By Bart Hawkinson PT, DPT, OCS, COMT, FAAOMT, Clinic Director – TAI North Lake Physical Therapy
A bike fit is the interaction between a highly adaptable human body and a very adjustable machine. Optimum performance occurs when the bike is well fit to the rider, and the rider is properly conditioned for the sport.
Bike fitting is the detailed process of adjusting each component of the bike to the rider’s individual proportions – like having a suit tailor-made for you. Some people who have very neutral proportions, or those who ride infrequently may not need a detailed fit. The majority of us who ride regularly will benefit from a more detailed bike fit.
The right fit is just half of the picture. Since pedaling a bike is a repetitive motion, supplemental exercises are important to prevent muscle imbalances. A quick assessment of muscle performance is to do a single-leg squat. As you squat down, pay attention to your knee. Does it stay over the center of your foot? Does it go in front of your toes or inward? If so, this can be a sign of potential problems on the bike. Practice this exercise with a very shallow squat in front of a mirror, and hold onto a chair if needed. As you gain control, work on increasing the depth of your squat.
General guide to fit on a bike should include:
- Seat comfortably supports your sit bones
- Your knees should be at about a 30-degree bend at the bottom of the pedal stroke
- Your knees should stay aligned over your toes as you pedal
- On a road bike, your trunk should be bent forward at a 90-degree angle with your arms– you will be more upright on a mountain bike or hybrid
- You should be able to reach the handlebars with a slight bend in the elbows
- It should feel like you have no more than 30-40% of your body weight on your hands