Five Tips for Bike Fit and Safety
With the spring weather, we are starting to see more bicycles on the roads be it for commuting purposes or for enjoyment. Whether it’s your first-time cycling or you are a seasoned pro, it is important to have a bicycle that is properly fit for you. This will help reduce your risk of injury. Bike fit is not as simple as having a bike you can step over and reach the pedals. Good bike fit protects your neck, shoulders, elbows, back, knees and hips. If your bike does not fit you properly, it will waste energy when riding and increasing your risk of aches, pains, or discomfort. Here are five tips to consider on how to properly fit your bicycle.
1. Pick the Right Bike for the Activity
Consider what type of activity you are mostly going to be using the bike for. Will you be climbing hills in Gatineau Park? Or commuting to and from work? Are you looking for something for a leisurely Sunday ride? There are many different types of bikes from mountain bikes, to hybrid, to road bikes or comfort bikes. The fitting for each bike varies, so it’s best when first thinking about proper bike fit to pick the style of bike matched to the activity.
2. Know Your Frame Size
Often finding your proper frame size will start with your height as a rough estimate. However, frame size measurements and recommendations vary based on the manufacturer of the bike and style of bike. There are small, medium or large frames; frames measured by inseam; or by the height of the bike frame from the floor to top of seat post. When buying a bike, go to a cycling shop. The professionals there will be able to make suggestions on what size of the frame fits you best and will often let you try it out to make sure the fit is good.
3. Set a Proper Seat Height
Seat height really depends on your leg length. To determine if the seat is proper height for you, sit on the bike with the ball of your foot on the pedal; there should be a small bend in the knee when the pedal is in the bottom position. If you extend your leg completely, this should cause a slight drop in the heel, but your foot should stay firmly on the pedal. When the pedals are at a 3 o’clock and 9 o’clock position, your front knee should be directly over the center of your foot. Proper seat height helps maximize your pedal stroke allowing you to ride faster and more efficient.
4. Make Proper Pedal Contact
When pedaling, there is an ideal foot position. For hybrid bikes, your foot should be centered on the pedal or have the ball of your foot on the pedal. The back half of the foot should not contact the pedal. Pedal contact for a road bike tends to be forward on the ball of the foot, and when using clips this will help preset your foot position. The pedal contact for mountain bikes has the foot more centered for optimal balance and power while pedaling. Proper foot to pedal alignment helps reduce any compensation in the body reducing unnecessary strain on joints or force on the muscles.
5. Set a Proper Handlebar Height
Handlebar height is crucial for the impact on your mid and upper body for maintaining form and avoiding injury. It strongly depends on the bike type. Hybrid bikes often cause your body to sit more upright and so the handlebars may rest a couple of inches above seat height. The height should allow you to look straight ahead comfortably. On road bikes, the handles tend to be dropped up to 2 inches below seat height causing more of a forward lean for aerodynamics and efficient riding. Mountain bike handlebars are generally positioned within approximately 2 inches of seat height. With all types of bikes, you should not feel crunched up or strained to reach the handlebars. Ideal set up allows for a straight/neutral spine and neck position without heavy pressure on the hands. Your local bike shop can help with fit.
Poor bike fit can cause numerous problems such as issues in the hips, lower back, upper back, neck, or nerve pain down the legs including numbness and tingling. Stiffness and tightness lasting longer than 48 hours should be evaluated by a trained healthcare professional. If you are feeling pain, stiffness, or soreness after a ride, see your chiropractor or massage therapist. It is important to stay on top of any potential injuries to make sure they don’t become chronic and prevent you from enjoying cycling.