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Bike Fittings: Everything You Should Know

By: Shantai Watson

We’re in the dog days of summer now; meaning if you are a bike commuter, mountain biker, road biker or spin cycler, you’ve put tons of miles on your bike by now, and possibly feeling some aches and pains from it! The majority of biking injuries are overuse injuries from poor biomechanics or a non-ideal bike fit. Follow along for some bike fitting tips to keep you in tip top shape for your cycling adventures!

1. First, adjust the seat height. For all bike types, whether it’s a mountain, road, hybrid or spin bike, a slight bend in the knee (knee should be 80-90% straight) is recommended. If the seat is too high, the pelvis rotates, and it may cause low back pain. On the contrary, having your seat too low causes more constant load on the knees, and may cause knee pain, often in the front of your knee in the patellatendon. 2. Next, adjust your seat forward / backward (called the layback). When sitting on your bike with both pedals at the same level, a straight plumb line from the kneecap down should hit right in the middle of the pedal. A recent study has shown that when the seat is too far back, there is a higher compression force in the knee. Adjust your seat forward or back accordingly to keep your knees in their healthiest position! 3. Finally, adjust the handlebars (called the reach). For spin bikes and road bikes, it is recommended to have your back at a 45 degree angle (compared to ground). Your shoulders should be 90 degrees from your torso, as they reach the handlebars. Mountain and hybrid bike angles are less critical, as riding position is typically more relaxed and upright. If you are experiencing neck pain while riding, raise the stem to limit stress the neck.

4. Check your saddle tilt. Your bike seat should typically be parallel to the ground. However, if you are experiencing numbness in the bum/perineum, or have prostate issues, tilt your saddle slightly forward. Be aware not to tilt it too far forward though - because then you are putting more load on your shoulders, elbows and wrists!

Other injuries or discomforts: Numbess/tingling in feet Your shoes may be too tight, or your foot is in a poor position within your shoes! First, loosen your shoes and see if this helps. If not, come see us at Washington Park Chiropractic for a foot evaluation and we can determine whether treatment, exercises or orthotics can benefit you! ACL injury or reconstruction

Recently, the literature has recommended lowering the saddle height, moving the saddle position forward and lowering your cadence is best following an ACL injury or reconstruction.

IT Band pain If your foot is toed in too far, this causes extra stress on the IT band as your knee bows out to compensate. Make sure you are pushing down through the ball of your foot, and if your toe is still angled in too far, make sure your cleats are aligned straight.

Keep track of the changes you’ve made to your bike fit to make sure you’re on the right track to riding more comfortably. Other modifications to your bike can be made, such as purchasing a different shaped bike seat, changing the handlebar stem and more! You may also choose to get your bike professionally fitted, which includes further adjustment of optimal joint angles for your body, looking at shoes and cleats, etc.

Make sure to give yourself time to adapt to your new bike fit. However, keep in mind that persistent pain with a properly fitted bike may have other causes! Your low back pain caused by poor core strength, and knee pain may be caused by poor vastus medialis strength.

Come see us at Washington Park Chiropractic for an evaluation if your pain persists. Using these few tips will surely make your next weekend ride or spin class more comfortable and enjoyable, and prevent overuse injuries. Happy cycling!


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