Cycling Posture - Upright is Right ! A view ahead for the bicycle industry For the bicycle industry to grow, we need to attract more of the 90% world‟s population who choose not to cycle. If we can look beyond cycling as a sport / leisure / hobby activity, this vast 'Blue Ocean' of potential cyclists is a huge opportunity for the bicycle industry. Like most decisions in the bicycle industry, cycling posture is heavily influenced by cycle sport, but is this appropriate for everyone?
Bicycles are designed for people to use, so like chairs and most things we sit on, they need to be comfortable and healthy. A well designed chair supports the natural curve of the spine. The lumber support seen on car seats and modern office chairs encourages the spine to curve into its natural lordotic „S‟ shape. Children are encouraged not to slouch, because with age this can cause back problems. Poor posture is outlawed in the workplace, with back problems accounting for over 100 million lost work days per year, just in the USA.
For racing and sport cyclists, speed is more important than good back posture or the view ahead, so riders crouch down and the spine is unnaturally curved to avoid wind resistance. Fortunately as these athletes are powering along, tensed muscles protect their bent spines. Unfortunately when bicycles set up for sport and racing are used casually for leisure and transport, bent spines unsupported by muscles are vulnerable to strain. Although more upright than racing bikes, mountain bikes and hybrid bikes do not give good posture for everyday, and around town use, the sporty, lean forward posture, still strains the back, neck and wrists. Only the upright posture is really suitable for a pleasant journey by bicycle, and not a fitness training session.
Sports equipment is the most appropriate when carrying out a sport, BUT for a whole industry to pretend it's also suitable for everyday use is lazy, patronising and absurd.
So how have we got into the situation where new, urban and non-sportive cyclists are sold bikes which are totally unsuitable, uncomfortable and probably harm the back and neck? (As well as being bad for viewing the road and traffic ahead).
Historically, when the bicycle emerged over 100 years ago as affordable personal transport for everyone, comfort and good posture was more important than outright speed. The upright riding position (as seen above, on the right) evolved as the optimum posture for everyday cycling in everyday clothes. Since then in countries and cities where cycling has continuously been used as personal transport (Holland, Denmark, India etc