No More Bouncing in the Saddle!

It’s a sign that you’re being taken for a ride, a bad one.

In every indoor cycling class, there are at least a few riders who are grooving to the music and having a great time, speeding down the imaginary road—with their butts bouncing in the saddle. They probably think they’re working hard but the bounce factor is a sure sign of wasted energy. Typically, bouncing in the saddle suggests that something is wrong between the rider and the bike. Here’s a look at the three most common suspects:

The bike isn’t set up properly for your physique. In the case of bouncing, this likely means the seat is too low. The seat should be at a height so that you get a full leg extension on each pedal stroke but low enough that you can maintain a slight bend in the knee (25 to 35 degrees of flexion) at the bottom of the pedal stroke. If the seat is too low, you can end up bouncing in the saddle and compressing your knees, which is harmful to the joints and ligaments. If you’re not sure what the right seat height is for you, your instructor can help you set up the bike properly for your needs.

You don’t have enough resistance on the bike. Because an indoor cycle has a weighted flywheel, once that wheel is set into motion it will stay in motion even with little or no effort on your part. This means your legs are essentially being taken for a ride. To have enough resistance on the bike, you’ll want to feel like you’re actually pushing against something.

That will prevent your butt from bouncing on the seat. Remember: Light or low resistance doesn’t ever mean no resistance.

You are pedaling too fast. If you’re flying down the proverbial road to nowhere at a break-neck pace, at RPMs of, say, 120 or higher, you’re not doing yourself much good. For one thing, it probably means your resistance is very low so you’re not pushing against much of anything.

An even bigger concern: Once you start bouncing on the seat, your form goes to ruin, which can lead to more problems.

            After all, bouncing in the saddle isn’t just uncomfortable while you’re doing it. It can leave you with a lingering case of saddle soreness the next day. It also compromises the efficiency of your pedal strokes, which in turn inhibits your ability to engage the right muscles and get as much out of the ride as possible. And it increases your risk of injuring your knees and/or developing back or hip pain.

            A second cousin to the bouncing-in-the-saddle problem: Hip rocking. This happens when cyclists have heavy down-strokes, rather than smooth, oval-shaped pedal strokes, and their hips shift or rock from side to side as they jam on the pedals. More often than not, this means the rider’s pedal strokes are inefficient. Yes, there should be a small amount of side-to-side movement as you pedal but your hips should not be rocking or rolling or swaying. Settle your hips, smooth out your pedal strokes—by making a concerted effort to hit every point on the circle and eliminate any dead spots—and you’ll ride more comfortably and efficiently.

            Taking the time to make these adjustments will help you gain greater strength, health and fitness benefits from your indoor cycling experience, and it’ll help you burn more calories. There’s nothing but an upside!

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