Bike fit and injury avoidance all starts with the correct bike size for you. That is the basis of being comfortable. Buying a bike that’s too big or too small because it’s a deal is the biggest mistake you can make, because fundamentally there are certain things you aren’t able to adjust or change.
Ensuring that all parts of your body that touch the bike are doing so with the least possible amount of irritation or impact to the body will ensure you are happy on your bike, for long periods of time.
Telkom 947 Cycle Challenge Sporting Director Jenny Green visited an expert in the field, Shaun Mileson at Trek Bicycle South Africa - but also a mechanic for former Pro cycling team MTN. According to Mileson, there are four critical touch points, that are adjustable based on comfort and fit:
Saddle size is all about the width of your sit bones. Many people believe that saddle width has to do with the size ofyour bum, but in essence you could have a skinny bum and wide sit bones. You’re going to be sitting in the saddle for most of the time, so you need to ensure you get this right, so that your pelvis is supported correctly. If not, you’llbe compensating with your legs, your shoulders and your core muscles.
· Width – measurement done with a measuring tool at a bike-set-up technician
· Length – not as critical how long the saddle itself is. Personal preference takes over here.
· Hole in the middle – again personal preference, but if the width is correct, this shouldn’t make all the difference.
· Saddle height – if it’s too high, you get rocking hips, which causes fatigue for your lower back. Err on the lower side is better if you’re not sure, as it supports your hips a little better.
Cleat and Shoe setup
Positioning of the cleat on the shoe is critical to the pedal stroke. Moving the cleat back on the shoe takes some pressure off the calve muscles, allowing your quads to do the bulk of the work. Placing the cleat is in the correct place also ensures the correct pedal stroke, ensuring you’re ‘pulling’ and ‘pushing’ correctly.
The ‘old-school-rule’ of handlebars should be the width of your shoulders still holds true. Too wide or too narrow is unnatural and will cause long-term discomfort, and possibly joint irritation or inflammation in the shoulders and elbows.
Levers should be in the natural-support position, so you are not over- or under extending your hands and wrists.
In terms of the stem that attaches the handlebars to the frame of the bike, make sure that the length here is correct, so you’re not over-reaching to the bars, and that the tilt is neutral. This causes neck and back pain if you haven’t got it right.
When all is said and done, cycling SHOULD NOT hurt you physically, other than the power that you are putting through the pedals from your muscles. Once you’re ‘saddle fit’, in other words are spending 2-3 times a week in the saddle, your joints, neck and back shouldn’t hurt so badly that you want to stop riding – if those are hurting, something is wrong, and you need to get some help in terms of a professional bike set up.