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It’s not about the Allen Keys: An article we wrote for Manchester Wheelers

Just thought I would post this up as it might be useful advice for lots of people out there. Was originally an article we were asked to write for the latest edition of Manchester Wheelers magazine, so here it is, hope it helps some of you:

 

It’s not all about the Allen Keys: Other important considerations about your bike fit

Many people who come to see us have achieved a position on the bike which ‘works’ for them and is something that has been fine-tuned over a number of years. Here at Pedal Precision we are conscious that there’s a lot of you out there who’ve got a great depth of cycling and bike mechanical knowledge, so we thought we’d take this opportunity to give you a heads-up on a couple of things that you may not of considered about how to get the most from your bike, how it fits and how efficient you are as a result.

 

  • Get your trunk working: The term ‘core stability’ is a fashionable and over-used word in many areas of strength and conditioning training. So for the purposes of this article I will use the term ‘Trunk Activation’ as it seems more descriptive to me. The role of the musculature of the trunk is often overlooked by cyclists, as long as their legs are strong and their upper-body strong enough to heave on the bars when you get to the top of the Rake then that’s perceived to be enough. However, having a strong Trunk works in a number of ways to help improve your riding:
  1. Having a srong mid-section will effectively removed pressure and weight away from either end of the system (i.e. bottom and hands). Because you are self-supporting through the middle it allows pressure to be reduced at either end meaning less saddle soreness and the arms only need to be rudders for steering instead of providing full support to the head and shoulders.
  2. Being soft through the trunk means added stress on the joints of the spine as you end up using these mechanisms like a curtain rail, from which the rest of your body hangs. This would be ok, but the more you use spinal ligaments, discs and joints, the more they wear away. By contrast, the more you use your trunk muscles, the stronger they get. I know which system I’d rather be using!
  3. A more performance related benefit but very important none-the-less. If you have a strong trunk, it acts in a similar way to weightlifting belt. It provides a much more solid platform from which your legs can drive more powerfully and any energy transferred through the pedals can be translated into forward momentum, rather than some being lost as the leg pushes against a soft torso.

Poor trunk activation   Better trunk activation

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(The difference between a lazy trunk and an active one)

So, try and work some Trunk Activation exercises into your pre or post-ride routine, your body and your average speed will thank you for it. If you need any pointers on what type of exercises to do, feel free to get in touch.

 

  • Shoulders should melt like butter: This is quite simple and something that we see people getting wrong so often, but is easy to correct and can be thought about on those nice social rides so that your posture is at its best when it comes to race day.

 

It is very easy for riders to activate their upper traps (diamond shaped muscle that bridges to the neck), causing them to ‘squeeze’ their shoulders up towards their head. This forces a situation where they then have to hold more of themselves off the handlebars using their forearms and triceps, and hold their head up with the small muscles of the neck… a bad place to be!

 

A very simple consideration will help them achieve a better shoulder, spinal, head and neck position, as well as allowing the arms to soften and achieve a more aerodynamic position on the bike. This also plays into the hands of being more activated through the trunk as discussed above. The only thing you really need to do to achieve this, is to concentrate on allowing your shoulders to ‘hang’ away from your ears as you are riding, then try to maintain a soft elbow and relaxed grip on the bars. It all stems from the shoulders though. Try to imagine you have smeared some butter underneath your ear-lobes (bear with me). Then as the butter melts as your body warms up and your ride gets under way, the butter runs down your neck and across your shoulders. The action of relaxing your shoulders should follow the path of this butter. You don’t need to stick your chest out or push your shoulders back, just let them hang from your ears. You will find that after thinking about things for a while and having to remind yourself to do it for the first few rides, it will soon become second nature and you will feel much more comfortable after a long session on the bike.

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