Why do I Need A Bike Fit?
If you have pain while riding your bike, such as back and/or neck pain, knee pain, numbness in feet or hands etc or simply want to improve your pedaling efficiency, while possibly preventing future overuse injuries, then a bike fit is for you. An improper bike fit can cause serious unnecessary discomfort, which may eventually prevent you from riding all together.
All issues of injury or discomfort while riding a bike stem from only 2 general, overlapping causes. The first is simple and relates to problems with your position on the bike. These are things that are easy to resolve and examples include cleat angle/position, seat height or setback (saddle fore/aft position), bar position or stem length and so on. The second is because of the fundamental mismatch that occurs when the biomechanical and neurological asymmetries of the rider interact with the mechanical symmetry of the bike.
All humans function asymmetrically, which is normal and is the product of many things; bone length, developmental and functional differences between left and right sides, handedness, footedness and so on. We have evolved to walk and run in an upright position and as a species, generally cope well with our asymmetries while performing these activities because our pelvis isn’t fixed in space and can tilt to either side to accommodate uneven terrain or unequal leg length.
In a positional sense, a bike is a symmetrical apparatus unlike the human being atop of it. The seat is over the centre line and the pedals and handlebars are equidistant from the centre line. So a cyclist needs to be as functionally symmetrical as possible while riding to best interact with the bike. We, however, have not evolved to cycle, an activity that requires a forward torso position and flexed lumbar spine. This is in contrast to when walking or running, as our pelvis is more or less fixed in position by the seat and our feet are firmly fixed in position by cycling shoes in clipless pedals. This largely ‘fixed’ position means that we cope less well with our individual asymmetric makeup while cycling. In simple terms, there is a greater risk of overuse injuries developing while cycling than walking because the body is locked into a relationship with an apparatus, the bicycle, and this relationship allows less tolerance for asymmetry.
What is Involved With A Bike Fit?
First we need to find out what kind of rider you are (recreational, racer etc) and what kind of riding you are doing (cross country, downhill, road, triathlon etc) as bike fitting involves a series of compromises depending on whether you are looking for comfort, speed/power and/or control. Fitting then becomes an exercise in what the rider is willing to give up to suit their riding needs ie generally the more comfortable the pedaling position, which usually relates to less incidence of overuse injuries, the less aerodynamic. A general physical assessment is then performed to determine any asymmetries or movement/mobility issues that may affect biking position. Lastly, a number of bike measurements will be taken as well as observations of the rider biking on a wind trainer to establish positioning (using lasers), allowing adjustments to be made accordingly. To finish, you will be given a bike fit sheet, which lays out corrections made and individual bike measurements which could be used at a later time when looking for a new bike, or when the bike may have been adjusted.