Correct bike fit is crucially important in making the most of your physical strengths and minimizing your weaknesses. If you are serious about your cycling, chances are you continuously look for new ways to train longer, ride faster, stay injury and pain free and be your personal best. Read on to discover how a proper bike fitting will help you get the most from every ride.
The Importance Of Correct Bike Fit
Cyclists come in all shapes and sizes, thus it stands to reason that one bike won’t fit every rider. A professional bike-fitter will find your unique dimensions and recommend adjustments that ensure you’re able to use the various muscle groups needed for riding in the most efficient and effective way. This in turn reduces fatigue, numbness in the fingers and hands, and pain in the back, knees, wrists and neck. Saddle discomfort or genital numbness becomes less of an issue and your overall comfort increases meaning you can ride longer. Correct bike fit also helps to reduce repetitive stress injuries brought on by frequent riding.
For example, getting the right saddle position in relation to pedal position is crucially important to pain and injury-free riding, as the knees are especially prone to repetitive strain injuries. Excessive knee extension can leave you at risk of developing ITB syndrome – responsible for 15% of all reported knee pain in cyclists.
Appropriate cleat position and cleat tension, together with good posture will help prevent foot pain by ensuring that the metatarsal arch (ball of the foot) is directly in line with the axis of the pedal so as not to strain your plantar muscle (the broad, thick band of connective tissue that forms a protective layer over the arch of your foot).
Bike Sizing Versus Bike Fitting
Bike sizing is about determining the correct frame size for your needs. In contrast, bike fitting is more concerned with your unique body dimensions and getting the best positioning to maximize your overall performance. The sizing varies by the type of bike selected, while bike fitting techniques tend to work regardless of the type of bike selected. Although different adjustments will be made depending on the type of bike purchased, the techniques remain the same, as the adjustments are made to fit your personal body geometry.
The Dimensions Of a Bike Fit
A typical bike fitting session begins with a rider interview during which you’ll discuss your goals, riding experience, injury history and any issues followed by a full physical assessment that includes:
- The foot and its postural characteristics (e.g. high or low arches)
- Differences in muscle bulk and leg length
- Lumbar flexibility
- Shoulder width and inseam measurement
- Spinal posture, core strength and any physiological asymmetries
- Flexibility in the hamstrings and gluteal muscles
- Mobility around the hip.
Once your pre-fit analysis has been completed the technicians will want to see you in action so they can get an idea of how your pedalling dynamics, power cadence, speed and heart rate change under different conditions. This will allow them to identify the kinds of changes they might need to make to your bike for optimum comfort and performance.
For example, your knee extension will be optimized according to flexibility to ensure you are using your muscles efficiently and minimizing stress on your joints. Your saddle height and fore and aft positioning will be adjusted, the cleats aligned to optimize the pedal stroke and support and stabilize the foot and the optimum crank length assessed for smooth pedalling through the entirety of the stroke. Your saddle, the height and width of the handlebars and overall reach will be assessed to ensure maximum comfort and good overall weight distribution.
Correct Bike Fit Is Only Part Of The Performance Equation
To ensure you get maximum benefit from a bike fitting it’s generally recommended that you try riding in your new position for a few months before returning for a follow up consultation where any minor adjustments can be made.
Remember also that your body will change and adapt over time, so it’s important to check your bike fit periodically.
Most important of all, understand that correct bike fit is only one part of the performance equation. For maximum power and efficiency and injury-free riding you’ll also need to learn new movement patterns that challenge the body to adapt to new demands placed on it. But more on that in a future article!