In cycling and in life, focusing and improving on the fundamentals provides us with a proper foundation, or as my father used to say “planting seeds properly, watering them carefully and making sure they grow straight early on helps the tree grow straight.” (Truth be told he may not have said it quite that way, especially after he found me doing something stupid, but I have come to believe it is what he meant!”). Basically what I am saying is this – with training you can develop higher cadence, increased strength and power, develop more endurance, and gain more confidence; do this while being mindful about your breathing rhythm, your alignment and you how you feel while riding and training will allow you to make greater improvements in a shorter period of time while reducing the risk of injury. It is important to maintain the health of your joints and connective tissue so that they do not begin to complain (quietly at first, then louder, then to the point where you can’t take it anymore and cycling becomes a chore rather than something joyful). Let your muscles do the work rather than your joints. Train properly, be patient with yourself, consider not getting caught up in the numbers during your ride and focus more on the feeling you get from riding; your clear and visible improvements as well as your lack of injury will speak volumes about your dedication and perseverance!
These 6 P’s are not a secret, they are position (alignment), pace, posture, pedal stroke, power and perceived effort. Pay attention to and master these 6 P’s and you will become stronger, faster, more fit and avoid injury (and attain that GFNY personal best and/or other personal goal!).
P1 – Position – connection and three points of contact
Your position on your bike is best when you and your bike are properly connected and synchronized at three specific points – feet with the pedals, butt with the saddle, and hands with the handlebars.
When sitting on your bike your “sit bones” need to be resting on and aligned with the wide part of your saddle. Saddles are not one size fits all, they are available in different widths, with or without cutouts, made of different materials and designed different nose lengths. I wrote a blogpost about saddle choices some time ago, using Selle San Marco as an example of how to purchase the correct saddle, you can read that blogpost HERE. While I have never ridden anything other than Selle San Marco and I believe they make great saddles it is possible that you require a different saddle; still, the principles in the blogpost are the same and will help guide you to make the proper choice.
Much of your weight for most of your ride will be on the pedals. As soon as possible, release the thought of riding with flat pedals and sneakers and purchase a pair of stiff-soled cycling shoes along with a set of pedals and cleats. The cleats are screwed into your shoes and allow you to clip into the pedals allowing for the best possible connection. We will discuss your pedal stroke and how the right shoes help you a little later in this eBook.
Handlebars come in a variety of widths, with 40cm, 42cm and 44cm being the most popular. The goal here is to make sure that you have the largest possible capacity for oxygen and the most comfortable position; when you reach out to “shake hands” with your handlebars” there should be a straight line along your arm to the hoods and shifters. If you find that you are reaching inwards, the bars are too narrow, reaching outward means they are too wide..
This is the exact conversation we have with all of our students prior to beginning a class or coaching/training session:
Whether you are sitting on your road bike connected to a trainer or a stationary bike,
- Straddle the bike, clip in the foot to the pedal that is lowest to the floor, push yourself up onto the saddle then clip in the second foot.
- Sit up straight with your hips toward the back of the saddle.
- Give a big shrugging rollback of your shoulders then, hinging at your hips, bring your hands down to the handlebars, almost as if you are formally bowing to someone in front of you.
If you are perfectly aligned in the proper position with feet at 3 o’clock and 9 o’clock you will look like this:
A side view will show you with your feet perfectly parallel, the ball of your foot directly on the center of the pedals with the front of your knee over the center of your foot and pedal. You will have an approximate 30 to 45 degree angle at your hips with your spine long, your shoulders relaxed and the palms of your hands lightly resting on the tops of your handlebars. Your elbows will face down and there will be a slight bend on the inside of your elbow. Your head will be tilted slightly forward so that you are looking at a place that is several meters ahead of your front wheel and your vision of the landscape further ahead is broad.
A front view will show your toes, knees, hips and shoulders perfectly aligned with your chest open and your arms on the hoods, seeming almost as if you are reaching to shake hands with the person in front of you. There is a perfectly straight line along your upper arm to the back of your hand with a slight bend in your elbow with those elbows facing up. Shoulders are dropped and relaxed. In this position you will be able to breathe deeply.
Great, now that you are properly connected to your bike lets Join the Ride!