Is Your Bike Setup Giving You Pain Or A Workout?

Riding a bike is a great way to lose weight, burn calories, and work on cardiovascular fitness.  But sometimes, we buy a bike and ride it for a couple weeks only to leave it in the garage because we can’t get comfortable on it.  After a ride, you may feel saddle soreness, low back pain, or neck and shoulder discomfort.  You may also experience numbness or tingling down into your hands or hot spots on the bottoms of your feet.

Buying a bike at your local bike shop is like walking into a department store and buying that suit or dress off the rack.  Sure, it may fit, but it could fit you better if it was specifically tailored to your exact proportions.  Buying a bike is no different.  Actually, it’s more complicated because on a bike, we’re dealing with how you move.  In order to assess how you function on the bike, it’s important we understand how you function off the bike. 

More important than measuring inseam or wing span, we need to assess functional movement like balancing on one leg, single leg squats, bilateral shoulder flexion and ankle/foot mechanics.  If there are movement dysfunctions, it’s important to correct them so you can ride with greater comfort, power, and efficiency.

Many bike fits now incorporate high end cameras and infrared motion capture systems to analyze how someone moves on the bike.  There are even apps you can download on your phone to take knee and shoulder measurements so they fit in an “ideal range.”  While these method can produce adequate results, it should only be PART of the bike fit. 

The individual’s function should be addressed.  One problem with relying solely on technology is that everyone gets placed into a box that continually reproduces one “ideal range.”  If you don’t fall in that range because you’re functionally or proportionally different, you may still feel uncomfortable while riding your bike.

Even if you feel comfortable on your bike, it may be a good idea to have a pair of trained eyes watch you ride.  The smallest adjustment can be the difference between exercise and enjoying the journey.

Dr. Raymond Shing - Physical Therapist/Bike Fitting Specialist