Importance of having the correct fit?
Whether you’re commuting to work, working on your fitness, spending time with the family on the weekend, chasing an adrenaline rush, or just simply getting some fresh air; most people enjoy their time on their bike when they get a chance to go for a ride. Occasionally however, there can be a few factors in play which can negatively affect this experience and make your ride uncomfortable or unpleasant. Riding a bike which is either too small, too large, or just set up incorrectly can potentially lead to the development of soreness and irritation in certain areas of the body. In order to prevent any unwanted side effects from your rides, having your bike correctly fitted to your body and individual measurements is a fantastic way to improve your experience on the bike.
While purchasing the correct size of bike is a good starting point, the benefits of having your bike adjusted to your individual body shape/size are numerous. Cycling is one of the few endurance sports where you have 6 points of contact at all times, with both hands, feet, and sit bones of your pelvis (almost) always fixed to a certain point. If these points of contact aren’t situated correctly, it’s easy to load one aspect of the body more than other, leading to an increased demand/fatigue of these areas. Ensuring that the body is positioned correctly on the bike means that not only does this help to avoid/relieve cycling related aches and pain, but can also increase performance by allowing all muscle groups to work efficiently during pedalling, instead of just overloading a certain parts of the body.
What adjustments are made to my bike?
When performing a bike fit, it’s common to adjust some of the contact points (where your pelvis/hands/feet touch the bike) in order to alter certain measurements/distances when sitting on the saddle. Some of these adjustments include:
- Having the correct saddle position is important for multiple reasons. Positioning the saddle at the correct height is vital as this allows for the most efficient pedal stroke to generate power. Too low and your legs can feel cramped, putting excessive strain on the knees. Too high and your pelvis will start to rock side to side on the saddle, potentially increasing the risk of saddle sores or lower back aches. Having to excessively reach for the pedals can also result in knee or ankle pain as they overextended to reach the bottom of the pedal stroke.
- Having the saddle at the correct position in term of how close/far it is to the handlebars and/or cranks is also an influential factor to consider. Changing this position not only effects how far forwards you need to reach to hold the handlebars, but also changes the percentage of which different muscle groups in the legs contribute to pedalling. Having the saddle too far forwards or backwards can overload certain muscle groups, not only making pedalling more inefficient but also potentially leading to aches and pains.
- Determining the correct handle bar position is valuable as it can change the amount of loading through the lower back, shoulders, elbows, and hands. Having to reach too far can not only place more strain on the lower back to order to hold yourself on such an angle, but can also increase the amount of stress through the upper back and shoulders as they stretch out in order to reach the bars. In addition, having an excessively long reach may place more force through the hands and arms as you push into the bars trying to hold yourself upright. In contrast, if the handlebars are too close, this can make you feel cramped and you may begin to round through the back and shoulders to fit yourself into a tighter position.
- Similarly, the rotation of the handlebars can affect how much load is placed though certain areas of the hands. Having the handlebars and/or brake levers rolled too far forwards or backwards can increase the amount of strain through the hands and wrists leading to increased discomfort.
- For those the ride with cleats, having them positioned correctly in your shoes is essential. When riding you can shuffle your hands around, or stand up to pedal for a while to relieve some pressure on the upper half of the body, but with your feet attached firmly to the pedals this isn’t the case. Having the cleats in the wrong position can place increased loads through certain aspects of the knees, potentially leading to pain/irritation. Similarly, foot numbness is a common problem which also tends to stem from having the foot on an unideal angle in very stiff shoes.
Booking a Bike Fit
If you would like further information about the specifics of a bike fit done here at PhysioLife, or how to book one for yourself, you can follow this link
If you have any questions regarding bike fitting, or anything else cycling-related such as injury or performance, please feel free to get in touch via email to firstname.lastname@example.org