Proper Pelvic Position on the Bike

Jan
28

Posted by Coach Adam Sczech

When it comes to position on the bike, most riders think primarily of the legs, but the pelvis is no less important. If you are having neck or back pain, it's possible your pelvic tilt is a contributing factor. 

The most common problem I see is a posteriorly rotated pelvis that could be described as “slouching”.  In this position on the saddle, the rider positions oneself as though he/she is sitting in a chair then bending their spine to reach the handlebars. This is bad for several reasons: 

 

  • It lowers lung capacity, because one cannot fully open their chest when curled up,
  • It causes one to have to fire the trapezius more to keep the head up, thereby wasting calories
  • The neck is overextended when looking down the road since the upper back is slanting down to the neck
  • The shoulders are “rolled” forward/up causing possible impingement
  • Power is diminished due to the use of lower back muscles, opposed to the abdominal wall, for pedaling force production
  • Last but not least, it could adversely affect your run off the bike

How do I know if my pelvis is properly rotated?  One of the easiest ways to see if you are properly rotating your pelvis is the to set your bike up on a trainer with a mirror at your side.  Start pedaling and look at yourself in the mirror.  Is your back humped? Is your neck kinked? Is your elbow pointing at the mirror?  Yes to any of these questions means you are probably not rotating your pelvis properly. 

How do we fix it?  The simplest answer is to anteriorly orient the pelvis to be neutral with the spine.  With the bike on the trainer next to a mirror, sit straight up in the saddle and make sure your pelvis is in line with your shoulders. Then, keeping your pelvis and shoulders in line, rotate at the point your femurs enter pelvis (i.e. hips) as you reach forward toward the handlebar. Look in the mirror and ensure that you have a flat back. It should look like a plank or like you just pushed off the wall in the pool. This is proper posture and some of the benefits are:

 

  • You are able to use your abdominal wall for force production, which is much stronger and more stable than the lower back
  • You are able to “fall into your chest” meaning your chest is open so you can use your full lung capacity, and your upper body is more skeletally support rather that muscularly thereby saving calories

The tricky part is maintaining a properly rotated pelvis.  It is important to remember that proper posture is a habit, which means it takes patience as old habits are broken.  A good way to work on this is to really focus on having a flat back for the first fifteen minutes of a ride. After a while it will become more normal and you even may notice an increase in efficiency on the bike.  One thing I do when I feel my posture might be lacking during a race or long ride is I imagine I am trying to hold a pencil between my shoulder blades,  when the shoulder blades are pulled back the chest naturally opens up and flattens the back.  Another cue is to try to stick one's butt out, which brings about an anteriorly rotated pelvis.

The most important thing to remember is that if you find or suspect you are not properly rotating your pelvis, GET A BIKE FIT.  If you have been riding with poor posture for a while it's possible that your bike will not allow proper posture without adjustments. Your bike might be too short in the cockpit.  A good fitter will be able to adjust the bike to accommodate your proper posture and give you some free speed.

** Side note/trivia: the pelvis is important enough that even whales and some snakes have pelvic structures, even though they do not have legs.


 

Coach Adam is an IRONMAN Certified Coach, USAT Level I Certified Coach and a certified Bike Fitter based out of the Western Slope of Colorado. Adam has years of experience coaching beginners, juniors, elites, and clubs as well as a year focusing specifically on special needs athletes. Adam's expertise with bike fitting is extensive with over 15 years and 8,000 fits for athletes that include two world record holders, a national champion, several IRONMAN Pro/Age Groups winners and an ITU winner. He has completed several full and half Ironman races, as well as numerous Olympic and Sprint races. Adam grew up competing in speed skating and hockey in the midwest before playing football in high school and college.  After an injury in college football he took up road cycling, and competed on the road and track until making the switch to triathlon in 2009. Contact Coach Adam at Adam@TeamMPI.com.

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