Position On The Bike - Hip Injury
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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).