Position On The Bike - Hip Injury

by Frank

I was wondering if you might be able to help me with my bike position and an injury issue. I am 50 years old and am training for my first triathlon and I have an old Martial Arts injury in my right hip.

The problem is caused when I enter the tuck position on the bike and I get a kind of binding sensation and pain as I raise the right leg when I pedal. The muscles become very tight in that area and then cause a lot of pain thereafter. When I am seated more vertically in the seat i don't have the pain.

How can I still maintain the aero dynamic race position and train without pain in my hip? I have heard that this is not uncommon, what can I do?

Intelligent Triathlon Training replies:

A well set up bike will mean you are comfortable in all the various positions available (on the hoods, tops, aerobars, drops etc), as well as in effective positions. When you are on the aerobars you want to be fast because you have good aerodynamics and can produce good power. On the tops you want to be able to produce lots of power and be comfortable for climbing etc.

Each person will end up with a unique set up as we are all different sizes, shapes, proportions and have different requirements.

There are two main things I would look at first: your position, and whether your old injury is compromising the effectiveness of your set up. It sounds possible from your description that you may be pinching a blood vessel and reducing bloodflow which will cause discomfort and is certainly not uncommon in cycling.

The easiest solution is your position.

  1. Ensure the saddle is flat - use a spirit level to check. This is your starting point. There are very few reasons why it should point up, but after a bit of fine tuning you may want it to point down. But to start with, get it flat.

  2. Saddle height. There are various formulas for calculating the ‘perfect’ saddle height; you can try looking these up. We tend to start with a really basic test. Take your shoes off, put your cycling shorts on, and sit on the bike. With the cranks at the lowest point place your heel on the pedal. Can you do this without rocking your hips, leaning to one side or any other concession? You should just about be able to do it. If not or it is too easy, move the saddle height until its just possible.

  3. Horizontal saddle position. Having set the height and got it flat, wearing your cycling shoes, sit on the bike with the cranks parallel to the ground. You should be able to draw a vertical line down from just behind your knee cap through the centre of the pedal axle. Again this is a starting point, not necessarily the final point.

There are other factors at play, including reach and the drop from saddle to handlebar and you need to consider these, but it is very difficult for us to advise on these without seeing you on the bike.

Once you have set the points above, ride and see if you get the same problems, if not then great!

If you do still get discomfort, experiment with moving the saddle forward a little (3 – 4-mm). This will help to open the hip angle up and put a little less pressure on it. You could also tip the nose of the saddle down a little, but bear in mind this will effectively lower the saddle height a small amount. Also try lowering the saddle (2 – 3-mm at a time).

Before moving anything make sure you know where you started and what you have done!

The main point here is with the basics set, experiment a little until you get comfortable and powerful!

If none of this works, there may be something more significant in your old hip injury and this will need the attention of specialist (for example a physiotherapist).

Comments for Position On The Bike - Hip Injury

Average Rating starstarstarstarstar

Click here to add your own comments

Feb 06, 2012
Intelligent Triathlon Replies
by: Intelligent Triathlon Training

The pain you describe sounds like the hip angle is too closed for you to be able to be effective in your pedalling.

Stretching helps to lengthen the muscle and will enable you to develop more force through the muscle when it is at its longest. However this is not the problem. You are experiencing pain with the muscle at its shortest and the hip very closed. Therefore it sunds like your set up is the problem.

If the saddle is too far back then your hips are over the back of the bike, and you are then leaning into the bars and creating an un-necessarily closed angle. Moving the saddle forward, raising the bars but using a longer stem can rotate your hips into a better position, without effecting your aerodynamics. Many people believe that a low front end is essential to a good position. This is not always the case. Of course it does need to be low, but you can be too low.

Try setting the bike up on the turbo and check your position, make some alterations and I would bet you will find a set up that allows you to maintain the aero position, but eliminates the pain.

Set up issues are always difficult to diagnose without actually seeing your position. If you email a picture taken from the side this would help. One with your feet at top and bottom, the other with them fore and aft.

Feb 06, 2012
Your reply
by: Frank

Thank you for your reply to my question but I'd like to point out that this issue is nothing to do with me "pinching veins". What I explained was, when i enter the tuck position and close the angle of my thigh to 45 degrees to my chest I get pain in the muscles at the top of my thigh and pelvis. Whilst the seat position tips are helpful, the issue is the pain in the hip muscles because of the closing angle. I wrote because i had heard this issue mentioned before amongst cyclists and wondered if you knew of how to train through it and could recommend stretches or if it was a flaw in my riding style. Thanks anyway.

Click here to add your own comments

Join in and write your own page! It's easy to do. How? Simply click here to return to Ask The Triathlon Coach.

 Be Coached By Intelligent Triathlon Training!

 Achilles injury? Our e-book will get you back running pain-free

Sign Up Below
To get free triathlon training tips,
news and ITT site updates, and a
FREE Training Planner!
Find out more

Enter Your E-mail Address
Enter Your First Name (optional)

Don't worry — your e-mail address is totally secure.
I promise to use it only to send you Intelligent Triathlon Talk.

Bikes & Reviews

Wetsuits & Reviews

Beginner Triathlete