Beyond Bike Fit

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As more and more people get into cycling, professional bike fits are becoming more popular – and for good reason. A proper bike fit can reduce discomfort, increase performance and reduce the chance for injury.

The days of standing over a bike’s top tube and having 1-2 inches of clearance between your crotch and the top tube are gone. This has been replaced by LED markers, motion sensors, laser levels and real-time diagnostics – very cool indeed! 

The goal of a bike fit is based on the individual. As noted above, the most common reasons for a professional bike fit are to reduce pain/discomfort and to increase performance – both of which are interrelated.

WHO IS YOUR BIKE FITTER?

Most all top bike fit companies have a comprehensive training program that accompanies their bike fit product(s). This usually involves some sort of rider assessment in terms of flexibility, current/prior injuries, current position (if applicable), any discomfort, goals of the bike fit, etc…

While these are all good and necessary areas of focus, what is often missing is the knowledge of the body in respect to how different areas of the body are interrelated and influence each other (termed: Kinetic Chain). As an example, the knee crossing over the top tube at the top of the pedal stroke might be solved by moving the cleat position. While this might solve the issue visually, it likely doesn’t change the root issue…. more on this in the next section.

As such, the more trained your bike fitter is in the human body, the more likely you’ll be receiving a ‘complete’ fit and one that is takes the whole body into consideration.

BAND-AID?

As noted above, many bike fits solve the visual aspects of a rider’s position but don’t solve the origin of the issue. In respect to the above example, the knee crossing over the top tube might be caused by weak hip abductors muscles (ex: glute medius) and this issue won’t be resolved until strengthening the glute medius occurs.

ONE AND DONE?

Performance-based fits often involve small changes in respect to adjustments as typically riders already have a pretty good fit and are just in need of a few small tweaks. Discomfort and pain related adjustments often (not always) involve larger adjustments.

Here’s the rub…

The body adapts to new positions, but over a slow period of time. For example, if you slouch all day at work for 8-10 hours, you can’t be expected to have a flat low back position on your bike within a single bike fitting session.

Therefore, adjustments must be made incrementally over a period of time versus all at once. Now, some people may be able to handle large adjustments with no issue but this should not be assumed. 

SET POSITION

Unlike swimming or running where the body is free so to speak, with cycling – the feet, butt and hands are attached to the bike. As such, biomechanical issues such as muscle imbalances, leg length discrepancies (functional or structural) and hips that are rotated likely impact a cyclist to a greater degree than that of a swimmer or runner.

TEAM APPROACH

Unless a bike fitter has a working knowledge of the body in respect to how one area influences another, it is likely good advice to seek out the advice of a trained clinician such as a physical therapist, in conjunction with a bike fitter. Using this team approach will likely elicit the best results both presently and down the road (pun intended!).

SUMMARY

A bike fit on the surface is a fairly straight forward process. The reality is that it’s quite a complex process that has many variables. A proper bike fit must take the whole body into consideration and more than likely, should be done over a period of time to allow the body to adapt to the new position(s).


Rick Prince is the founder of United Endurance Sports Coaching Academy (UESCA), a science/evidence-based endurance sports coaching education company that certifies running and triathlon coaches.

To get a $50 discount on the Running Coach Certification, click here!

Rick Prince

Rick Prince

Founder/Director of United Endurance Sports Coaching Academy (UESCA).

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