Proper Cycling Form – 14 Tips For Best Riding Practice

Riding a bike isn’t just about sitting on the saddle and grinding away on the pedals. You can ride like this, but just like any sport, you will be much better at it if you ride with the proper cycling form.

It is not complicated to work on your form, but there are a few things to focus on. If you concentrate on a single element on a ride, it will become second nature.

You will develop the proper cycling form when you piece all of the following techniques together. In turn, you will start to see the benefits and enjoy your riding even more.

In this article, we will concentrate on-road cycling and go into the details of:

  • Cycling posture
  • How to improve your cycling form
  • How to make your pedalling smoother

Are you ready to become an all-around great cyclist with proper form?

Let’s get started!

Proper Cycling Form 14 Tips For Best Riding Practice.

Cycling Posture

Your posture is one of the key things you need to work on to have the proper cycling form. One of the most common mistakes cyclists make, it to have too much tension in their bodies.

Being able to relax on the bike takes time, especially for nervous riders. But being stress-free and letting go of tension is the first thing you need to work on.

The issue with being tense on your bike is that it stops you from using the proper cycling form. Therefore you are less efficient, as you demand more from your body.

Other benefits of releasing tensions include enhanced comfort, better bike handling, easier breathing and injury prevention.

5 Characteristics Of The Perfect Cycling Posture

1. Relaxed Shoulders

When your shoulders start moving towards your ears, you put unnecessary stress on your neck, shoulders and back. This stress can prevent proper cycling form, as it restricts your movement when you need to move your head. So keeping your shoulders relaxed will help you stay alert when you ride.

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2. Bent Elbows

If you ride with locked elbows, all the bumps in the road will transfer through your arms into your body. This makes your ride uncomfortable and tiring, but it also increases your chances of getting bucked off the bike on bumpy roads.

But, if you bend your elbows and tuck them into your sides, they will act like suspension and reduce the stress on your shoulders, hands and wrists.

3. Relaxed Hands

Another common mistake that cyclists make without realising is gripping their handlebars too tightly. You may want to have a tighter grip for sprinting, but the rest of the time, you should have a light, relaxed grip.

Relaxing your grip saves energy, slightly lowers blood pressure, and keeps you from feeling too tight and stressed on the bike.

This minor adjustment can make a significant difference in your comfort during long rides, which will ultimately improve your performance and help with proper cycling form.

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4. A Neutral Spine

You should ride with your back relatively straight, but make sure it is not locked or tensed into a line. A common mistake many cyclists make is letting their back round outward. If you do this, you may experience all sorts of issues over time.

To ensure your back is nice and straight, engage your core while riding. If you relax your abs, your back will round out.

This will put more pressure on your hands, shoulders and crotch.

5. Your Knees Are In Line With Your Feet

If your knees bow outward, your pedalling will be very inefficient. But, it can also cause painful knee issues. Therefore, concentrate on keeping your knee in line with and over the ball of your foot as you ride. Also, make sure your cleats are set up correctly to keep everything in line.

3 Ways To Improve Your Cycling Form

If you find any of these aspects challenging, there are some other things that may be affecting your cycling form.

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1. Make Sure Your Bike Fits You Properly

If your bike doesn’t fit you correctly, you will never be able to maintain the proper cycling form. You need to ride a bike that is the correct size for you.

A bike that is too big or too small will put you in the wrong riding position. It can also be dangerous and cause injuries from stressing your body in the wrong way.

But having the correct size bike is just the start. It is a good idea to get a professional bike fit.

A session with a bike fitter will determine things like handlebar height, crank length, saddle choice etc. All these play a significant part in having the proper cycling form.

2. Listen To Your Body

When you ride your bike, pay attention to what your body tells you. For example, where do you feel the tension? Does anything feel out of line or out of its range of motion?

Concentrate on relaxing your muscles and breathing while thinking about each aspect of your riding position.

3. Work On Your Flexibility And Core Strength

Inflexibility body can cause unbalance and cause your body to move out of alignment. If you struggle to hold your proper cycling form as you ride, you need to work on your flexibility and core strength.

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You can improve flexibility and core strength with yoga and Pilates. But it is a good idea to add stretching into your daily routine.

