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Have you ever heard of a “bike fit?” Bike fits are commonly done with road cyclists… James and I have both had them. An expert will spend hours with you adjusting your bike, measuring you in weird ways, and doing all sorts of math…all to ensure you have perfect riding form. Bicyclists tend to spend hours in the saddle, and so bike fits can save riders from things like hand numbness, back pain, poor circulation, etc. It’s also supposed to give competitive cyclists an edge in races, which is why people fork over hundreds of dollars without batting an eye for bike fits. Competitive bikers LOOOOVE to spend money on “faster”.
I’ve been thinking recently, as much driving as we’ve been doing lately, that someone should offer “RV fits” in the same way. Not because we want to go faster in the RV obviously, but for the other reason. We RVers drive for hours on end, and without proper posture and seat adjustment, we’re just as vulnerable to injuries and ailments as those bikers are. Which brings me to this:
It’s not quite the same as paying someone $800 to put you in a wind tunnel and blow air over you while they move your seat 2 millimeters (ahem… James…), but hopefully this picture can give you a little guidance on what healthy driving posture looks like. Below is a list of The Fit RVs recommendations on proper driving posture.
How To Adjust Your Seat For Long Drives
- Recline the back rest to an angle of 100-110 degrees. This will decrease the pressure on your spine, and improve circulation through the hips.
- Adjust the lumbar support so you feel even pressure all along your back. You shouldn’t feel more pressure on your upper back, for example. A lumbar cushion can be added when that happens.
- Align the bottom seat cushion so your hips and knees are in line. Again, you should feel even pressure all along the backs of your legs. Avoid the “bucket seat” effect…when your seat tilts so that your hips are down low and your knees up high. This will affect your circulation.
- Make sure your knees are bent around 120 degrees when the pedals are fully depressed. Any less than that will decrease the circulation in your legs.
- Move the seat forward enough so that you can keep your heels down when you depress either pedal.
- Bring the steering wheel down and toward you to lessen the strain on your shoulders, neck, and upper back.
- Forget 10 and 2! Instead, hold the steering wheel at 9 and 3 (or even lower). You’ll immediately notice your shoulders relaxing.
- Move the seat closer if you can’t grip the topmost portion of the wheel without locking the elbow or taking your shoulders off the back rest. Now that you’ve done this test, get your hands back to 9 and 3.
- Other than while turning, don’t hold the very top of the wheel with your one hand or any other grip that would have you reaching across your body. This is hard on your shoulders and will even throw your spine out of whack.
- Try to keep your wrists fairly neutral (straight) when driving. Bending them for long periods causes strain in the joint.
- Adjust the headrest so it’s just above your eyelids, and as close to the head as possible (2-3cm) and USE IT! It gives your neck a break from holding up that big brain of yours when you use the head rest.
- Always remove your wallet from your back pocket before driving. Sitting on a wallet can cause the pelvis to twist which places even more stress on the back.
So there ya go. The very first “RV fit,” to keep us all more comfy and healthy in the driver’s seat. That’ll be $300 please! Oh, just kidding. A nice comment below would be payment enough.
Stay healthy on the road, gang!
Great article guys. I’ve been following you for some time but just recently purchased a Thor Sequence RV based on the Ram ProMaster van so I tried out your suggestions and it really worked. I do agree with other comments that it is a pity the ProMaster doesn’t have a tilt adjustment on the steering wheel but overall I find it more comfortable to drive than the Sprinter Pleasureway Plateau we used to own. This is our 5th class B / class C type RV in 20 years so we have a fair bit of experience with vans including numerous mods on every one of them so your big list of mods for the ProMaster is coming in very handy now! The best part of getting the new ProMaster van is I can wear the Fit RV tee shirt that I got a while back and it matches my van. ……. cool!
Yes! You can match your T-Shirt! AWESOME!
(And I’m glad you like the big list of mods…). 🙂
Hi Robert and congrats on your new campervan! I’m so glad you found this old post and put the seat adjustments to use. I really should do a video on this… thanks for putting it back on my radar, perhaps I will. Happy campervanning!
We test drove a 2017 Travato 59k a few weeks ago and found the seats to feel unusually short (seat back to front edge of seat) compared to our other vehicles. Have you or others noticed this? Does it cause any issues (lack of leg support) on long drives?
I haven’t noticed any issues, and lordy have we put the miles on our Travato.
But neither Stef nor I are unusually short or tall. It may be more of an issue for those closer to the ends of the bell curve of height.
If only Fiat/Chrysler would make the Promaster steering wheel tiltable and extend its telescoping range. I’ve met a lot of women like me who absolutely cannot find a comfortable position in the Promaster. That’s why I haven’t bought a Travato. Pity.
Also, too many RV and auto manufacturers forget about those of us with small feet. I don’t understand why manufactures don’t ensure that pedals are long enough to be safe and comfortable for petite women.
This doesn’t make it right, but I think I can at least explain.
Most of these vehicles are designed as work trucks first. Plumber’s vans. That kind of thing.
The RV fitment comes later. Perhaps they could add some of these features in a “RV Prep” package?
Just my $0.02.
Thanks. I get that I’m not necessarily their target market — but aren’t there plenty of women in the trades these days? I will say that I find Sprinters incredibly comfortable (and fun!) to drive, so I know it’s possible to design these things to suit a broad array of people. (I haven’t tried a Ford Transit yet.)
