Why Do Cyclists Lean / Bend Forward? (How Far To Lean!)

Achieving the proper position on the bike is a challenge for beginners and experienced riders alike and there are always small tweaks to be made to create the perfect ride.

But how you position your upper body is a major component and doing it right can make the difference between a great ride or a painful one.

If you’ve ever wondered why cyclists look like they’re leaning forward on their bike, and if you should be too, then this article is for you.

Why Does a Cyclist Bend Forward?

The primary reason for leaning or bending forward on the bike is to increase your overall power. By leaning forward, cyclists can put more of their energy into their legs, which translates to greater efficiency on the bike. By leaning forward, they decrease the overall surface area that is exposed to the wind, resulting in less drag.

Another reason for leaning forward is to improve your balance and have a better center of gravity. Being too upright is far less stable. Not only the cyclists shall be more prone to being knocked around by the wind, they’re also more likely to lose control of the bike.

It’s important to have the proper technique, though. You’ll want to make sure you keep your elbows bent in order to better absorb any bumps in the road. Think of your elbows as a mini suspension system.

Leaning slightly forward can also help with climbing hills, but it’s important to make sure you’re not leaning too far forward. If you stand up to pedal and most of your weight is over your handlebars, you’ll have a much more difficult time getting up the hill. Instead, make sure you keep most of your weight over your saddle.

This is especially important when mountain biking or if you’re going up slippery terrain. If your weight is too far over your front wheel, your back wheel can lose traction on the ground and all of your momentum will be lost.

It’s very challenging to continue climbing a hill when you have to restart from a complete stop. You can still keep your upper body at a forward lean, just make sure you’re not putting too much pressure on your wrists – keep your grip light.

How Far Forward Should Cyclists Lean on A Bike?

When you see a cyclist cruising down the road, it may look like they’re leaning really far forward – it’s almost as though they’re bent over at the waist. But the level of the lean really depends on the bike’s geometry. We’ll go over three common bike setups and how it impacts the upper body position.

Commuter Bike

A standard commuter bike (or Dutch style bike) is very upright. This provides a lot of stability and control on the bike and is most common for beginners or those just looking for a gentle cruise down a smooth path.

There shouldn’t be any kind of lean on a bike like this. If you find that you are leaning forward, it is likely a sign that some adjustments are in order (like bringing the seat slightly lower).

You should aim to keep 80 to 85 percent of your bodyweight over the saddle area.


Leaning forward can also come from fatigue, which can put strain on your knees. Make sure that your core is engaged so you can keep your upright position.

Road Bike

Riding a road bike will have a different position than a commuter bike.

While it may look like a “lean,” the proper position actually involves a neutral spine with bent elbows and relaxed shoulders.


This creates more power transfer to the pedals, which results in a more efficient ride.

It may not feel natural to beginners and it does involve a bit of core and body strength, but there shouldn’t be any pain involved. It’s also important to avoid relying too much on the arms – you should be using your core to keep you in the correct position.

More on this in the video below,

Triathlon Bike

Triathlon bikes are built with aerodynamics in mind and are not meant for casual riding.

This style of bike will put your upper body nearly parallel with the road in order to decrease the amount of wind resistance and optimize power.

It requires a lot of core strength and some hamstring flexibility.

Regardless of what kind of riding you’ll be doing, it’s important to make sure you’re using proper form.

A lot of beginners think that leg strength will be the most important, but it really comes down to the core and proper bike fit. Having a strong core will provide stability and help prevent injury.

Why Do Cyclists Lean Into Turns?

Turning on a bike requires leaning into it: the sharper the turn (or corner), the steeper the lean. This is because of centripetal force. When a cyclist bends himself inward, an element of the reaction of the road supplies the rider with the necessary centripetal force for circular motion. A moving bike is most stable when going down a straight path, so turning requires the balance to be redistributed because of the different forces applied.

Learning how to properly “corner” is a difficult skill to master on the bike. It’s very common for beginners to pump the brakes before initiating a turn, which causes the bike to lose its momentum and requires a lot of effort to get moving again.

You can practice your turns on a flat, straight path by placing some paper cups or plastic cones in a row with plenty of space between them. Practice going between the cones in a slalom-like motion to really get the feel for turning to both sides. The bike should do most of the movement while your body stays relatively upright to maintain balance.

More on this in the video below,

Things to Keep in Mind

How much you lean forward on your bike will ultimately depend on the kind of riding you do and the type of bike that you have.

It can be very helpful to get a professional bike fitting to make sure all of the components on your bike are set up for your unique anatomy. Once you have that part dialed in, you can work on building your core strength to achieve the proper forward position on your bike.

If you’re just looking for a gentle spin on your commuter or cruiser bike, though, you should avoid any forward lean and focus on keeping your body upright in a comfortable position.

Aprill Emig

Based out of Duluth, MN Aprill loves to write about the outdoors, education, and all forms of adventure. You can find her mountain biking, running, or playing roller derby.

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