What is a Bike Fit?
Bike fit is the process of determining and implementing an ideal position on a bicycle. An ideal position varies from cyclist to cyclist. For the purposed of this post we will only focus on a preventative fit and a fit for an injured/recovering cyclist. Performance fits are similar, in that both fits should make your position more efficient and safe. My focus is on either preventing excessive forces to be placed on certain body areas, or purposefully reducing those pressures to support healing tissue. Aerodynamic and power improvements are often achieved at the same time (It is hard to produce a bunch of power when you are in pain), however they are not the primary focus for the injured cyclist.
Bike fitting is like getting a suit tailored (not sized). You buy your suit that is the closest size but the tailoring fits it specifically to your body. Bike fitting takes your equipment and positions it in as close to an ideal position as possible. There are times when fit will benefit from a new bike part (usually stems and saddles) but I try use what you already have as much as possible.
The process is very similar to gait and running evaluations. After a physical examination and discussion of current symptoms on the bike, you ride on a trainer and are observed. I look at overall posture and scan for asymmetric motions in different planes of motion. I use some measurements looking at joint angles and set up lasers to help identify deviations. There is consistent feedback throughout the process.
One area of the bike fit that I particularly enjoy working on is the cleat/pedal interface. This is where we can help you gain control in the frontal and transverse planes of motion of your legs. In English, this means that we can help decrease your knees hitting your top tube or reduce the wide “flying V” position of your knees. This is done through cleat placement, wedging or canting the cleat and occasionally wedging inside of the shoe or using an insert.
Cycling is one of the most recommended activities for patients after knee and hip surgeries. It is low impact and can provide a great form of cardiovascular activity. However, if the form, posture or equipment is less than ideal the potential exists for an overuse injury. A bike fit can support the work that your surgeon did, the therapy that you have gone through or (hopefully) prevent injury in the first place.
To prevent cycling injuries I recommend that you get a fit prior to beginning increased training/commuting etc. Winter is really the best time. One it gets nice out you are going to want to ride and probably will not get a fit until you are injured.
I also recommend a slow/steady increase in your training load and using indoor training centers and coaches in the off season to work on your pedaling efficiency. Coupled with a bit of core work and some resistance training you will be ready to ride all season instead of being in PT!
-Andrew Eisen DPT (Union PT Alum)
Andrew trained as a bike fitter with Paul Swift and Kit Vogel of Bike Fit LLC and has been fitting patient and clients since 2008. He currently races bikes locally for Farestart/Thumbprint racing