By Susarra Mills
The latest lockdown has seen all competitive, community and school sports shut down. Saddle
As was the case last year, 2021 has resulted in booming numbers of kids and wobbly first time (in a long time!) adult riders dusting off their bicycles and enjoying being outdoors experiencing a whole ‘new’ way of exercising.
Seasoned cyclists are delighted to witness a daily procession of new riders cycling to the shops, local kids building their own suburban jump spots, tiny tots scooting along the pavement, (while mum pushes the pram and dad walks the dog) or seniors simply out exploring the paths of Galston Village, Fagan Park and Hayes Oval- perhaps venturing further afield through lovely Arcadia and Glenorie on our (temporarily) quiet rural roads astride shiny bicycles or new bikes.
However, the classic novice rider mistake is also noted by the trained cycling eye- namely attempting to cycle with the saddle set down way too low! School ‘cycle safe’-type programmes have a lot of sore knees and discouraged, uncomfortable riders to answer for.
Novice riders are often told they should coast to a stop and be able to put their feet dead flat on the ground while seated on the saddle…WRONG!
Think of each leg like a piston that powers the cranks to propel your bike. A piston is straight, not bent, isn’t it?
Many Laws of physics apply to bicycle riding, and how to pedal a bike efficiently is one of them. You cannot ride comfortably or efficiently if your knees are permanently bent as they spin round and round.
Apart from injuring your knees, it is a futile struggle to maintain your balance properly and make any decent progress- particularly up hills -which is when you need to push as much power as possible through those pedals!
There are numerous ways to adjust your saddle height- from nuts and bolts on the supermarket special bikes- to quick release levers or highly sophisticated dropper posts. Many Road cyclists willingly pay several hundred dollars to undergo scientific consultations for custom bike fittings. There is a tonne of free information out there, however. Point your browser to it while making sure that your current bike can be adapted to fit you- not you trying to shoehorn yourself into fitting the bike.
NO! IT’S TOO LOW WHEN…
1. That bike you just dusted off was last ridden 5 years ago. It’s too small for you! Time for a new bike!
2. The ‘cycle safe’ programme you did at school was so ‘safe’ it was irrelevant to actual cycling and taught you nothing about correct bike fit & riding position.
3. Anxious about stopping and starting? It’s a valid fear for a beginner because that is when you are at your most multi-tasking wobbly on a bicycle! All beginners must practise stopping and starting while raising the saddle by increments as self-confidence, balancing, braking and stopping skills improve.
4. You intend to cycle any distance greater than 1km !!
YES! SET IT LOW WHEN…
1. Riding at a Purpose-built BMX track, pump or jump tracks.
2. When cycling along singletracks in the bush here, use your dropper post when approaching, and then committing to riding down, and technical descents. (Old school XC riders will remember throwing their weight back off the saddle and negotiating the downhill Gnar with the saddle on their chest!)
The same applies when taking a jump. You definitely want that saddle out of your way when getting airtime.
3. Any downhill or gravity enduro-type riding: Expect to get ‘thigh burn’ during each run, due to standing up on the pedals all the time as you work the bike over whatever the trail throws at you.
HMMM… SET IT SLIGHTLY LOW WHEN…
Cycling in unpredictable situations: most urban built environments in Sydney have been designed for cars and facilities for pedestrians and bicyclists have been an afterthought- if they even exist at all. So one car less emitting CO2 and that simple errand to the shops ‘a’la bike’ could mean you may have to slow down or stop for
A) indifferent drivers going in and out of parking,
B) you’ll have to ride on and off paths that are not designed for bikes,
C) navigate potholes (Galston Village has some absolute beauties)
D) give way to pedestrians, dismount and walk your bike along busy walkways for your safety, and the safety of pedestrians.
So it’s a good idea to set your saddle slightly lower than its correct height -for personal safety and bike control-while engaged in casual urban riding.
The more you ride, the better you get at it and the more intimately you get to know your outdoor environments and what happens in them. Ownership and a sense of belonging grow with familiarity and attachment to a place.
The bicycle is the most benevolent, environmentally friendly conveyance available to us in these troubled times and it can be anything you want it to be! So put that bum on a saddle and get set to be part of our quiet revolution.