A bike fit is more than simply adjusting your seat height. You shouldn’t be getting home from a short or long ride, with back pain, knee pain or an inability to ride in the drops for an extended period. So what can be done? We were invited along to The Body Mechanic in order to see what goes into a professional bike fit and how riders can get more comfortable when on their bike.
When many riders talk about ‘bike fit’ they are referring to the quick ‘eye ball’ assessment that they received when they purchased their bike from their local bike shop, or with the rise of online bike buying, a measure of their leg length with a rough measure against the seat height. Yet there are so many more contact points or areas for adjustment that never really get looked at or considered.
The team at The Body Mechanic commence the fit with the rider completing a quick medical questionnaire and a discussion on any pre-existing medical conditions. The rider who has had a knee reconstruction in the past, may require a different fit to the person with lower back issues. For many, it isn’t about a slammed front end, that is going to be the most suitable solution.
With the questionnaire filled out, you move into the assessment room, where your stance and body alignment is checked, along with your flexibility – how do you stand with your feet, do they tilt in or outwards? They also look at your glute and hamstring activation, do your hamstrings activate before your glute muscles on leg extensions. Do you have a stronger or more dependent leg? All of these will impact on your fit on the bike and also how you ride your bike. These are all considerations and we haven’t even looked at the bike yet.
Your hip flexors may require some stretches off the bike, ITB issues which can develop for more riders can be caused by one leg being stronger than the other and this leads to muscle discrepancy. A rider who can’t touch their toes will have a very different set up to a very flexible rider. The team inform us that even cyclists who ride a lot and have done so for many years have problems isolating and activating different leg muscles on an individual basis.
Once the team has had a look at how your body is working, they can then get you onto your bike. The team is looking at how you sit on the bike and how your body is moving. Are you rocking on the bike, are you comfortable in a variety of positions and can you maintain positions for an extended period of time without discomfort?
Riders should be able to ride for an extended period in the drops or even resting on the hoods without discomfort or pain if you are set up correctly. In order to do this, there are a number of parts that can be moved or adjusted and it isn’t just seat height.
At this particularly fit, we started with cleat positioning. Do you ever get that burning sensation in your toes? That is caused by the nerve endings in your foot and is a sign of incorrect cleat positioning. You want to be maximising the power transfer on every pedal stroke and so in this instance, the cleats came forward for this rider.
Your seat height is an obvious adjustment, but of course moving your seat up and down, also impacts on whether you now need to move your seat forward or backwards, in order to maintain that same level of hip movement. You may not even need to move your seat height if you have adjusted your seat positioning, which can have the same level of impact.
Riders can look at whether their seat angle needs to be adjusted, tilting your seat downwards may open up your hips but it may also cause you to slide too far forward. Then the fitter looks at the type of seat you are using. Do you need a different type of saddle, is your saddle too narrow for your body, or would you benefit from a cut out seat. This is often a consideration for many female riders who need a wider saddle, than what often comes standard on a bike, are you even riding a female specific saddle if you are a female?
I have often seen riders riding along and I have witnessed their legs flicking in or out when riding their bike and I have assumed that they need to look at their seat height, the team at the Body Mechanic informed me that rather than seat height this often has to do with a lack of hip flexibility that is causing that issue and yes, it can be fixed.
Once we have considered pedals, cleats, crank length, seat height, seat and I am sure a few items the team measured while I took notes, we start to move towards the front of the bike. Here the team will look at handlebar height and whether that needs to go up or down. But it doesn’t stop there. The angle of your handle bar hoods will and can be adjusted and an incorrect setup can be a cause of numbness or that strange tingling sensation some riders may experience when riding. The width of the handlebars shouldn’t be considered a fixed or standard item and can be a cause of shoulder and neck pain. Did you consider your handlebar width when purchasing your bike?
Some riders don’t like riding in the drops because they have issues reaching the levers, particularly if they have small hands. Riding in the drops helps stability when cornering and descending and that is why it is encouraged. The team can adjust the levers to assist with the reach to the levers.
All of these contact points are looked at and adjustable to make you more comfortable and pain free on the bike. Every time an adjustment is made the team is measuring and videoing the changes.
The team often raise the point that they want to keep you cycling for the long term and you shouldn’t be uncomfortable or in pain simply by riding your bike. Sore shoulders and necks, or stiffness in your back shouldn’t be accepted as something that happens when you ride your bike. Parts of your body shouldn’t be going numb, when you go for a long or short ride and your knee shouldn’t ‘start playing up’ because you rode 3 times this week.
After the bike fit, the team at The Body Mechanic will also recommend particular exercises that may assist you, this could be hamstring stretches or maybe some core work that will help with your overall physical health. All measurements are also sent through and if major changes are required, these may often occur over a period of fits or time.
The team from The Body Mechanic have donated a Bike Fit for our Smartline 3 Lap Handicap Race on April 8, this will be a random prize draw for one lucky rider. Of course you don’t have to rely on the prize draw to go in and see the team particularly if you are having any issues on the bike.
The Body Mechanic is located at Bay 10, Middlemiss Street in Lavender Bay (just near Milsons Point and North Sydney Train Stations). Their passion for sports and close proximity to the train station and commuter routes means they strongly encourage people to get there on bike, foot or by train!
P: 02 9955 5842
Bike fits take approximately 2 hours