By Julie Young
Preface: Fitting road, cyclo-cross and mountain bikes follows a similar formula; TT and Triathlon bikes depart from this formula. For this article, we will focus on the road bike.
I enjoy the bike fitting process because it is not only an opportunity to help educate athletes about the importance of fit in terms of preventing over-use injuries and improving performance, but it’s also a chance to help them understand that with commitment to consistent off-bike mobility and stability work, they’ll continue to improve their fit and power output.
The fit process is more than simply manipulating the parts on the bike; it’s the opportunity to help athletes understand how joint range of motion, muscle length, stability and posture relate to improving the fit and performance. Additionally, it’s also an opportunity to share insights about pedal stroke technique and efficiency.
It seems most of us think we just hop on our bikes and go, with little regard to fit. While cycling is low impact, there is potential for overuse injuries when we consider that we’re locked in a position at the hip and the foot, making a repetitive movement over extended periods of time. And we also want to maximize our ability to use the bike as a tool, meaning we want to be properly placed over the bottom bracket in order to recruit the appropriate muscles around the circular pedal movement.
Bike Fitting is Based on a System
We need to base the fit on a system. Oftentimes clients come in for a fit, and they have cherry-picked the fit system, tried this, tried that, and now find themselves in a state of confusion and discomfort. It goes something like this: “Oh, I read this blog, so I tried moving my seat back. Then I felt stretched, so I lowered the saddle and then moved it forward. And then…”
You get the picture?
But an effective fit is methodical and follows systematic steps.
Understanding the individual off the bike is the first priority. The systematically approached bike fit considers what each individual rider brings to the fit in terms of past injuries, muscular length, joint range of motion, how they spend the majority of their day, and their personal cycling goals.
We start our fit ato2fitness-Silver Sage Sports and Fitness Lab with an interview to understand the rider’s goals for riding and motivation for the fit (resolve pain or improve performance), followed by a 20-point physical assessment to understand the individual’s off-bike skeletal structure and movement patterns, as well as flexibility and ranges of motion.
During this off-bike interview, we also want to understand how the athlete spends the majority of his/her day, as this greatly affects the bike fit. For example, if they sit slumped over a computer for eight hours a day, this is likely the posture we will see on the bike. This off-bike investigation allows us to better focus the on-bike fit.
During the fit process, we’re helping the athlete understand how different aspects of the off-bike physical assessment relate and connect to the on-bike fit. For example, we measure hamstring length and hip flexion, which helps determine the appropriate saddle-to-bar drop. Some people come in with an idea of how they should look on the bike as a road racer or triathlete. But an aggressively aerodynamic fit can only be effectively achieved if the rider possesses adequate range of motion/muscle length and the ability to hold integrity of neutral pelvis and spinal posture.
That said, the bike fit process is not a one-and-done, but rather an evolution, and through off-bike work of mobility and stability, the fit will continue to evolve and position improve.
In part II we will address the on-bike fit of the bike fit, stay tuned…
If you have questions about bike fitting or are just looking for advice, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.