Ask The Expert: How Much Upper Body Movement?

I received this comment on a blog post. It’s an important question that I’ve heard from cyclists ever since I’ve been a master instructor in this industry (17 years). You all know the importance of “keeping it real.” But we also must understand the differences between an outdoor bicycle that flexes and bends, and an immovable indoor bicycle that doesn’t. This difference has implications in how we should ride indoors.


I am in disagreement with a master instructor who tells me I should have upper body movement. She sways more because she tells me it reduces back injury. I disagree. I claim the proper form is to minimize upper body movement with the exceptions of attacks perhaps. Outdoors in the peloton, we don’t sway. And the back, well there are these things called situps, crunches, and other weight contraptions that build those muscles so you can hold that position for an extended time. Been an outdoor cyclist for years – have no back issues whatsoever and no upper body movement on my bike indoors or outdoors – except for attacks and the occasional standing hill work. Would appreciate anyone’s comments on the subject. ~Timothy

Hi Timothy,

On your road bike outside, you are absolutely correct, you keep your upper body quiet relative to your bike. But notice that your bike is moving underneath you. It’s flexing underneath your weight and it’s moving side to side with every pedal stroke. When you stand on a hard hill or concerted effort against a bigger gear, you allow your bike to move side to side to allow for proper joint alignment, unnecessary contracting of muscles, and to take advantage of body weight directed downward into the pedal. When the bike moves, it counteracts and leverages the forces you are applying to the pedals to project yourself forward.

1 Comment

  1. Thank you. I now know what to tell my people when they are stiiff as a board on their bikes and I am trying to get them to relax! Some have been told to tighten their core and I know that is another subject for another time.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *