Fall is a great time to get out and ride your bicycle. The air is cooler and the leaves are turning. If your bike is not fitted to you properly it can lead to a shorter bike ride and less enjoyment. Bicycle-related pain and injuries are commonly associated with poor bike fit.
A few basics of staying comfortable while riding:
- Keep a controlled but relaxed grip of the handlebars.
- Change your hand position on the handlebars frequently for upper body comfort.
- When pedaling, your knee should be slightly bent at the bottom of the pedal stroke.
- Avoid rocking your hips while pedaling.
- Be sure to wear a properly fitting helmet, and secure it with the strap so that it sets over the top of your head, not tipped back.
Problems with bike fit and Possible Causes
Anterior (Front) Knee Pain
Possible causes are having a saddle that is too low, pedaling at a low speed, pushing down too hard and using the muscles in the front of your leg (quadriceps) too much in pedaling, misaligned bicycle cleat for those who use clipless pedals, and muscle imbalance in your legs; strong quadriceps and weak muscles in the back of your leg (Hamstrings).
Possible causes include poor handlebar or saddle position. A poorly placed handlebar might be too low, at too great a reach, or at too short a reach. A saddle with excessive downward tilt in the front can be a source of neck pain.
Lower Back Pain
Possible causes include inflexible (tight) hamstrings, pedaling at a low speed, using your quadriceps muscles too much in pedaling, poor back strength, and too-long or too-low handlebars.
Hamstring Tendinitis (inflammation of tendon)
Possible causes are inflexible hamstrings, high saddle, misaligned bicycle cleat for those who use clipless pedals, and poor hamstring strength.
Hand Numbness or Pain
Possible causes are short-reach handlebars, poorly placed brake levers, and a downward tilt of the saddle.
Foot Numbness or Pain
Possible causes are using quadriceps muscles too much in pedaling, low speed, faulty foot mechanics, and misaligned bicycle cleat for those who use clipless pedals.
Iliotibial Band Syndrome (ITBS)
The muscle and tendon run on the outside of the leg from the hip to the knee. Possible causes are too-high saddle, leg length difference, and misaligned bicycle cleat for those who use clipless pedals.
A bike that is fit properly can lead to far more enjoyment to enjoy all the beauty that the NEK has to offer. Local bike shops can help you with the fit of your bike. Physical Therapists (PT) can assist if you have pain that has lasted a while. If you have further questions on bike fit call North Country Hospital Rehabilitation-PT at 802-334-3260.
Reference: Moen, E., (2019). Tips for Cycling. Retrieved from: https://www.moveforwardpt.com/resources/detail/bike-fit-tips-healthy-cycling
Katesel Strimbeck PT, MS is the Director of Rehabilitation Services at North Country Hospital. Katesel has been a practicing PT for 21 years. She is a member of the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA).