Form Week: your guide to better riding
Barely a week goes by here at CyclingTips that we don’t get an email or tweet asking us why we don’t publish more tips. We get it: the site is called CyclingTips after all. While we still do publish a bunch of tips and other articles on how to improve your riding – see the ‘Tips and Self Improvement’ section on the homepage – it’s true we don’t publish as much as we used to. This is largely because the site has evolved since the early days; we now cover cycling in more depth, from more angles, and tips are only a part of what we do.
All that said, we’ve got years of great tips and advice in the archives and it would be a shame to see them forgotten. So, this week, we’ve pulled together a handful of our favourite ‘tips’ articles for ‘Form Week’, to help you improve your form on the bike. We’ve got everything from articles about the muscles you should be using while climbing, to how to “look pro” on the bike, and a whole lot more besides.
So, join us for Form Week and brush up on some tips and tricks that will help you improve your riding. And if there are particular stories you’d like to see us revisit, or other tips you’d like to see us cover, please let us know in the comments!
What is ‘good form’?
Having ‘good form’ on the bike incorporates a number of elements. On a superficial level, it’s about how you look on the bike; at a more nuanced level, it’s about ensuring that your setup on the bike is good, that your pedalling style is efficient, that you’re using the muscles you should, and that you’re getting as much out of your riding as you can.
It’s important to be properly fitted to your bike. Your frame should be the right size, and you should ensure that stack height, stem length, cleat positioning, saddle fore-aft positioning and saddle height are all appropriate to your body shape and size. Most importantly, get a professional to fit you out properly.
You should have good posture on the bike; your hips, knees and ankles should all be aligned; and your feet and ankles should be relaxed.
Of course it’s easy to read and write about form; actually incorporating it into your riding takes time.
Here are a handful of pieces that can help you with your form on the bike:
A strong core
Having a strong core is vital if you’re going to improve as a cyclist. If your core isn’t strong, you might find it hard to understand why a strong core might help, but it will. Quite simply, core strength will help transfer more power to the pedals by providing a solid platform for the lower body to push against.
The following articles can help you improve your core:
Working your glutes
When it comes to the muscles we use when cycling, the glutes are by far the most underappreciated. The quads and calves are the ones that get the attention — and that tend to look ‘ripped’ in trained cyclists — but the glutes are equally as important.
To ride well, time-trial well, and climb well, you need gluteal strength. If you can’t activate your glutes properly you force your quads and hamstrings to do the work, meaning you miss out on a whole lot of power to the pedals you could have had:
Improving your climbing
If there’s one thing all cyclists would like to improve it’s our ability to go uphill. But there’s no quick fix — it’s about getting the basics right, getting comfortable riding in and out of the saddle, and spending plenty of time in the hills.
That said, here are some tips on how you can improve as a climb.
- How to become a better climber
- Climbing strategies
- An interesting article that might not help you climb better, but will help you understand the forces at play: Climbing vs time-trialling: same effort, different power output
Looking good on the bike
Of course, if you can’t ride like a pro, you might as well look one. There are a multitude of ‘rules’ when it comes to styling yourself on the bike, some of them ridiculous, some of them not-so.