properly set up bike will both look and feel right
and your bike should dovetail together, so that you get the best ride possible
and the bike maximizes its potential. ‘Man and machine in perfect harmony’,
to use an over-used phrase.
tweaking your position, getting some work done or yourself or buying the right
piece for your bike you can regain unity. Don’t let a complaint become
something you feel needs to be endured. It doesn’t have to be. Good riders
aren’t better because they put up with aches and pains more than lesser
mortals. More a case that by trial and error they have found what works for them
and how to minimize unnecessary discomfort.
you’ve got a bad back, bad knee or whatever, be sure to do something about it
as soon as possible. Otherwise, it might become more serious and lead to more
permanent problems. The Cycling Plus bike fit clinic is now open. Next rider
pain, headaches and/or shoulder tension are common for fitness riders to report.
The muscular tension is often due to handlebars being too low or the stem too
long. This can be due to trying to get too low and aero, or just having too long
a reach for the rider’s torso and arm length. If you place your elbow against
the nose of the saddle, your middle (longest) finger should be approximately 60
to 80mm (or the approximate width of the knuckles on your other hand) behind the
carrying heavy loads in a courier bag or rucksack can put strain on the muscles
around the neck and shoulders. So try riding with panniers. Additionally the
correct stem height and length can alleviate shoulder tension and make you lock
your arms out less.
BIKE FIT 1: make sure the handlebars are the
right length and height, so you feel comfortable and can control the bike with
ease. Then add some extra padding to the bars for perfect hand comfort
wondered why you feel heavy on steering and always seem to be resting on your
arms rather than having slightly bent ‘soft’ elbows? In most cases this
scenario manifests itself in tight arms, blisters, numb hands and even shoulder
tension. You may also see excessive bar tape wear and bunching up. There’s a
simple cure for this: tilt your saddle until it is flat or, for some people,
even slightly tilting up at the front.
a spirit level to see how ‘flat’ your saddle really is, or isn’t, double
checking that Getting your saddle flat will ensure proper weight distribution on
the bike the floor you have the bike on is flat. You may also find that good
padded gloves, and the above handlebar reach tip all contribute to a perfect
hand-handlebar interface. Be sure that the saddle height is not too high (often
the seat to crank distance (when at the furthest point from the saddle) falls
close to 109% of your inside leg length, measured crotch to floor. Get this
wrong and you’ll overstrain on your hamstrings, knees and lower back. Check
the seat post doesn’t move (carbon posts in carbon frames often do); I would
suggest a small hairline notch scraped into the post, things like electrical
tape move over time, a line stays.
BIKE FIT 2: get your saddle flat after
ensuring that the height is right
It’s about the back…
cycling you are often bent over or in a twisted position looking over your
shoulder or drinking. This is one cause of lower back pain. The other three main
culprits are: riding big gears too often, lack of abdominal/ lower back strength
and poor flexibility. Use of smaller gears on certain days of the week (e.g.
spinning Sunday) helps to reduce strain. You can also take the time to build
some off-the-bike strength with sit up exercises and lower back strengthening,
maybe even a few months each winter in the gym.
of all take time to stretch. Data from Don’t let a complaint become something
you feel needs to be endured. Sort it out the US Military shows holding
hamstring stretches three times a day, for 30 seconds five times reduces
injuries dramatically. A light stretching routine (see below) is easy to do at
the end of your ride once you get home and need to cool down.
BIKE FIT 3: take care of your back and
abdominals as these are the central column of your cycling physiology –
stretch lightly after rides
The knee is a complicated structure consisting
of ligaments, bones and tendons lying smack bang between your cycling muscles.
It bends, twists and strains as your pedals revolve in a very unnatural circle.
to say there’s a fair share of fitness riders with niggling knees, often as a
result of a sporadic riding regime. This can be compounded by the use of toe
clips or clip-less pedals that may have too much or too little play, or float,
in them. Horses for courses: some riders need play in the ankle, others need
none. An early trip to a sports injury clinic is a safer and wiser option if
there is serious pain or a history of knee injury or surgery. If you press down
on the pedals pointing your toes most of the time this will put a lot of strain
on the lower leg (calf) muscle and the knee. Add too high a saddle and you’re
heading for big trouble.
sitting too far forward or too high causes this over extension. It may just be
that you have tight calves – if so again stretch them by lifting your toes
upwards and holding for a count of 30. Repeat this five times and have a
masseuse give them the once over.
BIKE FIT 4: be aware of knee complaints,
calf tightness and anything from the waist down that is a serious pain – at
least look at the bike set up; if it continues get professional help Don’t
suffer, solve it!
complaints above are just the main ones that riders can be plagued by. The
prescription is not always obvious. However, choose from these: R.I.C.E (Rest,
Ice Compression, Elevation), Massage, Bike Set Up, Bike Equipment and Stretching
or Body Work (physio, chiropractor, chiropodist, podiatrist). What you must do
is ensure a regular complaint does not become something you accept as part of
your cycling. You should not have to endure pain or ‘after shocks’ when you
ride. As a rider you probably have enough problems getting on the bike regularly
without injury or pain stopping you. Don’t suffer. Sort it out.