Hip stability and maintaining a fluid range of motion around the hip region are important to maximize power production when cycling and to prevent cycling based injuries. A bike fit position that is too aggressive or a saddle that does not allow the correct pelvic orientation may result in significant losses of power production that inhibit performance and create discomfort or injury.
Your pelvis is the major point of support and contact with your bicycle and your bike fit position must enable you to stabilize this area. Its essential to be correctly supported by your saddle and facilitate good hip mobility, particularly when your knee is in full flexion (top of the pedal stroke).
Many bike fits that are aggressive and focus on looking fast or like the cycling pros, ultimately overlook the key biomechanics that generate power – mobility around the hips during full knee flexion. In order to take advantage of any benefits that a lower position may provide for aerodynamics – you must be able to continue to maintain the same power production that you achieved during a less aggressive position. Otherwise the overall position will look faster and produce the same performances as being more upright, or worse, they will result in reduced performances.
An aggressive bike fit position that restricts the motion around the hip region during full knee flexion will result in negative power production. Negative power production is when there is restriction that prevents your leg from flowing across the top of the pedal stroke and it creates a resisting force – in the wrong direction. The result is that your net power output will go down and for those that understand power, a small 5-10% reduction in power production from something as simple an overly aggressive bike fit is very significant and unlikely to be offset by any perceived aerodynamic gains.
A lack of hip mobility on the bike may present itself in various forms to assist you to avoid hip restriction at the top of the pedal stroke.
- Knees tracking outwards
- Unstable hips that rock from side to side
- Unstable hips that rock back and forth
- Posterior rotation of the pelvis
- Unusual knee tracking behaviours that follow the path of least resistance around the hip socket (knees tracking outwards, figure of 8 actions, looping actions etc)
All of the above common behaviours to hip mobility issues can result in discomfort and injury. They will also contribute to a lack of power production and performance on the bike.
How can you improve your hip mobility on the bike?
- Ensure you that regularly improve your range of motion through foam rolling, self massage and trigger point therapy.
- Ensure that you regularly work on your flexibility around your hips to allow a full range of motion. In particular, work on your hamstrings and glutes. If you are unsure of your weaknesses, contact your local exercise physiologist or physiotherapist for a musculoskeletal assessment and functional movement program.
- Ride a position that allows full hip mobility through a professional bike fit.
- Shorten your cranks to increase your hip angles during full knee flexion.
- Change your shoes to a brand that has a thinner carbon based sole such as Bont. This will allow your foot to be closer to the pedal and increase your hip angles during full knee flexion.
- Work on improving your core stability and functional strength with your local exercise physiologist, pilates / yoga instructor or physiotherapist
Please note that there may also be underlying conditions that reduce hip mobility and these should be addressed by an appropriate health professional in consultation with your bike fitter for appropriate modifications. These conditions may include
- Degenerative hip changes and osteoarthritis
- Abnormalities of the hip socket or femoral head (eg. FAI – Femoroacetabular Impingment)
- Labral Hip Tears or issues related to the acetabulum
- Inflammatory conditions
Ensuring that you have an appropriate range of hip mobility will improve your comfort on the bike, reduce the likelihood of injury and improve your cycling performance.