Top Reasons to Review Your Fit
As seen in The Racing Post – August 2016
I frequently have riders tell me the last fit they had was 5-10 years ago. When I attend group rides, I have riders ask me why should I get a fit now when I had a bike fit years ago or only when I bought my bike. What has changed? Many cyclists are coming into the sport as new riders. Others are coming back into the sport after life got in the way. The low aggressive racing position you had 10-20 years ago may result in problems now. The three primary reasons clients book a fit are to increase comfort, increase performance and reduce aches & pains. The top three complaints are saddle issues, low back pain and knee pain.
For a recreational rider, comfort tends to be the primary focus. Discomfort for the competitive rider tends to be associated as just a part of competitive cycling. When a rider – recreational or competitive – is uncomfortable on the bike, the body will try to accommodate. This accommodation can cause other problems including but not limited to loss of power and injury.
The topic of power is prevalent in every group ride whether competitive or not. With the proliferation and use of power meters, more riders are looking at their power numbers. Position on the bike can have a significant impact on peak power as well as sustained threshold power.
Efficiency and Sustainability
Power is great but only if you can sustain it. Many times riders find themselves in positions in which they cannot sustain for a period of time. Bike position can improve the efficiency of the muscles recruited in cycling. “There’s no point being in the most aerodynamic rider…if you can’t hold the position for longer than 30 seconds before shifting around.”1
Numbness and Pressure
Many believe that genital numbness and hand numbness are just part of cycling. Numbness is a sign of dysfunction. The source of the numbness can come from a variety of reasons including your position on the bike. Many times trained fitters are successful at relieving numbness and pressure.
Our Body Changes Over Time
Simply said, are you the same – for better or worse – as you were 5 years ago. The most visible change could be weight. Significant gain or loss of weight can affect your position on the bike. Flexibility is a close second followed by range of motion. Throw in a few falls, strains, breaks, pulls, tears etc. and you have change.
A thorough bike fit will take into account strengths, weakness and imbalances of the individual. A rider should be setup appropriately to accommodate their body and to support their style of riding. Frequently, I see riders who have been setup based on formulas or a one size fits all approach.
At times, an injured body will require changes to their bike fit. The changes may be to accommodate limited range of motion, inflammation or alleviate pressure. I have had riders whom broke their pelvis have to abandon their tried and true saddle of many years. In addition, many orthopedic surgeries require changes to fit throughout the healing and rehabilitation process. This allows the rider to continue to do what they love – ride their bike.
The most obvious and significant change would be a complete new bike. But there are other items that are not so obvious. Many overlook some primary points of contact as a driver to have their fit re-evaluated. These include and are not limited to shoes, saddles, bars and pedal systems. New shoes and new saddles should be an automatic trigger for a re-evaluation. Saddle height is determined for a given saddle, crank length, pedal system and shoes.
Intentional and Unintentional Changes to Your Bike
Whether intentional or not, changes do occur to your bike that affect how your body will interact with the machine. Intentional changes – like new equipment purchases – may require adjustments to your bike fit and are usually easier to identify. However, unintentional changes can be the fly in the ointment. These unintentional changes can occur during bicycle maintenance, shipping your bike, loaning your bike to a friend and the unfortunate crash. I see it all with a frequency higher than it should be.
1. Burt, Phil. Bike Fit. London: Bloomsbury Publishing Plc, 2014. Print.
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