Stretching every day will give you that all-important range of motion. It can also help align your muscles back into their ordered state after movement.

The extra flexibility will also help you get into an aerodynamic position, so you can reduce those Strava times.

Hitting the gym to improve your core strength is also beneficial for cycling. A strong core allows you to maintain your posture, but it also creates a solid platform to push the pedals from. This significantly helps your pedalling efficiency.

6 Tips For Smoother Pedalling

Now you have a good idea about getting into the correct riding position, we need to move on to the other aspect of proper cycling form, pedalling.

When you watch a professional rider pedal, you cannot help but be amazed at the power and flow they have. This becomes more apparent when you see a Tour de France rider climbing an impossibly steep col or riding incredibly fast for mile after mile.

One thing you notice about these riders is how smooth and relaxed they are. You can make your pedalling smoother, too, with some tweaks to your riding style.

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1. Keep It Simple

One of the good things about clipless pedals is that you can get a bit more power by pulling up, as well as pushing down. This is fine when you need a little bit more power, but not for consistent and smooth pedalling.

The best thing to do, is pedal naturally, allow your foot to return to the top of the pedal stroke. You will pedal much more smoothly by overthinking what your feet are doing.

2. Set Your Saddle To The Correct Height

We mentioned earlier that your bike should fit you properly. But a simple adjustment that will help your pedalling is to set your saddle to the correct height.

If you go for a bike fitting session, the fitter will be able to give you set your saddle up for you. But, you can set up your saddle height yourself.

When you sit on your saddle, your knee should be at around 25 to 30 degrees with your foot at the bottom of the pedal stroke.

An excellent way to set your saddle height is to straighten your leg, so your pedal is at the bottom of the stroke, with your heel dropped. This position will give you a sufficient bend in your knee when you pedal.

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3. Make Sure Your Cleats Are In The Correct Position

Again, a bike fitter will be able to set your cleats up for you, but this is something you can do yourself.

When you fit your cleats to your shoes, position the ball of your foot over the pedal spindle. If the cleats are offset, your pedalling won’t be as efficient as it could be.

You also need to set the angles of your cleats to match the natural position of your feet. Stand barefoot and take notice of the position of your feet.

If your feet point outward slightly, you need to translate this stance to your pedals.

4. Get Some Decent Cycling Shorts

This may seem a bit odd when talking about proper cycling form, but comfort will make a massive difference to how you ride.

If you are uncomfortable, you will move around on your saddle, trying to relieve some pressure. But with a decent pair of padded shorts, you will be able to maintain your posture and pedal smoothly.

Proper Cycling Form - 14 Tips For Best Riding Practice.

5. Work On Your Cadence

Your cadence is the speed that you pedal at, and a great way to improve the smoothness of your pedalling is to do some cadence drills.

When you are out on a ride, you can do a 10 minute set of cadence drills. Pedal at 120 rpm for 2 minutes, then drop it down to 50 rpm for 2 minutes. Repeat until your 10 minutes are up.

Doing these drills activates the muscles you use for pedalling. This exercise goes a long way to make your pedalling more efficient during intense sections of your ride.

For the rest of your ride, try to maintain a cadence that works well for you. For most people, this is between 75 and 105 rpm.

6. Think About Smoothness

When you pedal, avoid any jerky movements. Think about making your pedalling as smooth and as circular as possible.

As you get tired, you may become less smooth; sometimes, it may even feel like you are pedalling in squares. But if you stay mindful of maintaining a smooth motion, you will remain efficient throughout your ride.

Now Get Out And Ride

All this may seem like proper cycling form requires a lot of work. But, developing the proper cycling form doesn’t have to be overwhelming.

Work on each aspect in stages, don’t try to improve everything during your next ride. If you do this, your enjoyment will be compromised and trying to work on too many things at once will slow down your progress.

Once you have mastered each element, you will soon be riding with the proper cycling form and it will be time to work on speed! So check these out:

How To Cycle Faster: 9 Tips To Speed Up

Cycling Interval Training Workouts: Boost Your Speed And Power

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One of BikeTips' regular content creators, Tom lives in the French Alps. When he isn't writing, he can be found charging downhill on a mountain bike or snowboard. Tom's other passion is fitness, which goes a long way to help him make the most of the Alpine lifestyle.

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