This is the time of year when everyone is getting out and about on their new bike. We see many new faces down at LTR Sports who are bringing in old bikes for service, or shopping for a new bike.
As enthusiast riders, we always ask about our customers' latest rides, adventures, or trips they took with their bike. For half of the riders, it brings joy and excitement to their faces when describing their latest two-wheel fun. The second half of people describe to me how they haven't ridden their bike in years or how every ride leaves them in pain, from hands, neck, back and arm discomfort.
When shopping for a new bike, it is important to be sized correctly and fit to a bike. Whether you are riding on the bike path, circling the Monument, doing your first triathlon, or cranking out the miles on the mountain bike, a proper fit is important.
Bikes are made for the average person, and have been made to allow adjustments to fit the rider. For example, the seat post moves up and down, the saddle slides back and forth, the stem can be shortened or lengthened, and the handlebars can go up or down. Sadly, only a handful of cyclists see a professional bike fitter and use these options to adjust the bike to their body.
A professional bike fitter is someone who specializes in fitting a bike to a rider, rather than a rider to a stock bike. At the shop, we often see riders who have a bike that is too short, and too upright for them. This is very common and can be seen by the hunch in their back, the strain in their neck, and the lack of efficiency in their pedal stroke (Figure B). Many bike fitters, who have taken multiple classes and have specialized in the trade for years, can spot this right away. Others who use software and basics to measure angles will often miss this. They will see the basic angles from hip to torso, and torso to arms as being correct, which they are. Unfortunately, much of the software programs or "eyeball" methods do not account for the arch of the back.
Now look at Figure A and see how the angles from torso to limbs are the same, but the back is straight. In this position, there is no back pain or neck pain - the body is in a linear plane. Most riders who have back pain and neck pain, look like Figure B, and raise their handlebars. A good fitter will make stem length/angle changes to alleviate the pain and create a flat back.
Before you put that bike away for another season after sitting in pain, see a professional bike fitter and make this your most enjoyable cycling season ever! Just like getting measurements from a tailor to custom make a suit, a bike fitter will measure and make adjustments to create the proper and most comfortable cycling position.
Steinberg is the manager of LTR Sports and a professional cyclist. Visit ltrsports.com for more information.