No slacking! Science now says mountain bikers have the best posture

As we all know, mountain bikers are incredibly fine specimens of the human race. So it should come as no surprise to learn how off-road riding produces better bodies.

For the first time, scientists have studied how mountain biking affects the shape of the rider’s spine, and the excellent news is that it is a whole lot better for you than road riding. It’s been known for a while that road cyclists tend to stand with a forward bend in their back because of the crouch they adopt.

We’re not saying all roadies are hunchbacks, but ask yourself whether you would rather have your chest and shoulders tipping down like an obsequious butler, or to be totally upright and looking straight ahead?

The science bit

Scientists measured the posture of 30 pro mountain bikers and 30 pro road cyclists of similar ages and experience. Each had to have at least six years’ experience and go on a minimum of three rides every week as part of a daily training schedule of two to four hours. To get a baseline of mere mortals, they also sized up 30 non-cycling, non-sporty ordinary human beings, like those you see playing the steering-wheel bongo at traffic lights.

6. Lower Cliff descent

They rolled a ‘spinal mouse’ up the curve of each volunteer’s back. It’s a device that works a bit like GPS because it senses all the contours, distances and angles as it rolls along the skin. Then it transmits the data back to the lab computer via Bluetooth.

Mtb on top

The upshot is that, when mountain bikers get out of the saddle and stand up, they are just like normal human beings — the roadies have “significantly greater thoracic kyphosis” i.e. their backbone, chest and shoulders bend forward. Mountain bikers are perfect, upright citizens, then.

Citation: “Road cycling and mountain biking produces adaptations on the spine and hamstring extensibility” by JM Muyor and M Zabala