Although it may seem as though cycling is quite straightforward and does not require much training or strategy, there are a number of important tips that can help ensure that you have a proper cycling form.
We will discuss 10 of the best and most digestible tips for developing a proper cycling form.
Make Sure Your Bike Fits Your Body Properly
One of the most important things to consider when it comes to improving your cycling form is the fact that your bike size needs to be proportionate to your body size.
This refers to the length of your arms and legs, as well as the size and length of your torso. If your bike doesn’t fit you correctly, you will truly never be able to maintain proper cycling form.
A bike that is too big or too small will put you in the wrong riding position, and as a result, will compromise your cycling form. Make sure that your legs can comfortably reach and properly operate the bike pedals while sitting.
Also, be sure to consider your reach and how that translates into an optimal handlebar distance. Things like crank length/radius, handlebar height, and saddle positioning are all incredibly crucial.
Finding a bike that properly fits your body size and proportions is also important for safety reasons.
Cycling with a bike that is too small or too large is dangerous and can lead to injuries caused by overextending or otherwise unnecessarily stressing your body.
Work On Core Strength And Flexibility
This one may seem somewhat obvious, but some people may overlook the importance of maintaining a good level of flexibility and core strength in relation to proper cycling form.
A body that is inflexible can cause a variety of problems including balance issues and stiffness of the limbs and joints, which is bad news, especially for longer cycling trips.
Core strength is equally important, as a core that is weak will create problems for riders trying to stay upright, maintain posture, and develop proper cycling form.
Our core acts as the main source of stability for the entire body, and as a result, training core strength alongside flexibility is incredibly important.
One of the best ways to train both flexibility AND core strength at the same time is to partake in regular yoga and pilates sessions.
These practices are geared directly towards improving the body’s flexibility, which will also act to continuously engage the abdominals and other core muscles, resulting in significant strength building.
It is also important to stretch on a daily basis, in addition to other activities like yoga and weight training, as this will give your body the chance to get used to bending and contorting.
Work On Your Pedaling Cadence
A cycling cadence is a fairly simple concept to understand fundamentally. In essence, it is the number of revolutions that your pedals are making per minute as you are riding.
Riders will pedal at different rates depending on a number of factors. It is important to work on your pedaling cadence in order to develop a proper cycling form overall.
Start by doing some cadence drills. When you are embarking on your next ride, plan to do a 10-minute session of cadence drills.
Pedal at a higher speed of around 120 rpm (rotations per minute) for about 2 minutes, and then proceed to reduce that down to closer to 50 rpm for another 2 minutes. Repeat this cycle until your 10-minute session has been completed.
This will help train the fast and slow twitch muscles involved in the pedaling mechanic and will promote efficiency for your riding. For the remainder of your ride, focus on finding and maintaining a cadence that is comfortable for you and your abilities.
The average cadence for a decent cyclist is usually somewhere between 75 and 90 rpm.
Bend Your Elbows And Relax Your Grip
Your elbows and your hands are crucial to the overall quality of your cycling form. Riding with locked elbows will mean that every bump you hit will resonate through your arms and into your body, which can be very jarring and will surely affect your form.
Bent elbows will essentially act like a suspension setup, which will reduce stress on your wrists, hands, and shoulders.
Another mistake that is commonly made by cyclists is that they are gripping their handlebars too tightly, often without even realizing it. In some cases, like sprinting or short bursts of speed, a tight grip is necessary.
However, in all other situations, maintaining a relaxed grip is ideal for maintaining proper cycling form.
A light grip will save energy, lower blood pressure, and prevent your upper body from feeling rigid and stressed while riding. Ultimately, paying attention to your grip will improve overall performance.
Stay Hydrated And Satiated
Perhaps one of the less obvious tips for maintaining proper cycling form is keeping yourself sufficiently hydrated and satiated while riding.
Water loss happens quickly through perspiration while cycling and dehydration will contribute directly to your body becoming weak and losing posture. Be sure to always have a water bottle handy, preferably one that holds 1 liter at least.
You can also mix electrolytes into your water which will provide extra energy and help your body retain water.
Although hydration is arguably of the most immediate importance, as dehydration occurs faster than hunger, making sure that you have eaten properly before riding is crucial.
Eat solid foods prior to the start of your lengthy rides (pasta, stews, etc..).Cycling nutrition is a very important part of the process.
As you progress through the duration of your ride, pay attention to your energy levels and be ready to replenish with things like energy bars, gels, and other pick-me-ups.
Paying attention to hydration and satiation is a very important part of helping your body stay alert and invigorated, which will translate directly into ensuring proper cycling form.
Invest In Proper Footwear
When it comes to cycling, it is incredibly important to be equipped with the right gear in order to maximize performance. Footwear is, quite obviously, one of the more important pieces of a cyclist’s gear collection.
Finding the right shoes to properly fit your feet and match your style of riding is definitely something you should be striving for. Avoiding slipping, catching, cramps, discomfort or any other foot issues is crucial.
The right footwear will go a long way in promoting proper cycling form and allowing you to excel. For road biking, which is one of the most common styles of cycling, you will likely be needing a set of clip-on cleats.
This will depend on the type of pedals that you have on your bike, as they will need to be compatible. Mountain biking shoes will have stiff, rugged soles, and will sometimes feature a recessed cleat design.
Regardless of which style of riding you are doing, it is important to invest in the right footwear in order to ensure proper cycling form.
Gear Management for Proper Cycling Form
Gear management and proper gear-shifting practices are other important aspect to maintaining proper cycling form. Shifting gears at the right time is a skill that can take a while to master, but is totally worth the time.
Cyclists tend to make the common mistake of waiting too long to shift to an easier gear when they are approaching an incline. In these situations, the chain will take on unnecessary load and could cause damage.
It is important to preemptively gear down when approaching a hill so that you are not compromising your pedaling cadence and putting too much strain on your gears and chain.
These issues that arise through improper gear management while riding will inevitably cause problems for the quality of your cycling form.
Be aware of the ins and outs of shifting gears efficiently and you will maintain proper cycling form.
Pay Attention To Your Weight Distribution
Another one of the more common mistakes that beginner cyclists tend to make is that they are inclined to put extra unnecessary weight on their handlebars while riding. This is often a compensation mechanism that is used when a rider’s legs get tired.
It is important to be consciously thinking about your weight distribution, as this will directly affect your posture and form.
Actively remind yourself to keep your weight centered more towards the middle to the back of the bike, and do your best to keep weight off of the handlebars.
When you are tired, keep your hips back over the pedals and maintain a loose grip on the handlebars, rather than leaning forward.
In this position, your weight will be supported by your core and your legs will be able to rest. Keep this in mind and you will be able to develop a proper cycling form.
Wear Proper Legwear/Underwear
Although it may not seem like something that is of any significance when it comes to proper cycling form, your undergarments play an important role.
It is a well-known fact that you should NOT wear any sort of underwear under your cycling shorts, for any reason. First of all, typical underwear is not made with the body-fitting Lycra that cycling shorts feature.
They will simply not conform to the cyclist’s buttocks and legs the way that proper cycling shorts do. Normal underwear will inherently be much looser fitting, and as a result, can cause areas of bunching.
This buildup of loose material can contribute to things like chafing, and when saturated with sweat, can cause issues like saddle sores and dangerous bacterial infections.
Ensuring that you are equipped with the right type and arrangement of legwear and undergarments will work wonders for maintaining proper cycling form.
Develop Good Breathing Techniques
Another important aspect to consider when it comes to maintaining proper cycling form is breathing techniques. Being aware of your breathing, and using this awareness to keep yourself in rhythm will go a long way for your overall form.
One great tip is to count your breaths and align them with the rhythm of your pedal strokes in order to bring your focus to your breathing while also paying attention to your cadence. Inhale for 3 down-strokes, letting the air come into your lungs naturally.
Proceed by exhaling for 6 down-strokes, in this case forcing the air to the point where it is somewhat audible. This pattern will promote healthy breathing techniques, which will in turn allow you to stay calm and collected while riding any style of terrain.
Developing good breathing techniques, and focusing on your breathwork while riding will inherently help you maintain proper cycling form.
Consider these 10 simple, yet incredibly practical and effective tips for developing and maintaining proper cycling form.
They can be used in virtually any style of riding and should be fairly easy for riders to study, memorize and implement productively. Thanks for reading, be safe and enjoy the ride!
Last Updated on July 18, 2023 by Danijel Cakalic