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Thursday, 19 August 2010

3 Free Ways to Make Cycling Easier

I am writing this for the benefit of the hundreds of cyclists I see every month suffering because of at least one of these three basic and easily rectified problems:

1) Pump up your tyres.  The rolling resistance of a tyre not inflated to its rated pressure (usually printed on the tyre sidewall) is much higher than if it were properly inflated.  If you are finding cycling generally knackers you, check the tyres.  It is also worth noting that a tyre will feel hard before it reaches its rated pressure. If your pump has a gauge make sure you get the pressure to at least the minimum quoted on the side of the tyre.

2) Raise your saddle.  Again, if you are finding cycling tiring, especially around the knees it is likely that your saddle is too low.  When people are new to cycling they usually want that saddle low enough so put both feet down on the ground.  When you get more confident, it helps to raise it to the point where your leg is almost straight when the pedal is at its lowest position.  This is the height at which your legs are most mechanically effective, allowing you to put more power down, eliminate knee strain and not get so tired.  It is also worth making sure the right part of your foot is on the pedal, ideally you want a bit of toe to overhang but not the rest of your foot

3) Use your gears.  there are plenty of fixed gears and single-speeds in Manchester, and that is fine (although I see a lot of fixed gears being pushed along rather than ridden).  What is more common is people on derailleur-geared bikes who always cycle in the same gear, usually the highest gear or oddly the small-small chainring combination which isn’t a combination you are supposed to use.  I notice them overtake me whilst at the front of a queue at the traffic lights.  I then have to go around them as they struggle to accelerate in the highest gear the bike has.  You will fly off at speed from lights and also climb hills with ease if you are just willing to give the gears a try.  It is also worth noting that cycling at a higher cadence (revs per min) is easier in the long run due to the aerobic nature of this kind of exertion versus the generally more anaerobic nature of pounding slowly in a high gear.

To those who are suffering from all three of these conditions, I salute you for not having given up on cycling just yet.


  1. brilliant post!!! And very funny too, in the sense that I did all of the above... till... well... I just learnt! Thick tires like the Marathons feel really hard even when they are really really deflated, I check and pump my tires at least every two weeks, if I forget when I cycle I feel like I have a puncture. Same about the saddle, I had a 'light bulb' moment when we visited Copenhagen when I saw many women of my height tip toeing while waiting at traffic lights, now my saddle is high enough to just do that, I am also mastering the hopping off, pushing off and hopping back on the saddle, then I'll be able to raise it even more. I agree that the more your legs are stretched while cycling the less they will feel tired and painful knees will be avoided :)

  2. Same here, I learned all of this from doing it myself. When I was younger I tried to stay in the highest gear possible and I had no idea how much the deflated tyres where tiring me out. It was only when I started to extend my range that I learned about the advantages of having the saddle high enough, making longer distances much easier to cover.

  3. Yea, all good advice. I've tried telling the girlfriend all of the three things above, and she wont do any of them.

  4. You could probably get away with raising the seat by 1 cm without her knowing and pumping up the tyres on the sly. The rest needs co-operation

  5. na... that'd come across as patronising (even when meant with the best intentions)... best thing is to check whether you've asked nicely like 'have you tried' rather than 'do this, do that!'... no matter how nicely you guys put it, it usually come across as "I know best, you don't"... only a woman's suggestion... ;)

    another good port of call is to point her towards the many bike blogs written by women, they certainly helped me to build up my confidence... Mr.C has few on this blog, there are a fair few on mine, from that you can find even more... it's a bit like a russian doll... one link leads to another and so on ;)

  6. Calvers, regarding saddle height, does she get any discomfort from having her saddle too low?

    My better half didn't like to cycle without being able to put her feet down whilst seated, until on a longish ride her knees began to hurt. It was only then that she agreed to raise the saddle bit by bit, gaining confidence until it was at the right height.

    I get what L says about coming across as patronising, but what's also important is that whoever the rider is, it's important that they feel in control of the bike. Otherwise the confidence goes.

  7. I agree that it is better to educate someone rather than force them without their knowledge. That should be saved for especially stubborn people.

    @LC, I should probably add LGRAB and CYLRAB to my blogroll, I read them regularly enough.


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