The League of American Bicyclists has ranked Washington the No. 1 most “Bicycle Friendly State” for several years in a row, including their most recent 2017 ranking. Now, it’s time for cyclists to become better friends with their bikes, says Chad McCann, a physical therapist at 3Dimensional Physical Therapy & Sports Conditioning in Tacoma.
That’s what getting a professional bike fitting is all about, he added.
In the simplest terms, the goal of a bike fitting is to match a bicycle to the body and riding style of its cyclist by modifying equipment and/or making adjustments. This helps improve comfort and performance, while also warding off possible pain and injury associated with bad cycling posture and mechanics.
“If you think about it, riding a bike means fitting a very asymmetrical object (the human body) on to a very symmetrical frame (the bike),” said McCann. “The concept of bike fitting is to make adjustments to the frame and parts to help the individual fit it better, reducing discomfort and pain and improving efficiency and power output.”
According to McCann, people will (and should) request a bike fitting for at least one of four main reasons: they are experiencing pain, generally in the knee, lower back or neck; they are experiencing numbness in their hands; they have a new bike or their current bike hasn’t been adjusted for a long time, and they are gearing up to ride some serious distances.
“We see a lot of regular commuters who are traveling a few to several miles a day on their bikes,” he said. “We also see a lot of people who are training for cycling vacations where they are going to be on the bike for hours each day, traveling from destination to destination.”
In these cases, fitting the bike for maximum efficiency is important as it helps riders maintain stamina over time and distance, McCann added.
But when competitive performance is the issue, a bike fitting is critical.
“We see a lot of people who are gearing up for longer rides and faster times,” McCann said. “In those cases, riders know they are going to be uncomfortable. Their issue is performance. A properly fitted bike can contribute considerably to efficient movement and power output.”
Bike fitting starts with the physical therapist observing a client on a training bike. McCann will look at how the rider fits on the bike and talk with her or him about how they feel. He’ll also take measurements (i.e., the degree of bend in the knee) before starting to make adjustments.
Adjustments begin with the pedal and work up through the feet to the ankles, knees, and hips.
“And then it’s a case of, ‘If you do this, then you need to do that,’” McCann said. “It’s a systematic approach to putting a client into the ideal relationship with their bike, and then modifying fittings accordingly as they adapt to the new fit.”
To learn how to “become better friends with your bike” through a professional bike fitting, contact the team at 3Dimensional Physical Therapy & Sports Conditioning.