Mountain biking is becoming more and more popular and in Colac we are spoilt with some of the most awesome trails in Australia just on our doorstep at Forrest. I love getting out to Forrest and enjoying the challenge of the trails and the fitness and fun that it provides for me. Riding a mountain bike however can be painful.
There are 3 types of Mountain Bike Pain.
- The pain that you get when you fall off – As I average about 1 fall per trip to Forrest it is something that often comes from letting your ambitions get ahead of your ability. Solution – Learn the skills by doing a course with someone like Sandy Maxwell or go with experienced riders and ask them to teach you the basics of how to ride the trails. Don’t try and keep up though – go at your own pace and go harder and try more difficult rides only when you have mastered the easier rides and technical challenges.
- The pain you get in your muscles from climbing a really big hill or riding for several hours. Solution – Get Fitter – this is the pain you get from going harder than your body is used to going. The great thing is that by doing what you are doing, recovering, and then doing it again it does get easier. However when it gets easier you just tend to go harder and then it hurts again. BUT this is a GOOD HURT and is within the NO PAIN NO GAIN realm.
- The pain you get because your bike is not set up properly or is not the right fit for your size. Solution – Understand what you need to be looking for in a bike when you go to buy one. Don’t just grab anyones bike – make sure it is the right fit for you or you will end up in PAIN.
For practical purposes, let’s keep this simple—generally there are three sizes:
Small Frame = suits peole who are below 160cm tall
Medium Frame = suits people who are 160cm to 178cm tall
Large Frame = suits people who are 178cm – 193cm tall
Some adjustment may need to be made for those with long or short arms or legs. This is usually possible with adjustments to the seat and handlebars and head stem.
Seat (Saddle) Adjustments
A mountain-bike seat will move in three directions: up and down, forward and back, and flat or angled up or down on the post. The proper seat height for most comfort and most efficient riding tends to be way higher than you’ve always been used to. This is a fact!
If you get sore knees or Quads burning your seat is probably too low. If you are wobbling from side to side and over reaching or your toes are pointed you are too high. The best height for your mountain bike seat is when your leg is slightly bent (not locked out) at the bottom of a pedal stroke. Jump on and try!
Should I be upright or bent forward on the bike?
In General Mountain bikers ride in a more upright position. This is for a few reasons.
It is much safer if you can keep the front end of your bike lighter, especially on downhill sections. This is where the length of your upper body is also a factor. If it seems that your arms are bent too much while grasping the bars and if it feels like your upper body is too close or hanging over the front of the bike, then you must slide the seat back, and in many cases way back, on the post. Some of the more expensive, but awesome, options is to have a dropper seat post which allows you to get lower when going down hill and have it back up when you are climbing.
Also, a steeper upward angle on the stem/headset (the top of the steering fork and the angled part that the handlebar attaches to) will also put you in a more upright position.
Riser handlebars put you in a more comfortable and upright position—which helps to prevent excessive bending strain on our necks and backs—and at the same time shifts your weight distribution slightly further to the rear making you less likely to go over the handlebars.
Alternatively, if you tend to have a short upper body and you’re having trouble reaching the brakes, shifters, or bars, move your seat forward.
Lastly, the slope or tilt angle of your seat will also effect comfort and performance. Most riders will be comfortable with the seat angle flat or angled slightly down toward the front of bike. This also makes it easier for you to slide forward or back off the seat—for downhills—more quickly and smoothly.
So these simple strategies to having a good position on your bike can be the difference between a comfortable and fun ride or pulling up sore in your back, neck, shoulders, hips and knees.
Be Active! Enjoy Life!