars. I wasn’t bending at the hips. That was due to tightness in my hamstrings/glutes and basically just bad posture habits, which made my pelvis want to stay more vertical than it should.

    A stretching regimen and a reminder to myself every time I clip my right foot in to “bend at the hips not at the back” as I settle in and start pedaling has helped significantly and back pain is much less. It’s similar to the 3 seconds of mindfulness I now engage in every single time I stand up at work: I take two deep breaths and stack myself up with proper posture before I take a step. That has reduced a lot of back pain and also made me feel calmer and more alert. Took me 3 months to become consistent and I’m glad I do now.

  3. joliesattic says:

    It took a while for me to figure all those things out and when I did, I had the time of my life! Good advice. What’s funny is I just had that very same talk with the wife of a Pearl Izumi rep yesterday as I looked over some awesome shorts with triple crotch layering for women. Male or female it’ll affect us all until we figure what works for us.

    • bgddyjim says:

      How did those PI’s look? My wife has big struggles with shorts… I spend more money on hers than I do on mine (and that’s sayin’ something!). My local shop carries the full line…

  4. joliesattic says:

    I like them. I tend to like the longer shorts, but they have a smart shorter pair that I looked at but didn’t try. The material seems to hold it’s shape well.

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