Now that we are into the spring season, my mind automatically turns to my favorite outdoor activity: bicycling. The warmer weather and longer days is wonderful for long distance cycling. However, cycling does have its risks with crashes and repetitive use injuries from poor bicycle fit. I have invited my good friend and Master Fitter, Mark Bedel, to write an article on bike fit.
Bicycle Fitting: What is it and why should I Have One Done?
As we all know, the human body is an amazing machine. It is able to perform surprisingly complex while at the same time precise movements. And with sport specific training, is able to perform these complex and precise movements with a great deal of power, speed and endurance.
There are a few sports however that require the athlete to become one with a machine to perform. For all the wonderful attributes that the human body has on offer, symmetry, especially bi-lateral symmetry is not one of them. These imbalances manifest themselves to a greater or lesser degree depending upon the activity, (cycling and rowing), and the degree to which that activity is performed.
Locking an asymmetrical body into a symmetrical machine often time will present issues as minor as performance loss and discomfort to as major as injury. Modern bicycle fitting is the result of many years of examination and collaboration by experts in kinesiology, bio-mechanics and orthopedics, resulting in protocols for examination and assessment as well as evaluation and adjustment.
A qualified, certified and experienced professional bicycle fitter will be able to perform these protocols and assess each cyclist based upon their unique physical presentations and provide appropriate adjustments combined with when necessary, individualized equipment selection to achieve that “oneness” with our bicycles we all strive for.
The fit process should start with making sure that the cyclist is matched to the appropriate sized bicycle. Next, a pre-fit question and answer session is performed to determine what the current style and level of the cyclist is and also what type of cyclist they want to become. Once status and goals are determined, and brief accounting of any previous injuries and concerns is reviewed. This then leads to a 20 step physical assessment in which measurements are taken, many are performed on both sides of the body to determine and compare flexibility, movement and position of joints and potential bone length discrepancies.
There are of course what are considered “normal” ranges for all physical and structural assessments and these are taken into account as the cyclist is moved to the final “on bike” fitting process which in the case of Specialized Body Geometry protocol is 15 steps. Much of what was observed during the Physical and Structural Assessment process will provide clues for the fitter on what to anticipate and adjust for during the “on bike” fitting process.
Some cyclists will note an immediate improvement in many areas while other adjustments may take a few weeks of riding to adjust to. This is why a scheduled follow up with the freshly fitted cyclist is a must! In some instances, a mild refitting of certain areas may be required as the body adjusts to the new measurements and an additional follow up. It is suggested depending upon frequency and level of the cyclist that a “fit check” or refit be performed every couple to few years later anticipating continuing adaptations.
While attending a recent Body Geometry Master Fit class at Specialized, Dr. Andrew Pruitt was asked what statistics were available to the performance oriented cyclist as to what they can potentially expect in gains from a professionally performed fitting. He said that the long term data indicates on average, a 10% increase in performance over a cyclist that has never had professional fit. He personally conducted a study to back this up while he was head of the Boulder Center for Sports Medicine in Colorado.
Comfort and injury reduction potential are also two important results to be expected from a thoroughly performed fitting. After all, who doesn’t want to feel less fatigue when out enjoying a ride!
Specialized Body Geometry Certified Master Fitter
USA Cycling Level 2 Coach