I recognize that changing the steering wheels would require redoing all the safety studies in both the EU and the US, but it seems like FCA would be expanding its potential market if the steering wheel was more adjustable. Also my $.02. Thanks for taking the time to reply!
I had to save this post, I did not even stop to think of what all the driving will do to our posture. Thanks for this post. I am a new follower after Heath Padgett’s podcast interview with you guys and read a few posts but this is first time commenting. I look forward to sticking around. =)
Glad to have you aboard!
Driving posture is even more important for an RV than a “daily driver” we think – because you can spend SO MUCH time behind the wheel.
See you on the road!
any tips for when the seat won’t move close enough for good posture? I thinking of seat cushions to get me more forward so that I can achieve the posture above
I think seat cushions (more likely a supplemental backrest) would probably work. Just make sure that nothing interferes with seat belts, airbags, etc.
I really enjoy your posts and videos.
Another reason for keeping your hands lower on the wheel, (9 & 3 or lower) is to keep them out of the way of an exploding air bag.
P.s. You have a really nice workshop!
James here – I’ll take credit for the workshop. Thanks!!
Hi James and Stefany. Great posture tips, thanks. James, no need to be embarrassed by your bike fit focus. Marcia and I finally sprung for a couple of nice carbon bikes. The fit is great for both of us (the shop had a good, well trained fit expert). We are riding several hours every day on our annual week on Lake Erie in a crooked floor 150 year old rental house overlooking the lake. Good fit is a joy and bad fit is a constant pain. We have been tweaking our demo motor home seats and finally have the fit and adjustability to follow your recommendations. We still think of you every time Marcia says it is time to take a stretch or hike stop. We try to follow your recommendation of every couple of hours. These stops add to the joy of travel in many ways. Thanks.
Hi Mike! Wow, I’m so excited that you’ve amped up your biking…don’t you love how easy the carbon fiber frames are to load on the bike rack?! Tell Marcia I’m so proud of you both! Also, great job for taking the time to do an “RV fit” (lol) on the Advanced RV seats. I’ve always been so proud of Advanced RV in the healthy lifestyle arena…and it starts at the top with you two modeling what that looks like. Keep those hike/stretch stops coming! Tell your ARV gang “hi” from us! xoxoxo
Now you have me thinking about my posture is sitting here at the computer. I think eventually proper posture becomes automatic if we practice it enough, especially in places where we tend to spend extended time periods. Stef this is a great reminder.
One hint a fitness instructor at Duke gave me was to adjust the inside rear view mirror so that your head had to be held high to use. This constantly reminds me not to slouch.
I also have been told sitting and gripping the steering wheel tightly increases blood pressure.
You guys are great, Thanks.
Love that rear view mirror tip, Willard! I’m going to try it next time I’m behind the wheel. Thanks so much for sharing it!!!
Nice and well documented explenation!
As a retrired Physical Therapist, I could not done better. The right posture in many situations is sooooo important. And many chronic complaints, even non-reversable insuries and deseases, started for some people in their young years …. Prevention and awareness is the key to these problems, we “modern people” with our, spending hours and hours in one posture, lifes….. There starts the problem. Keep in motion, and do some excersises, when taking those necessary breaks. Take a walk, etc …
You are doing a great job, combining all those interesting RV-Facts with Fit-Facts :-))
Great article Stefany. This should help many people if they read and implement. I know the importance of this firsthand. I, and my ortho surgeon, thought I had a torn rotator cuff. Xrays, MRI, and some painful manual examination later proved I did not have a tear. It was bursitis. Some rehab and habit changing did the trick. I suffered from hunched shoulder posture. The bursitis became so painful that I could not hold the steering wheel for very long with the affected arm. Now I’m aware of my sitting posture even when sitting in bleachers at events. Keep those shoulders low and pressed back.
Doug, you bring up a great point…good posture shouldn’t only be implemented when driving! And yes, avoiding “hunching” is very important when walking, sitting, standing, whatever. The more frequently you hunch, the more your body adjusts to it; your spine locks in that position, your ligaments tighten to it, etc. Great tip, Doug, thanks for mentioning it!
Your suggestions have really helped . I have never had anyone explain it and what you said make sense. Usually about an hour into a trip I start twitching never finding anything comfortable just different only to last another hour.
I recently purchases a new car with a 10 way power seat. I ended up in a position just like you said. I ended up sitting in a deep hole reaching for the wheel. I felt like I was sitting like some of those “gangster” looking folks.
Now I have taken my time and applied all of your suggestions and it is a different world.
We’re so glad to hear this. It’s definitely something we all easily take for granted, but healthy posture is SO important when driving!
I once had a bike fit from the Boulder Sports Medicine Clinic. I wish I could say that Andy Pruitt himself did it, but I’d be lying. Still, I got a great fit from them, and I’ll try to incorporate the suggestions you have into my seat adjustments. One thing I’ve learned over the years, though, is that just because you might have an expensive car,it doesn’t mean you’ll have great posture in it. I had a 2001 BMW 330i that was the most uncomfortable car over a long drive that I’ve ever owned, and it didn’t matter how you adjusted the seat. Hopefully, my RAM 3500 will be much better. Thanks for the post
When Stef approached me with her idea for the post – and the analogy to bike fits – I was a little embarrassed that I spend so much time driving, but hadn’t given much of a thought to driving position.
Hope some of the tips help!