Does your bike fit?
Cycling season is off to a great start here in the capital! We are blessed with so many great trails, areas, and organizations that manage the infrastructure for cycling. Even though cycling season has begun, it is important to make sure you have a bike that fits you appropriately so that you are getting the most out of your ride and avoiding overworking your body. There are a few key areas that need to be adjusted: frame size, seat height and position, as well as handlebar height and reach. For a more in-depth fitting visit one of the many great bike shops in Ottawa!
Bike Frame Size
The frame is the skeleton of the bike, and what everything is built off of, similar to our bodies. When choosing a frame, stand over the straight tube of the bike with both feet planted on the ground. There should be 1 inch of clearance between the tube and your groin for road and hybrid bikes. For mountain bikes allow 2 inches of clearance in this area. For more guidance on how to do this refer to the diagrams by this local bike club.
Bike Seat Height
To fit the proper seat height the bike should be supported so that you can sit on the seat with both feet on the pedals. With one foot straight down at the bottom of the pedal stroke you should have a slight bend in the knee. If there is too much bend in your knee and the seat is too low you will over-strain your knee and experience discomfort. If the seat is too high you will struggle to get a full stroke with push down and lose efficiency.
Your arm length will be a determinant of how far back you position your seat. With the bike still supported, position the pedals both horizontally at the 3 and 9 positions. If you drop a plumb line or string down from the front of your knee it should intersect the pedal/your foot just in front of the middle of the pedal. The seat position also affects the efficiency of the stroke and can cause knee discomfort if too far forward or back.
Again with the bike supported, sit on the seat and adjust the stem length of the handlebars to achieve these body angles: hinge at your hips to tilt your upper body/trunk at a 45-degree angle with your arms at 90 degrees to the handlebar. This reach is most important with road bikes for performance. With more casual riding you can sit more upright for comfort. A helpful video to achieve these angles is here.
Start with the handlebars at the same height as the seat. If you want a more upright and comfortable posture raise the handlebars 2-3 inches above seat height. If you want a more performance, forward leaning posture adjust the handlebars 2-3 inches below the seat height. Start small with adjustments to the handlebar height. Too low of handlebars can increase hunching in the upper back and cause neck and back pain.
Many local shops can assist in bike fittings so contact the one nearest you. Along with having proper fitting and alignment of your bike, it is also crucial to keep your body in proper condition. Maintain your health with proper nutrition, exercise and self-care during this cycling season. Read this blog post if you want to learn more about how to prevent pain when cycling. At CURAVITA our health care providers are available to help keep your body moving and answer your questions.