The Wonderful World of Upright Cycling Part II: Ergonomics

This post follows our first post about Upright Cycling. You can catch the first part of that discussion here! 

We promised a couple weeks ago to write more about the benefits of upright cycling. This week we're going to focus on ergonomics, with links to the stories that cover the topic best. Almost none of this post is our original work, so we give credit to the authors that covered it. 

Bicycles are designed for people to use, so like chairs and most things we sit on, they need to be comfortable and healthy. A well designed chair supports the natural curve of the spine. The lumbar support seen on car seats and modern office chairs encourages the spine to curve into its natural ‘S’ shape. Children are encouraged not to slouch, because with age this can cause back problems.  Poor posture is outlawed in the workplace, with back problems accounting for over 100 million lost work days per year, just in the USA.

For racing cyclists, speed is more important than good back posture, so riders crouch down and the spine is unnaturally curved to avoid wind resistance. Fortunately, as these athletes are powering along, tensed muscles protect their bent spines. Unfortunately, when bicycles set up for sport are used casually for leisure and transport, bent spines unsupported by athlete-style muscles are vulnerable to strain. Although more upright than racing bikes, mountain bikes and hybrid bikes do not give good posture for everyday, and around town use; the lean forward posture, still strains the back, neck and wrists. Only the upright posture is really suitable for a pleasant journey by bicycle.

For parts of the bike industry to pretend their sports products are also suitable for everyday use is absurd.

Upright is Right, says Strida designer,
by Carlton Reid
September 13th 2010

A broad range of people (of varying ages and physical abilities and conditions) have chosen easy-to-ride, low-intensity upright bicycles as a better fit for their daily transportation needs. “I think that sometimes the style isn’t always super accepted – people come in saying, ‘It’s kinda nerdy, but I really like riding upright with swept-back handlebars,’” Villarreal said. “But you’re not nerdy because you want to be comfortable! If you’re not comfortable on your bike, you’re not gonna ride it.” 

Upright Bikes: Sit Up and Enjoy the Ride
Momentum Magazine

Anne Matthews
October 11, 2012


Finally, the University of British Columbia published a guide to ergonomics in cycling. One of their key takeaways? Sport bikes are unsuitable for everyday cycling. 

Our verdict at London Bicycle Café? Let's leave sport cycling to the athletes, and think about everyday cycling as a different idea. Upright cycling is comfortable, ergonomically correct, and encourages you, a regular non-Olympian, to get on a bike every day. Sport bikes are great if you're training for a triathlon, but if you want to use your bike as transportation, upright is the only way to go.