Should Better Flexibility Alter My Riding Position?


After doing yoga for 3 months, I'm a lot more flexible. Now my handlebar seems too high and too close. Do you think I should change my position to reflect my increased limberness? -- Basil D.

Coach Fred Matheny Replies: 

Yoga and other forms of stretching are great for flexibility and many riders have gotten benefits. There is plenty of time to incorporate this type of training into your winter workouts and enjoy the comfort advantages of a more limber body in the coming season. (And many riders tout the virtues of making such exercises a part of your year-round training.)

Your riding position is governed to a large extent by how flexible you are in the lower back and hamstrings. Andy Pruitt, Ed.D., director of the Boulder Center for Sports Medicine in Colorado, argues that if you can't touch your toes without bending your knees, you won't be able to maintain a low, relaxed riding position.

So, if you're now loose as a goose, you can probably improve your position with a longer stem and lower handlebar.

However, don't overlook this fact:  Flexibility is specific, just like the rest of training. In the same way that endurance gained by running doesn't transfer directly to cycling, so the ability to put your palms flat on the floor without bending your knees doesn't necessarily mean that you can sustain a low riding position.

When you do flexibility exercises, you're holding a stretch position for 10 or 15 seconds. But when you pedal, your low back and hamstrings stretch and shorten rhythmically with every pedal stroke. It's not the same thing.

If you try a lower and longer position, do it cautiously. Don't reduce bar height by more than a centimeter. Same for increasing stem length.

Use the new position for several rides to adapt and see how it feels. Good? Then you might want to stretch out a bit more. Don't go so far that you experience soreness or tightness ride after ride.

And don't forget that while a low position is more aerodynamic, it can compromise pedaling power. An ideal position balances power production, comfort and aerodynamics. This, and many other “fit factors,” is explained well in some of the eBooks on bike fit in RBR’s Bookstore: Andy Pruitt's Medical Guide for Cyclists, Dr. Arnie Baker's Bike Fit, and Bike Fit 101: Your Toolset for a Great Bike Fit.

Coach Fred Matheny has decades of experience as a competitive racer and cycling coach. He is the author of 13 RBR eBooks and eArticles.


New Premium Member Give-Back

For new, and renewing, Premium Members, we’ll kick in One Free eArticle of Your Choice. That’s a rebate, in effect, of $4.99 off the annual $24.99 membership. You can choose from among any of our 70 individual eArticles (bundles are excluded). Click to see the entire array:

Of course, you’ll also get all the other great benefits we’ve pulled together for you, including discounts on all our eArticles and eBooks, great cycling product discounts, access to our full treasure trove of searchable content and, when you can’t find what you’re looking for, the Ask RBR a Question feature – which allows Premium Members to ask our experts directly; we’ll tap our network to find your answer.

Here’s how it works: Your receipt (emailed to you after purchasing your Premium Membership) is your coupon. Just hit Reply on that email and write in the title of the eArticle you’d like. I’ll drop it in your Downloads folder in your RBR account. (If you can’t find your receipt, just let me know. I’m happy to help you out.)

Click to learn more about the LifeBEAM Helmet with Built-In Heart Rate Sensor!
view counter
Visit for Great Cycling Gifts and Gear!
view counter
Click to learn more about the Tailwind Nutrition Endurance Fuel!
view counter
Click to see details and to purchase the HubBub Helmet Mirror!
view counter

view counter