‘Who’s this patronising ****, telling me how to sit on a saddle?’
Here’s the gist. I see too many riders putting far too much weight on their handlebars, especially those with locked out arms. Watch the top riders and you’ll invariably see bent arms and a loose grip on the bars. The ‘loose grip’ element is the crucial part here…
Because this releases unnecessary tension in the shoulder and neck area, and places the majority of the rider’s weight on to the saddle, allowing more power to be generated from the core area and the bum, resulting in a more fluid pedalling motion, more economical use of the thigh muscles and better use of the abductors, and less wasted motion in the upper body.
All that stiffness around the neck means wasted energy and a less comfortable ride. An upper body that bobs up and down, even slightly, means more wind resistance and a loss of power that could be put into the pedals rather than being used to propel and stabilise unneccesary upper body movements.
When you sit on the saddle, you really want to be sitting into the saddle, kind of as if you’re forcing the baskside into the seat rather than bobbing about on it.
Next time you go out, try, on a well-surfaced road, to ride at a tempo to threshold pace first with a tight grip on the bars, and then after a few minutes release the fingers so that the palms and fingers are only resting on the bars. You should notice the difference immediately.
(A rider with a really good core can grab the drops for a bit and then take their hands off and still stay low down – give that a go too, but only if you’re confident enough that you won’t fall off..!)
You’ll find, with hands resting instead of gripping, all white-knuckled, that the legs have to do more work pulling as well as pushing, to keep you in one place on the saddle. This is especially true when climbing on moderate slopes. You’ll most likely find that at first your times on regular climbs are slightly slower than usual, but climbing in this way provides a little ‘re-education camp’ for the leg muscles, improves muscularity (as you’re utilising more of the muscle), improves the pedalling motion (because you have to pull as well as push), and, once you get the hang of it and it becomes second nature, you’ll find yourself going faster because you’ll be stronger and making more economical use of your body by keeping the upper part still and improving your core, glute and abductor muscles.
You should also find that, when you stand up, you can get ‘deeper’ into the pedal stroke because you won’t be swinging the upper body as much as previously, thanks to that improved core and leg muscularity.
One other way to work on this, if you have no hills, is to drop to one, two or even three gears harder on long flat sections, and also to try going as quickly as possible from low speed starts (say 10km/hr) seated rather than standing, forcing the legs alone to get you moving rather than also using the upper body
Give it a whirl. You might just be surprised with the results.