The Importance of a Proper Bike Fit

Position is the first of the observational essentials we consider when designing an exercise or activity. If the body’s position is not correct for the exercise or activity, then performance will be negatively impacted. This is due, in part, to mechanical advantage impairment. The body is a system of levers and pulleys and when it is poorly positioned and we attempt to move it through space and time, our force production may be reduced.

This is of particular concern on your bike. Whether you are a road or mountain bike cyclist or you participate in indoor group cycling programs (or all three!), your bike fit must be precise in order for you to produce the force required to perform optimally. Optimal performance, regardless of whether you are an elite rider competing, or a recreational rider, is the primary goal as it is the safest, most effective and efficient way to achieve your desired riding outcomes.

This week, consider the following five tips regarding bike fit to ensure that you have fantastic rides, whether outdoors or indoors, and achieve the results you seek. As always, prior to beginning any exercise program, please consult your physician.

Tip #1 Most importantly, make certain to take the time to have a professional bike fit performed. This is true whether you are riding outdoors or indoors. Most top notch cycling shops offer bike fit services, so take advantage of this service. However, in many indoor group cycling programs, the riders are left to their own devices to set up their bikes. Do not settle—seek out programs that ensure a professional bike fit is performed prior to your first ride and preferably features bikes with four settings (i.e. fore/aft for the saddle and handlebars as well as saddle and handlebar height adjustments).

Tip #2 Avoid adjusting the handlebars first during the fitting process. The saddle height and fore/aft positions set the template for the fit. Then, the handlebars fore/aft followed by the handlebar height which is often the only subjective fitting on the bike. For example, it is not unusual for a road cyclist to prefer the handlebars at a lower setting than a mountain bike cyclist due to the varied demands of road and mountain bike cycling. *There are other adjustments such as the angle of saddle/handlebars which may be addressed at this time as well.

Tip #3 There are occasions when a client is professionally fit on their bike and then when they actually begin riding, they sit in a different position than when fit. Consequently, it is important to notice if the fit feels compromised as soon as possible and then adjust the fit accordingly. Even micro-adjustments to bike fit may make a world of difference in the ride.

Tip #4 Do not assume that your bike fit will be the same from season to season or year to year. As your body changes (and all bodies do!), revisit your bike fit to be certain you are positioned where you need to be for optimal safety and performance.

Tip #5 If you change any bike part (i.e. handlebars, saddle, pedals, etc.), or change any aspect of your attire, such as different cycling shoes, cycling shorts/pants, you may need to modify the bike fit.

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