Take It From Doc

23/09/2008 15:22 by Amsterdamize

Amsterdamize reader/faithful Alan ventured into the realm of medicine & cycling and found this Guardian article by Jonathan Sale, called ‘Two Wheels‘, dealing with his physical misgivings on a bicycle. In short: it will enlighten you about the best and most healthy posture for cycling. Some excerpts:

Two Wheels
“If God wanted us to ride bicycles, babies would be born with crash helmets on their craniums and flashing red lights on their buttocks. Although, on the whole, we cyclists are fitter than non-cyclists, we must be careful of the impact of the bicycle frame on the human frame. Beset with back pains, I was advised to drop the drop handlebars years ago, on the grounds that the bent-over posture they imposed did my spine no favours. Being a commuting, not a racing cyclist, I could live with the extra wind resistance. That helped, but occasional twinges persisted.

A recent study published by the British Medical Journal showed that the Alexander Technique can ease back pain. It was time to consult Barry Collins, who gets around by bike and has been teaching AT for the past 25 years. “Severe spinal injury at zero mph,” warns a poster at his practice, illustrated by a drawing of an unhealthily slumped skeleton slouched in front of a computer; similar maltreatment of vertebrae can be seen in cyclists.”

Unhealthy posture.

Unhealthy posture.

“Most people in the saddle collapse their spine,” he says. “Collapsing the back produces in turn a collapse in the front, which restricts rib movement and breathing.” Placed carefully in a chair, I am both upright and relaxed, “another template for being in the saddle.”

“Push down with the heels.” Not the front of the foot, which is my usual practice. By now I am on Collins’ bike, tall in the saddle. “Open the backs of the knees on the power stroke. This takes the load off your knee joint.”

“It is the legs that really must do the work,” Collins says. “Use only the heels of your hands and then just let the fingers lie passively as if resting on fragile eggs.” Also, do not heave at the pedals in too high a gear: “Allow the legs to spin freely and so avoid tightening and constricting the upper body.” Then there is the pelvis: do not wiggle it from side to side but think of it as fixed to the spine. It’s the legs that go up and down, pivoting at the hip joints.

Healthy posture.

Healthy posture.

“Effortless effort” is what Collins is after. It is pretty Zen (the sound of one handlebar clapping, perhaps). “Let go of old muscle habits and relearn new ones,” he says. As I pedal home, fellow-cyclists may not be aware that my toes are relaxed, my heels are down, my arms are straight and my back is more like a capital I than a C. But I am.”

The Dutch concur, doc. :-p

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