I see individuals all the time riding their bikes around in horrible positions. I cringe when I see incorrect seat positions, handlebar locations, or individuals who are just riding a bike that does not fit them. Having a bad position on the bike can be the cause of riding discomfort or even prolonged injuries off the bike. Getting a professional fit for any type of bike is a good idea.
Competitive cyclists spend hundreds of dollars getting a professional bike fit done to improve their comfort and power output on the bike. A professional fit for a competitive cyclist can take up to 3 hours and may need to be readjusted throughout the year depending on the rider’s fitness and flexibility levels. For the average bike rider that type of detailed fit is not realistic. If you use your bike to cruise around the town with the family or to go to the beach, performance is probably not a big concern. However, comfort should be. Prolonged activity on a bike that does not fit a rider properly will increase the likelihood of injury.
The two most common issues riders have on a bike is knee and lower back pain. Knee pain can be caused if the saddle height is too low. A rider’s knee angle should be in the range of 145 – 155 degrees at the bottom of the pedal stroke. An easy way to check to see if the seat is too low is by doing a Basic Seat Check Test. Bring one foot to the bottom position of the pedal stroke. Dip your heel as low as you can without having your hips move in the seat. If there is still a bend in your knee with your heel being dipped then your seat is probably too low. Move the seat up until your knee becomes straight for this test.
If you are having lower back pain it could be because your seat is too high. Doing the same Basic Seat Check Test, look to see if your hips move to the side when you dip your heel. If your hips move you should lower the seat until your hips don’t move. Moving the seat height up/down or seat position forward/aft a few centimeters can have a dramatic effect on a rider’s comfort level and power output. If discomfort continues after the adjustments see a bike professional for a fit or a medical professional for diagnosis.
If you do decide to make an adjustment to your bike make sure all components are tightened after adjustments. If you are not comfortable making adjustments you should go to a bike professional. Every bike rider has different body measurements and different issues; one fit won’t work for another. Because of that I recommend that a bike professional conduct any bike fit for a new or used bike. All bike shops should have you get on a bike and do a quick fit in the store if you purchased a new bike. A quick fit is normally free and takes a few minutes. If you are bringing in an old bike to get fit there is normally a charge and that will depend on the quality of the fit. •
Kevin Danahy is a triathlon coach, stretch therapist, and trainer in the Rehoboth area. A former professional triathlete, Kevin now works helping the average individual get into shape or prepare for multi-sport events. Kevin is married to Brittany Danahy, and they have a young son and daughter, so he knows how challenging it is to keep a healthy lifestyle with young kids and a busy schedule. You can contact him at KevinDanahy@aol.com or visit his website at www.TriCoach.us.