What is Bike Fitting and why is Bike Fitting important?
According to Medicine of Cycling Bike Fit Task Force, First Consensus Statement on definitions and key concepts, July 2013; “A bike fit is the detailed process of evaluating the cyclist’s physical and performance requirements and abilities and systematically adjusting the bike to meet the cyclist’s goals and needs”. Bike fitting is considered the primary way to optimise performance, improve comfort and prevent injuries during cycling.
There are 5 contact points that can be adjusted to suit individual body characteristics, thereby changing the cylist’s body positioning and joint kinematics during cycling. The joint kinematics is influenced by several factors: bike configuration, cleat position, body characteristics, pedaling techniques, fatigue rate, and workload.
Why is bike fitting important?
Cycling is a dynamic process and injuries often occur due to incorrect posture on the bicycle consisting of the cyclist’s body characteristics, bicycle configuration, and physical conditions. The priority for bike fitting is for more comfort and to prevent musculoskeletal overload from repetitive cycling gestures by combining body characteristics and bicycle geometry. However, the common method used by cyclists to find a suitable bicycle is by standing over a bicycle. Some bike shops offer bike set-up when purchasing the bicycle with them, and this is assumed that performance is ensured and eliminates cycling injuries.
There are different aspects to bike fitting that can contribute to your health and comfort during cycling. Anyone can benefit from a bike fitting from those looking for biomechanical advantages to those recovering from injury.
What are some of the common injuries that occur due to bad cycling posture?
Cycling is made possible by muscular action that produces force to the bicycle paddles that creates the act of moving. The musculoskeletal system combined with the proprioception to compose the action is only part of the equation. Biomechanics played an important role in transferring force to equipment ensuring optimal cycling performance and efficiency.
Improper bicycle geometry with suboptimal body positioning may contribute to pain and eventual overuse injury. Some risk factors are poor flexibility, strength, and muscular recruitment patterns that are reported in the literature. Overuse injuries frequently involve the development of chronic pain in the neck, hands, shoulders, back, groin, buttocks, and knees. The common management of this chronic pain by cyclists is using gel pads gloves, gel seat covers, upright handlebars, or prolonged rest. Often these are a temporary solution to an incorrectly fitted bike.
Posture on a bike
Posture is the maintenance of a certain body position and requires appropriate joint mobility, joint/muscle coordination, and muscular endurance. Limits in any of these elements can result in postural irregularities. Good posture on the bicycle requires good flexibility through the hamstrings and the gluteal muscles; this allows the pelvis to roll forward, keeping the back in a straight position while reaching for the handlebars.
The neck, the shoulders, and the hands: the supporter
The neck, shoulders, and hands muscles are isometrically contracted during cycling. A common misconception is that because cycling posture is different from daily posture, therefore, pain and aches are normal during cycling.
The cervical spine is susceptible to stress if the neck is sustained in an extended position for a prolonged period during cycling. Poor neck position can also have an influence on the scapular motion. Correcting the alignment of the thoracic spine, scapulae, and cervical spine while supporting arms during cycling result in decreased pain and increased range of motion. It is also common that upper trunk movement impairments are related to an imbalance or weakness in the mid-and lower trunk. The trapezius and latissimus dorsi are important stabilizers in cycling because the arms are anchored to the handlebar. As you push the left pedal, the right arm fixes and pulls on the handlebar through the action of the right latissimus dorsi to stabilize you and vice versa, while the legs do most of the work, the Quadratus lumborum, multifidi, and abdominal muscles act as a stabilizer for the lateral and rotational load on the spine.
The hip: a performer or a stabilizer
The hip is part of the pelvis and is the beginning of the torque for pedaling. The hip joint allows and guides the motions of flexion, extension, and rotation in the act of bicycling. Poor hip positioning, strength, and flexibility limit the ability of the hip to travel through the top part of the pedal stroke. Due to the momentum created by the cycling motion, moving through the range of motion is not a problem but the question is how the body compensates through the duration of cycling, which affects the stability of the trunks.
The legs: the transporter
The act of pedaling requires coordinated motions from many of the muscles of the lower body. Measuring from electromyography (EMG) during cycling confirms that the quadriceps and glutei are the primary torque-producing muscles in pedaling. The hamstrings, calves and tibialis anterior have to work together and in coordinated fashion to ensure the force is transfer to the pedals. This aim can only be achieved by understanding cycling biomechanics, human anatomy and muscle recruitment patterns in cycling.
What to expect at Benchmark Physio during a Bike Fitting session?
Bike fitting is not always about performance; the comfort is the priority. Good bike fitters need to understand individual flexibility, muscular strength and bicycle geometry then recommend an optimal bike set-up for the client.
Our bike fit starts with a simple interview and individual measurements to create an accurate set of predicted bicycle measurements using our customized algorithms. We will then assess your cycling posture and use a range of fundamental values to optimize movement patterns such as leg length discrepancy, foot alignment, and cleat positioning. We will then adjust your bike to optimize your cycling kinematics to prevent overuse injuries and improve comfort during cycling.
Improve your cycling comfort and performance with Bike Fitting at Benchmark Physio
We are committed to delivering superior clinical outcomes to manage your cycling injuries using evidence-based physiotherapy care, as well as holistic approaches through interventions like Bike Fitting. Learn more about the conditions we treat here
Meet Our Physiotherapist
Ng Hong Kai, an experienced physiotherapist, has carefully reviewed the information on this page.
Clinic Director and Chief Physiotherapist
- Master of Clinical Physiotherapy (Musculoskeletal), Curtin University (Australia)
- Master of Physiotherapy, University of Sydney (Australia)
- Bachelor of Applied Science (Exercise & Sports Science), University of Sydney (Australia)
- Member of Australian College of Physiotherapists and Australian Physiotherapy Association
- Full registration with Allied Health Professions Council, Singapore, and Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency
- GEMt Certified Dry Needling Practitioner
Hong Kai has been practising musculoskeletal physiotherapy for more than a decade. He is the first Singaporean to achieve dual credentials as both an APA Titled Musculoskeletal Physiotherapist and a tertiary trained Exercise Scientist.
Hong Kai's broad and extensive skillset allows him to create solutions that are simple, effective and tailored to a client’s musculoskeletal needs. His beliefs in continuing education and self improvement led him to complete his Masters in Clinical Physiotherapy (Musculoskeletal), where he had a chance to participate in formal research into knee osteoarthritis under the supervision of world renowned researcher and physiotherapist Prof Peter 0′ Sullivan.
Hong Kai has experience treating a variety of musculoskeletal conditions, with a specific focus on addressing lower back, neck, shoulder and knee pain.