Today’s question is about flat backs and road bike riding position…
Hello Coach Levi, I bought a road bike just last month and was told by the LBS owner when riding keep my back rounded. My brother has loaned me 2 books on the basics of riding and it says to keep the back flat that it’s a sign of a pro rider so which is it?
Puzzled on Position
Congrats on getting your road bike! It’s good to see you’re taking an interest in riding position – it’s critical for both performance and safety (i.e. preventing injuries.)
The ideal riding position varies from person to person and bike to bike, and it depends on your goals. For a racer, the ideal position is whatever one allows them to finish the race fastest. This is usually based on a mix of power output, aerodynamics, and comfort (with comfort coming in a distant third place.)
For a recreational cyclist, proper position will still focus on power output, aerodynamics, and comfort, but it will be a more even mix of the three; comfort would probably be the top priority.
But to get to your actual question, you do usually aim to keep your back as flat as possible. On a road bike with your hands in the hooks/drops, your back should be close to flat. However, your flexibility will play a role in how flat you can get your back but still be able to transfer power to the pedals and ride in comfort.
I guess it’s possible some people could ride better with a rounded back, but I can’t see why someone (other than a trained physician) would recommend that. A rounded back is usually poor posture for doing anything. So unless there is some medical issue where it’s a problem to stretch out into a long and low position, I would avoid rounding your back.