FOLLOWING MY LEAD….LITERALLY—
This past Saturday, I finally got to ride in the Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle Charity Bike Ride near Braselton. Every year, it seems I had a conflict and if it weren’t for a cancelation, I would have missed it again. The reason I am mentioning this is because about 4-5 miles into the ride (which there was a lot of climbing), I heard someone behind me say “So that’s where the saddle is suppose to hit your legs”. My immediate thought was about Part I of this post series, where I talked about where the tongue of the saddle hits your hams when riding out of the saddle. But, as immediate as my thought was about Part I, was my second thought of there’s no way that’s what this guy was referring to. Wrong!!! What’s the odds of me showing up for a ride that I’ve never done, having a cyclist in the group that I just happen to be in who read Part I, and him being right behind me when I jumped out of the saddle the first few times on the ride? I’d say that was pretty darn cool. We ended up splitting off the century route and rode together to finish off the remaining 38 miles of the metric route. To no surprise, we got to talking about that yearly goal of mine of riding out of the saddle for 25 miles, among others. He told me when he read that, he went out and did that drill on his next ride and from the sound of it, that he set the same goal for him. Kudos to him.
WHAT’S YOUR GAS MILEAGE?
On to this final episode regarding your saddle; wear patterns on the side. As I mentioned in Part I, I can look at your saddle and learn a great deal about ‘how’ you ride your bike, bio-mechanically speaking. The lack of wear patterns is an immediate insight that means you have power loss, that you are using far more energy for the level of performance you are getting. As I am writing this, I am visualizing the majority of guys that was in the front group on Saturday’s ride. Yes, they were strong riders but I could tell by the way they rode their bikes, especially out of the saddle, that I would have found no wear patterns. This just proves that just because you are strong and/or fast on your bike, doesn’t mean you are very efficient at doing so. Here’s an analogy. Let’s say I haven’t changed the oil in my car for a year; I’m overdue by 10,000 miles. You, however, change it every 5,000 miles like clockwork. You already know whose engine is better off, right? Now, visualize that I am driving down the road at 65 mph and you are driving right beside me, going the exact speed. Who is getting the best gas mileage?
EVEN WEAR PATTERNS—
I took the picture above and cropped it so that you can really see the side wear patterns up close. Wear patterns on the side of the saddle take much longer to create, as there is less friction from your legs rubbing the side of the saddle, compared to the tongue of the saddle rubbing your hamstrings.
It’s obvious what part of my leg has caused this wear pattern; the inside of my quads. The other part I want to draw your attention to is how the wear patterns are evenly matched on both sides of the saddle. That clearly indicates two things: 1. I am riding on the center of the saddle, and 2. my leverage in both legs are equal, which means my inner quads in both legs are evenly developed. Change either one of these and the wear patterns will not be the same. For example, let’s say you are riding off center just a slight bit. The result would be a bigger wear pattern on the side of the saddle that you are farther off, meaning if you were slightly more towards the right part of the saddle, then you would have a bigger wear pattern on the left. Make sense?
ROOT CAUSE OF SIDE WEAR PATTERNS—
If your saddle has no wear patterns on the side then that means that your pedal stroke is in-efficient and therefore you are experiencing a power loss. Really? Really. It has to do with how you are creating power (or leverage) in your pedal stroke. If you have a weak point in your leverage, that affects your power; they are inter-connected. The sad part is that all pedals are level when they are installed, which automatically sets cyclists up to pedal incorrectly, bio-mechanically speaking. It’s a loss of power (or leverage) because when you pedal flat-footed (evenly from your big toe to your little toe), you are physically engaging only the outer part of your quads, leaving your inner quads to get a free ride and never be engaged. A very simple ‘visual’ inspection you can do on yourself is to see if there is any space between the inside of your leg and the outside of your top tube. Nope, you can’t just manually move your knees inward during your pedal stroke to fix the real problem; it’s not that simple. Your knees are your ‘visual indicator’ of what is going on during your pedal stroke…not the other way around. Change how you apply pressure to your pedals, and your knees automatically (or bio-mechanically) will change, allowing you to engage your inner quads.
Let me prove my point, bio-mechanically. The majority of folks, when asked, think their knee aligns over the center of their foot. IF you look at the image here, I am sitting on the tailgate of my truck and allowing my legs to freely fall where they may…naturally. Look closely at the plumb line from my knee and you will see that it aligns over my big toe….not the center of my foot. This is your natural body alignment; it’s not gender specific, either. This means that if my knee naturally, or bio-mechanically aligns over my big toe, it will allow me to engage both my outer quads…but more importantly….my inner quads. When you do this, you will immediately get stronger, faster and your endurance will increase. It HAS to. You are spreading out the same workload over MORE muscles. Pay attention to your riding buddies and their legs. What you will typically find is their ouster quads are noticeably developed but their inner quads are not. There’s a reason for this…and you just read why.
I have never met a cyclist who said they never wanted to get better. Hills are a perfect example. Have you ever met anyone who says they want to always struggle on climbing? Of course not. That’s just the biggest and most obvious one. However, there are other obvious ones (to me) that play just as big a role in you riding faster, longer and stronger with the same (or less) effort. The majority of the time I get feedback from clients who say it feels easier to go harder and faster and that makes PERFECT sense. It’s easier to go faster with a 12 cylinder engine vs. a 4 cylinder engine. It’s exactly the same when you engage more muscles in the same workout. That’s one of the beauty’s of bio-mechanics. Oh, another beauty? The results are immediate!!!