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Bike Fit

Optimising your position on the bike will help improve performance and reduce the risk of injuries. Balancing how your body works to the demands of cycling is not straight forward and we too often see the effects of incorrect advice and set up. Don’t delay ring today (tel. 0114 2671223). Our Bike Fit service is provided by Matt Withycombe and Mat Thompson. Ring the clinic to make an appointment or ask to speak to Matt Withycombe for further information that is specific to your needs.

Sheffield has a large cycling population partly due to the close proximity of the Peak District National Park with an abundance of winding country lanes and trails This beautiful area attracts all types of cyclists consisting of leisure/touring, mountain biking, road and triathlon.

The repetitive nature of cycling has the potential to cause problems (click here for link to Matt discussing knee pain in cyclists). When observing the statistics, competitive cyclists average up to 5,000 pedalling revolutions an hour, between 10-150 miles each session and up to 20,000 miles a year. It is therefore easy to understand that even very subtle irregularities with the bike or cyclist can manifest into discomfort and pain and possibly time off the bike.

As specialist physiotherapists at the Hallamshire Physiotherapy Clinic we come into regular contact with cyclists presenting with related and unrelated injuries or problems. The commonest injury prone areas we observe in cyclists are the neck, back and knees.

A cyclists’ flexibility and joint/muscle movement is fundamental to gaining particular positions when riding a bike. This is relevant if you are competing in a time trial where an aerodynamic forward position is required as opposed to a touring cyclist who will require a more comfortable position for longer periods in the saddle.

There can be many reasons for the onset of pain in cyclists. Commonly we observe that the bike set up or “Bike fitting” is incorrect. For instance, if the bike is too big then this can result in overreaching and potentially cause irritations of both the neck and lower back. If the saddle is too high, then a rider will tend to over extend the knee when the pedal is furthest away from them causing excessive pelvis movement from side to side. This again can cause lower back pain as well as pain behind the knee. The list goes on from fitting cleats incorrectly in relation to the pedal spindle, as well asymmetries in hip, knee and foot alignments. Ultimately the bike should fit the rider and not vice versa.

A correct bike fit is paramount and we are offering a new bike fitting service combined with a musculoskeletal screening assessment for cyclists of all abilities aimed at injury prevention.

“Matt Withycombe carried out a road bike fit for me and the adjustments he made have led to a much more comfortable cycling experience, especially on day-long sportives such as the Fred Whitton. Thanks, Matt.”


What does the bike fit service involve?

In brief an initial physical assessment will be undertaken by a physiotherapist to gain an understanding of a cyclists body shape and flexibility. This is followed by an observation of the cyclist pedalling on a static turbo trainer on his/her bicycle. A variety of measurements of the cyclist and the bicycle will be taken throughout the bike fit to enable appropriate adjustments in order to optimise an individuals position relative to the type and level of riding. We are all different shapes and sizes with varying trunk and limb lengths and ultimately the bike should be manipulated to fit the individual cyclist. Minor adjustments can be significant when you think of the repetitive nature of the pedalling action.

More detailed description of each process of the bike fit:

1. Rider and bike information
Initially we need crucial information about the type of riding you undertake i.e. leisure, triathlon, racing or time trial etc. as well as the bicycle you ride and level of experience or expertise. A history of previous injuries or present injuries whether it is related or unrelated to cycling is also very important as physical compensations may have occurred. The type and brand of shoe wear will be needed i.e. road or mountain bike cleats or just normal shoe wear, as this has relevance to the actual bike fitting process.

2. Physiotherapy assessment
Prior to sitting on your bicycle we will need to assess and observe your standing and sitting postures from all directions to gain an understanding of your body shape. A few simple physical tests will also be observed in weight bearing that will give vital information on joint mobility and control. General joint movements and soft tissue flexibility will also be assessed and this is fundamental in identifying any potential problem areas, in particular if you have any previous or present injuries. We basically need to know how you move and your own limitation and asymmetries.

3. Shoe wear
The next phase is to assess the type of shoes you wear for your cycling and if you use cleats, the positioning of these is paramount. The cleat position is fundamental to the pedalling action as this is the interface between the pedal and the shoe and ultimately to your transmission of power. A cleat can be moved from fore to aft in order to get the pedal spindle between the first ( base of big toe) and fifth metatarsal phalangeal joints (base of little toe). The cleats can also be moved from side to side depending on the individuals stance and pelvis/hip width as well as rotated depending on lower limb biomechanics. An incorrect cleat and ultimately foot position can result in inefficiency and potential injuries further up the leg.

4. Anatomical reference points & bike measurements
Prior to the actual observation various bicycle measurements need to be taken to allow a comparison of pre and post bike fitting changes. The cyclist will also have boney landmarks identified at the wrist, elbow, shoulder, hip, knee, ankles and foot to provide reference points when analysing the recording of the pedalling action and position on the bike.

5. Cycling observation
The next stage is the observation of the cyclist on a static turbo trainer from all angles using video recording. This data is then analysed through slow motion and freeze framing with constant referencing to the anatomical markers. The cyclist will need to warm up to get a more accurate observation of a natural pedalling action and once this has occurred individual measurements can occur.

6. Anatomical measurements – back end of the bike
Initially the back end of the bicycle is focused on and the hip, knee and ankle angles at different stages of the pedalling action will be measured through the use of both static measuring devices and dynamic analysis. A virtual and static plumb line will be used to assess the position of the knee in relation to the foot and pedal spindle. If adjustments are needed then this can be undertaken with further analysis of the new positions. This process will continue until optimal angles and positions of the lower limbs are achieved through saddle and cleat adjustments. The observation of lower limb mechanics will then be viewed from the front and rear to again assess any asymmetries or excessive pelvis movement on the saddle.

7. Anatomical measurements – front end of the bike
Once the back end of the bike or ‘engine room’ is sorted out the focus will then be at the front end. The amount of reach in relation to the trunk, neck and upper limb angles will be assessed and measured. Handle bar width in relation to shoulder width needs to be considered as well as the stem length and height of the handle bars. Hand positions on the hoods, bars and drops need to be observed, particularly the cyclists preferred position. If possible corrections will be made but in some instances certain components may need to be changed in order to gain an optimal position.

8. Incorrect bike sizes
In some cases bike sizes may be incorrect or additional components are needed to be purchased. If this occurs then appropriate advice will be given and a brief re-assessment may be needed.

9. Once the bike fit is complete
After a bike fit we recommend at least 2-4 weeks of cycling to get use to a new position and sometimes further corrections are needed if problems occur. As mentioned a bike fit is very individual and depends on many physical and mechanical interactions and variables.

Ring the clinic on 0114 267 1223 to make an appointment, or to ask Matt Withycombe for further information, or to answer specific questions related to your bike-set-up.

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