Is your cycling posture right for your riding style?

559728_4677573336570_1843885306_n-300x140In a previous article I covered how cyclists can improve pedaling efficiency through increasing cadence. This was accomplished using pedaling drills and several interval based workouts that smooth pedal strokes and increase leg speed.

While pedaling efficiency is very important aspect of becoming and efficient cyclists there are many other things we can do to improve our ride as cyclists. In this article we will learn how to become even more efficient and confident on the bike when the ride gets technical!

Cyclists often don’t understand that there is proper posture when riding. Cycling posture isn’t static and needs to be adapted to various riding conditions. Many of the tenants of good cycling posture are applicable to all riding conditions such as relaxed riding or technical riding.

Relaxed riding is when a rider is sitting up in the saddle usually on flat stretches of smooth road. Technical riding is about riding in the aero position, cornering, climbing and descending.

Relaxed riding posture

Relaxed riding isn’t just about riding through your neighborhood or to the coffee shop. Relaxed riding is what cyclists do when it’s time to recover from hard efforts. So if you could ride a bit more efficiently and confidently wouldn’t that make for a nicer ride?

Proper relaxed riding posture is the foundation for all types of riding conditions but the basics should be practiced on relaxed rides before trying in high speed riding.

  • Sit high in the saddle
  • Hands on the tops of the bars or the brake hoods
  • Hands should not have a death grip on the bars
  • Elbows should never be locked but slightly bent
  • Shoulders should not be hunched but relaxed
  • Looking forward never down at the road
  • Knees should not stick out past handle bars
  • Sitting towards the middle to the back of your saddle

So why is relaxed riding posture so important?

Most posture concerns are about being relaxed on the bike. A tense cyclist is using energy that they do not need to waste.

  • If you sit high in the saddle you will find it difficult to slouch or look down at the road.
  • Keeping your hands on the tops of the bars opens up your chest for easier breathing. Riding with hands on the break hoods still keeps your chest open but gives you a bit more control over the bike and gives you a slightly aero position.
  • Not having a death grip on the handlebars keep you relaxed and ready for jarring bumps on poor road surfaces.
  • Keeping your elbows bent allows your arms to work like shock absorbers for the upper body.
  • Having your elbows bent will allow you to make more relaxed line changes. Trying to make a line change with elbows locked can lead to erratic bike handling. When pedaling with your knees behind the bars and close to the top tube keeps your legs out of the wind more.
  • Ridding towards the rear of saddle will utilize major muscle groups where as sitting towards the front of saddle while faster can exhaust fast twitch muscles much sooner.

Technical riding posture

So if relaxed riding posture is about remaining relaxed to further enhance your efficiency, what does technical riding posture accomplish?  Technical riding posture addresses a rider’s aero position, riding in a pack or pace line, cornering, climbing and descending.

Riding in an aero position, riding in a pack or pace line

  • Same as the relaxed posture +
  • Sit towards the front of the saddle
  • Hands in the drops


  • Same as the relaxed posture +
  • Sit towards the middle of the saddle or hoover just above the saddle
  • Hands in the drops


  • Same as the relaxed posture +
  • Sit at the back of the saddle
  • Hands on the tops


  • Same as the relaxed posture +
  • Sit towards the middle of the saddle or hover just above the saddle
  • Hands in the drops

Is technical posture about being relaxed?

Yes and no. Many experienced cyclists would argue that there is nothing comfortable about riding in an aero position. I think it’s easier to think of technical riding posture as how can you become more confident and stable on the bike.

So how does technical riding posture help cyclists?

Technical riding posture follows the same guidelines, as relaxed riding posture but is specific to technical riding. Cyclists can gain greater stability, efficiency and confidence when applying the following:

Aero position riding is needed when riding in packs of cyclists, pace lines, windy conditions or riding with the purpose to gain and maintain speed. The aero position keeps the cyclist body in a position that streamlines airflow over the cyclist’s body. Riding with hands in the drops, bottom of road bars and sitting forward of the saddle.

Cornering is often an uncomfortable topic for recreational riders who have not been taught to corner at speed. There are few things cyclists can do to help relieve some of the nervousness that comes with high speed cornering. Riding in the drops just as you do when riding aero is the biggest tip. While riding in the drops gives you an aero position it also lowers your center of gravity making you even more stable while cornering. Sitting in the middle of the saddle while keeping a light stance in the saddle allows a rider to shift their weight easily in the corner. While not a posture concern I will add that when a cyclist rides into a corner they are not steering a bike but leaning into a corner. To do this into a left hand corner means that your right pedal should be in the 6 o’ clock position and your right foot should be heavily weighted on the right pedal. You do just the opposite for a right hand corner.

Climbing posture may actually be the simplest to grasp when practicing good technical climbing posture. We climb seated to the back of the saddle with our hands on the tops of the bars. As mentioned before when our hands are on the tops of the bars our chest is opened up allowing for easier and more complete breaths. While not a posture guideline but more of a tip for climbing, try pulling back on the bars gently when your dominant leg pushes down on the pedals. This should be a subtle motion and should feel like you are rowing not rocking.

Descending posture is the same as cornering but I would add two additional tips. Instead of actually remaining seated try hovering just off of the saddle. When descending short straight hills with no corners you can also bring your pedals parallel to each other when coasting down hills for an even more aero position on the bike.

I want to caution everyone reading this article that all of the above should be practiced before trying to use in a group riding or technical ride. I would also strongly recommend that if you feel that this article has shown that you are lacking in many of these areas that you seek out a local coach and ask if he or she hosts a skills clinic. A skills clinic offered by many coaches and cycling clubs will address many of the above posture and technique concerns. Please remember that while these are skills taught to competitive cyclists all cyclists can greatly benefit from this knowledge.

I hope you found this article on posture helpful and if you have questions related to this or other articles please feel free to email me.

Until next article Remember Train Smarter Not Harder,

Coach Rob

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