Riding with comfort and efficiency requires a properly fitted bike. While everyone is different, and these recommendations only represent the norms, these are the best estimates from experts who have done countless experiments involving thousands of people, so give the standard settings a good long trial before changing them. What also must be taken into account is the type of bike, and of course, if you are a road racer or recreational biker.
When the bike is not fitted properly and mile upon mile is covered many injuries can ensue. Some of the more common injuries seen are Patella Femoral Joint Pain (PFJP), Iliotibial band syndrome (ITB), Ischial bursitis and handle bar palsy. Many of these issues are due to the saddle position being too low, the handle bars being tipped downward or simply the handle bars being too close or too far from the saddle.
This specific injuries and care for these injuries will be well documented in another article. Another area of concern is cadence. A normal pedaling cadence should be between 80-90 revolutions per minute (RPM). This causes proper patella-femoral forces but a cadence that is too low like 60-70 RPM’s cause irregular compressive forces about the patella-femoral joint.
During pedaling, it is also very important to not bias the quads. With this I am talking about pushing. It is imperative to realize that there is a balance between pushing and pulling.
Here is the set up
- Trunk Position
• Recreation = 40-80
• Road = 30-40
- Shoulder Angle
• Recreation = 80-90
• Road = 90-100
- Knee Angle
• Recreation = 35-45
• Road = 30-35
- Handle Bars
• Recreation = Slightly wider than your shoulders. (4 Fingers)
• Road =2 cm wider than your shoulders1. Handlebar height
• Normal height rider: 1-2 inches below saddle top
• Tall rider: up to 4 inches below saddle heigh
2. Width of handlebars
• Touring bikes: Shoulder distance
• Mountain bikes: Wider than shoulder distance
- Handle Bar to Saddle
a.Reach to handlebars
• Place elbow at tip of saddle
• Extended fingers should reach transverse handlebar
• Handlebar should be directly over bike front axle
1 • Hold handle bar hoods while sitting on saddle
2 • Glance down without flexing neck
3 • Confirm that handlebars are over front axle
Women’s saddles should be wider than men’s since a woman’s pelvis is wider!
• Flat, Angled, Well seat
• Tilt Angle
• Level with carpenter’s level
• Front end of seat slightly elevatedNo side to side rocking when pedaling
Lower in mountain bikes for stability
- Fore and Aft Position (this needs a little explaining)
The fore-aft position determines how your body is balanced on the bicycle. It is basically the positioning of your saddle to the crank set. Your balance determines how comfortable you are, and how efficiently you can pedal the bike. As you move to a more horizontal position, the saddle needs to be positioned further to the rear to maintain your body’s balance, just as your rear end moves to the rear as you bend over while standing. It so happens that racers are more inclined to use a horizontal torso position than tourers, and racers are more concerned with having the handlebars further forward to make climbing and sprinting out of the saddle more effective.
• Place pedals at 3 and 9 o’clock
• Front of patella in line with front of crank arm
- Crank Length
One method for measuring the size of the crank is taking 18.5% of the measurement from the greater trochanter to the floor in bare feet. In the United States , it has been difficult and expensive to obtain cranks shorter than 165mm or longer than 175mm. But a French company, Specialites TA has been making high quality cranks in lengths of 155mm through 185mm for many years.
- Foot to Pedal
• Ball of your foot directly over the spindle of the pedal.
• Foot neutral with toes pointing forwards
• Ball of foot sits over pedal axis
• Cleat position = Should be straight when you clip in
1 • Place pedals at 3 and 9 o’clock
2 • Front of patella in line with front of crank arm
1 • Weiss (1985) Am J Sports Med 13:187-92
2 • Pfeiffer (1995) Sports Med 19:311-25
3 • Silberman(2005) Clin J Sports Med 15:371-6
4 • Thompson (2001) Am FAm Physician 63(10):2007-14
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