Sunday, March 24, 2013

Bike Fitting, Part 1: The Importance of a Good Fit

A bicycle is an extension of its rider, the interface between the rider and the riding surface.  As such, it needs to fit the rider appropriately, not the other way around.  Just like a runner needs the appropriate type and size of shoe and may require a specific insert or lacing pattern to individualize the fit, so a cyclist needs correctly sized equipment, finely tuned to his body.  Without that good fit to the bicycle, the cyclist risks being unsafe and uncomfortable which could lead to injury.  A poor fit could also be limiting performance.

With any good fitting system, a hierarchy of priorities exists and is related directly to the priorities of the rider on the bike.

Safety first.  Trite perhaps, but true nonetheless.  A rider must have adequate control of the bike.  If, for example, the handlebar is too far forward or too narrow, steering may be compromised.  Or, if the bar is too low, causing the rider to bend more at the waist, they may not be able to see a safe distance ahead without hyperextending the neck, which could lead to injury.  Commonly, casual riders have their saddle too low which will likely lead to knee pain.

Second, a good fit will allow for effective power production by permitting the appropriate range of motion at each joint of the body and thus the proper balance of muscle length and tension around each of those joints. This optimizes the rider's ability to transfer power from the body to the pedal.

Third, the rider's comfort should be considered to avoid inappropriate fatigue, so he may maintain control and power over potentially long periods on the bike.

Fourth, aerodynamics may be addressed, if appropriate.  An aero' position should only be considered after safety, power, and comfort are established and should not take priority over any of those aspects
of the fit.  Otherwise, overall function may be compromised.

In Bike Fitting, Part 2, I will share my approach to bike fitting.

Special thanks to Jeff and Jacqui Lockwood of Life Sport Inc. of Chandler, Arizona for your tutelage.

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