Many companies and bike shops have created bike fit programs including high-tech equipment and expensive add-ons. While these programs can be very successful, there is much more that should be factored into a proper bike fit.
Your strength, endurance, flexibility, past injury history, current injuries and goals all have an important impact of the appropriate fit of your bike. Yet, many times these components are not given the proper attention during a standard bike fit. It takes a fit specialist who is knowledgeable about anatomy, physiology, and biomechanics to ensure that your bike is the best for you.
Whether your goal is to have a comfortable commute to work or to excel at your next everesting attempt, a physical therapist skilled in bike fit can help you achieve your goals.
Top 5 Reasons a Physical Therapist Should Perform Your Next Bike Fit
1. Your anatomy plays a HUGE role in proper bike fit
Have you ever ridden behind someone and wondered why do their knees bend outward while pedaling? Or why do their hips shift side to side? We see fit flaws all the time in people out on the road. These flaws can frequently be fixed with a few adjustments on the bike.
Your bike fit needs to reflect your unique anatomy. If your feet turn outward while walking, running and squatting, should your cleats be locked in a straightforward alignment? Definitely not. Not allowing your bike to be fit to your body alignment is a contributor pain and faulty movement patterns in many cyclists.
A physical therapist is skilled in identifying anatomical alignment and can help you determine if your anatomy warrants a change to your position on the bike. Depending on your body position, your bike fit specialist may recommend various equipment changes such as adjusting the type of seat you use or adding cleat inserts. Modifications to your bike equipment can help you improve your riding comfort and speed.
2. A physical therapist is skilled in identifying muscle strengths and weaknesses
Physical therapists are skilled in identifying strengths and weaknesses that may impact your riding performance and efficiency. If your position on the bike is not optimizing your ability to tap into the strength and fatigue resistance of the glute muscles, then small changes in your fit may have a significant impact on your endurance on the bike. If you excel at climbing out of the saddle and your position does not allow you to transition quickly to using your quad muscles then you are not getting the most out of your fit.
A physical therapist skilled in the area of bike mechanics and muscle activation during riding can help you adjust your bike fit to optimize your strengths and minimize your weaknesses.
3. A physical therapist can identify causes of injuries and pain
How will this position affect my back pain? Will it lead to back pain in the future? What is the most aero-position I can achieve safely based on my body?
Physical therapists have the knowledge and skill to not only make sure that you are in the most optimal position for improved power output and muscle recruitment but also to assess the effect of this position on the health of your musculoskeletal system.
Your optimal bike fit will vary based on the location, type and frequency of pain you are experiencing. Small adjustments in your seat height, for example, will significantly alter the stress on your knees. Moving the seat down a few millimeters may help decrease the cause of pain on the outside of the knee. While moving the seat up a few millimeters can help decrease the common cause of pain at the front of the knees. We can provide you guidance on how to change your fit based on your symptoms at that time, and what to do the optimize your efficiency/power on the bike once your symptoms resolve.
There are many common biking injuries that can be improved with a combination of bike fit adjustment and specific exercises. These include front, side and mid-knee joint pain, lower back pain, neck pain, hand/wrist pain/numbness, foot numbness and more.
4. We will design an exercise program that improves your weaknesses and helps you stay healthy
Muscle imbalances and weakness are common causes of pain in cyclist. Tight muscles in the legs and trunk can significantly alter your position on the bike. Tightness in certain muscles may limit your ability to achieve or maintain a good position on your bike. Adjusting your bike to account for your current restrictions is a great first step, however, we can also provide you with ways to improve these areas and improve your position in the future. A physical therapist is skilled in evaluating persons of all ages, ability levels, and sports specialties and can provide you with specific exercises to improve your position on the bike.
5. Physical therapists can provide you with a plan to improve your long-term health and wellness
For some people, a single, high-quality bike fit will set them up for many years of efficient, pain-free riding. For many others, a combination of the following may be required to improve their cycling and long-term health.
- Regular bike fit check-ins
- Comprehensive strength, and conditioning/cross-training program
- Physical therapy
Discussing your specific needs with a healthcare professional will help you decide which plan is best for you.
If you are interested in learning more about our bike-fit + injury screen program you can view our website or reach out to us at 408-905-6483.
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About the Author:
Dr. Erin Cameron
DOCTOR OF PHYSICAL THERAPY
In 4th grade, when asked what she wanted to be when she grew up Dr. Erin Cameron, DPT replied “physical therapist.” She was a young swimmer with shoulder pain, desperate to return the to sport that she loved so dearly. The dedication of her physical therapist allowed her to pursue her passion and eventually go on to compete at the collegiate level. While swimming at the University of Michigan she studied to obtain a Bachelor of Science in Movement Science from the School of Kinesiology. During her collegiate swimming career, she earned the following accolades: two-time CSCAA Honorable Mention Scholar All-American, three-time Big Ten Distinguished Scholar, team captain and the Michigan Leadership Academy Leader of Distinction award.
Erin has dedicated much of her life to the sport of swimming. In addition to competing in the sport for 15 years, she has coached at various elite swim camps and clinics growing her expertise in stroke technique and video critique. She has also served as a volunteer staff member for Division I, II and III swim programs aiding in both coaching and developing exercise programs/educational sessions for upper extremity injury prevention.
Erin received her Doctorate in Physical Therapy from Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine. During her time in physical therapy school, she developed a special interest in treating patients with orthopedic injuries and promoting general health and wellness in people of all ages. She has since focused much of her continuing education on runners and cyclists with a special interest in maintaining the health and improving the performance of endurance athletes.