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Fit the Bike With Your Body, says Step & Spine Physical Therapist

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
June 3, 2013

Bike FitSISTERS, OR –While cycling offers an incredible alternative to high-compression exercises such as running, an improper bike fit can lead cyclists down a path toward a whole host of different muscular and joint issues, says Barrett Ford, physical therapist and owner of Step & Spine Physical Therapy of Sisters and Redmond.

“I’d say that about half the people I see when I’m riding have an improper fit,” Ford said. “What I mean by that is the placement of their seat, handlebars, pedals and cleats aren’t properly adjusted to accommodate the size, flexibility, strength, and movement deficiencies of their bodies.”

In other words, a proper bike fit isn’t just about the bike.

“A good bike fit takes into consideration both the bike and the body, then works to adjust each in order to maximize comfort, performance and prevent injury and wear,” he said. “If you’re experiencing pain, discomfort, or numbing sensations when you ride an hour or less, you may need a little tweak in your bike or yourself.”

Ford says that when riding a bicycle, a person experiences three main points of pressure: on the seat, on the feet, and on the hands – a triangle of pressure points. One of the goals of bike fitting is to achieve a comfortable equilibrium between the three. Anything that upsets this balance, related to either the body or the bike, can lead to discomfort, pain, and the increased chance of long-term injury.

From carpal tunnel, elbow, and Achilles issues to pain in the shoulders, knees and lower back, Ford warns that an improperly fitted bike will commonly reveal a person’s musculoskeletal deficiencies through pain, numbness, low endurance and a general reduction in performance.

As a specialist in movement and athletic performance, Ford suggests cyclists seek a professional bike fitting evaluation in the following cases:

  • A New Bike: New or just new to you, it’s a no-brainer that anyone riding hopping on the saddle of an “unfamiliar” bike should have it properly fitted to his or her body.
  • Feeling Pain or Discomfort: Sure, if you ride for four hours, there’s bound to be some discomfort. But Ford says if you feel pain or numbness on a ride that’s an hour long or less, it’s likely time for a bike fitting.
  • You’re an Active Rider: If you ride every day – even several times per month – your body’s bound to change. “Sometimes when we become more active, our pains and flexibilities change, either for better or for worse,” Ford said. “If you’re an avid rider, then, you should have your bike fitted seasonally. Just because you were fitted three years ago doesn’t mean your body and your bike fit well together today.”

A proper bike-fitting assessment should consider injury history and involve flexibility testing and a cycling motion analysis. Ford points out that while several reputable bike shops are great at fitting a bike to a generalized body type, physical therapists are trained to determine the optimal mechanical balance between a cyclist and his/her bike.

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