Bike fitting is the process of adjusting moveable parts of the bike and a client’s shoe/cleat to best match the client’s anatomy, flexibility, and fitness/performance goals. A cyclist should feel improved comfort while riding after their bike has been fit. Sometimes the goal of a bike fit centers around pain alleviation and other times purely on performance. As a physical therapist the majority of bike fits I perform are to help a patient decrease their pain when riding to allow them to continue with riding. Some of the common pain complaints while riding are knee pain and back pain. Participating in a good bike fit can alleviate these problems! The bike fitting process usually takes at least 2 hours. If the bike itself cannot be adapted enough to allow for the best fit then I can make equipment recommendations to help improve the fit even further.
Clients bring their bike into the clinic and I put it on a trainer for stationary riding to assess fit and make adjustments. Adjustments can be made to the saddle (up/down, forward/backward, and tilt), pedals, cleats, stem, handlebars, hoods, and tri bars. I recommend riding the bike outside a few times before returning to make other adjustments to the bike so the rider can experience the changes and determine if they are truly comfortable or if any further changes need to be made.
As our flexibility, strength, and capacity as a rider changes over time (or a new bike is purchased) multiple bike fits may be needed to truly maximize your riding experience.
All levels of riders can benefit from a bike fit! I have fit bikes for road racers, triathletes, mountain bikers, bike commuters and recreational/enjoyment riders. Adjusting the bike to the individual even before any pain or performance issues start can keep issues from creeping up and help the ride to be more fun! Sometimes one adjustment can make all the difference. For riders that clip into their pedals, adjusting the cleats is critical to a good fit. If you think about being stuck to a rigid pedal as you make thousands of revolutions, you want to make sure the attachment point is right where you want it. Cleats can be moved side to side, forward and backward, rotated, wedged, and shimmed. I look at the need for each of these things during the fit and fine tune the position so that from the bottom up the legs can follow a better path for the individual rider.
Back pain is a very common complaint for cyclists. Saddle position as well as handlebar and stem position can contribute to this pain or help improve this pain. As a physical therapist performing the fit I can also make recommendations on posture and exercises to help the rider with pain or with maximizing performance. When you have a physical therapist perform your bike fit you gain the benefit of working with someone who has studied the body intensely and can put that knowledge to use.
If you are considering a bike fit I would love to hear from you! Check out our Cycling Analysis Program video here!