Guest columnist: Sarah Singer, BFA, PTA
Spring has sprung and so too has Tour de Scranton, considered the “kick off” to biking season in NEPA. So, dust off your bikes and warm up for the event by riding the many beautiful and well-maintained trails are available at the Countryside Conservancy at Lackawanna State Park, other locations in the Abingtons or the Lackawanna Heritage Valley Authority.
Whether you take part in the Tour de Scranton or head out for a few easy miles later in the season, ensuring a proper bike fit should be on your checklist. Riding a bicycle that is properly fit to your style and body will not only help to prevent injury, but allow for a more comfortable riding experience. There are many things to take into consideration when checking your bike fit. First and foremost you must choose a bike that fits your style of riding.
For the sake of simplicity 3 basic styles of bikes include Road bikes, Hybrid bikes and Mountain bikes. Road bikes are designed for long distance riders, hybrid bicycles can be used for longer distance riders, but usually accommodates a recreational cyclist, and mountain bikes are designed for dirt or gravel and technical trails. The next component of ensuring a proper bike fit is making sure that you have a good foundation by choosing the right sized frame. To find the right sized frame you can use the following guidelines as a way to start or simply ask the local bike shop or bike fit consultant of your choice for help.
Road bikes: When straddling the bike you should have about 1” of clearance between your body and the top tube if the bike has a straight top tube (which runs parallel to the ground). When lifting the bike you should have 1” clearance between the tires and the ground. If the bike has a sloping top tube (semi-compact design) you should have a clearance of 2” or more.
Mountain bikes: When straddling the bike lift the bike off the ground and you should have a minimum of 2” clearance between the ground and the tires. With full suspension bikes you will want 1”-2” standover clearance because when you sit on the bike the frame will become lower from compressing the suspension. More aggressive riders will likely have 3”-5” of clearance.
Comfort bikes: Standing over a comfort bike to chose the right sized frame is not necessary. They are commonly designed with a steep sloping top tube and allow the rider to put feet firmly on the ground when the rider comes to a stop.
Now that you have right size for your bike you should adjust the components of the bike to allow for a more comfortable riding experience. Please use the diagram as a point of reference for the following tips. Also be sure to reexamine your bike fit after any bad falls. Keep in mind these measurements are meant to be used as a simple guideline and if you have any pre existing injuries or concerns please be sure to consult your local Physical Therapist or bike fit consultant.
Your Seat or saddle should be level (See “A” on diagram). If it is tilted too far forward there will be too much weight on hands, arms and lower back. If it is too far backward, there may be strain on LB and may lead to saddle related pain.
Your knee should be measured at the most extended position to adjust saddle height. (see “Knee to Pedal”)
The saddle should be a comfortable distance from handlebars. If it is too close it will place too much weight on your mid-back and arms. If it is too far it will put extra strain on your low back and neck. Also make sure seat is the proper width to ensure a more comfortable ride.
Your handlebar placement will affect your hands, shoulder, neck and back. The higher the handlebars are the more weight is placed on the saddle. Taller riders should have lower handlebars in relation to height of saddle
For road cyclists there should be a 90° angle between your arm (near the shoulder) and your trunk with a slight bend at your elbows of about 15° (See “B” on diagram).
Your trunk angle should be 25-35° if you are a road bike cyclist and 35-90° comfort/recreation cyclist
Knee to Pedal
The knee to pedal measurement should be taken with the knee in the most extended position. There should be about a 25-35° angle at the knee (See “C” on diagram)
Foot to Pedal
The ball of your foot should be over the pedal spindle (See “D” on diagram). This will allow for the best leverage, comfort and efficiency. Using a stiff soled shoe is recommended.
Even if you are a recreational cyclist it’s a good idea to take all the proper steps in preventing injury. This article can be used as a reference point to help to prevent common cycling injuries, enhance your comfort and improve your riding efficiency. If you have any further questions about enhancing your bike fit please contact your local physical therapist or bike fit consultant.
Sources: REI.com, APTA.org
Illustrations: Sarah Singer; Model: Brittany Ostrowski
Guest Columnist: Sarah Singer, BFA, PTA is a physical therapist assistant at Mackarey Physical Therapy, specializing in orthopedic and sports rehab.
Visit your doctor regularly and listen to your body.
Keep moving, eat healthy foods, and exercise regularly
EVERY MONDAY – Read Dr. Paul J. Mackarey “Health & Exercise Forum” in the Scranton Times-Tribune
This article is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. If you have questions related to your medical condition, please contact your family physician. For further inquires related to this topic email: email@example.com
Paul J. Mackarey PT, DHSc, OCS is a Doctor in Health Sciences specializing in orthopaedic and sports physical therapy. Dr. Mackarey is in private practice in downtown Scranton and is an associate professor of clinical medicine at The Commonwealth Medical College.