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Pain In The Cycle: How Proper Bike Fitting Can Prevent Injury

Physio&SoleClinic Physiotherapy, Sports Injury May 5 2023

Cycling has become a popular form of exercise, with many of us discovering a liking for it after being confined indoors due to COVID-19 pandemic. It gave us a sense of freedom and exploration while being a fantastic, low impact aerobic exercise for general health, weight loss and fitness. 

Why is Bike Fitting Important?

credit: https://bike.bikegremlin.com/360/setting-up-riding-position-bike-fitting/

Cycling is unique for different cyclists as how you move is heavily influenced by your bicycle set up. Hence, correct positioning on your bicycle is critical for comfort, injury prevention and an efficient cycle. Cyclists can experience overuse injuries such as neck pain, shoulder pain, low back pain, knee pain, bottom pain, and numbness or pins and needles in the hands, arms or fingers, as a result of an incorrect set up. 

Once you’ve selected an appropriate bicycle frame, the next step is to get your bike fitted. Bike fitting is the process of adjusting a bicycle for a cyclist to optimise comfort and performance, allowing you to cycle safely for longer with less effort. A bicycle that is correctly fitted to you can prevent many injuries that occur due to faulty positions and biomechanics. It also means you will feel more comfortable cycling and can ride better, faster, and over longer distances.

Main Features of Bike Fit

What is the right position on your bicycle? There are 4 key points in a bike fit, which will vary based on factors like age, what kind of bicycle you use, style of riding, personal preference and your unique body structure such as torso length, leg length and body flexibility. 

1. Saddle (bicycle seat): During a bike fit, your saddle height, position and angle will be assessed and tailored to your body type. Your saddle should be parallel to the ground. As for saddle angle, this can depend on gender and personal preference. Some people like it slightly tilted up or down. As a general rule, after setting up your saddle, your hips should be level and knee should have a slight bend when the foot is at the bottom of the pedal stroke.

(credit:https://pezcyclingnews.com/features/pez-bookshelf-bike-fit-2nd-edition/)

2. Foot Position: Another thing that will be looked at is your foot position on the pedal. When your foot is placed flat on the pedal, the ball of your foot (forefoot) should be just in front of the pedal spindle. If your foot is further back on the pedal it may place the calf at a disadvantage and result in your leg fatiguing quicker.

credit: https://bike.bikegremlin.com/360/setting-up-riding-position-bike-fitting

3. Stem: The stem length on your bicycle affects your reach on the bicycle. If you experience shoulder or neck pain after cycling, it could be due to you shrugging your shoulders and reaching too far. In this instance, a shorter stem may be recommended. Conversely, if you feel upper back pain or pain between your shoulder blades, your reach may not be optimal and a longer stem may be recommended.

4. Handlebar Position: The position of your handlebars affects how much you are leaning forward or how upright you are. The type of handlebar you have affects your grip. You should be in a comfortable lean forward position that doesn’t strain your back, neck, shoulders or wrists. If you experience lower back pain, it could be due to your handlebars being too low or your saddle may be too high. 

đź’ˇTip: Check your seat position first. The clamp connecting the saddle to the seatpost should be relatively centered in the saddle rails.

In summary, a correctly fitted bicycle should allow you to cycle without straining various parts of your body. Once you find a comfortable position on your bicycle, you’ll be enjoying your cycle even more. Always remember, cycling shouldn’t be uncomfortable. If you are experiencing discomfort, it is a good idea to get your bicycle fitted to suit your body!

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