Around 3.5 million bicycles are sold in the UK every year and, with such a beautiful summer and the tour de France as inspiring as ever, I’m certainly getting lots of use out of mine. We’re also being told to cycle more to help save the planet or improve our health, but are we doing ourselves more harm than good on badly fitted bikes?
A bicycle is like a bespoke outfit; it has to fit right before it looks and feels right. And you have to make sure it has the right accessories too, especially the shape and size of the saddle.
Just as marathon runners make sure their shoes are comfortable, professional riders make sure their bikes are set up perfectly for their size and cycling style. But you don’t need a team of technicians for this. Anyone can get a professional service from their local bike shops to ensure their bike is individually set up.
If you’re planning to put in the miles then it’s a good investment to have your bike fitted to avoid damaging your joints and muscles over the long term.
Common problems caused by badly fitted bikes.
Here are some common problems I come across with bikers who come to Petersfield Physio:
- Pain at the front of your knee. This is often caused by under-extending in your pedal stroke because your saddle is too low.
- Pain behind the knee. This time, you’re over-extending because your seat isn’t at the right height. It’s usually too high or you may have a muscle imbalance between your thigh and calf muscles.
- Neck pain. You may be stretched out too far because your saddle stem is too high, the saddle is too far back, the handlebar is too low or the frame is too big for you.
- Lower back pain. Lower back pain is usually caused by the saddle being too high, causing the pelvis to rock.
- Numb hands. You’re putting too much weight on the handlebar. This is because it’s too low or your saddle is too far back or angled down, causing you to slide forward. You may also be bending your wrists too much.
- Tingling in your feet. Your cleats aren’t properly positioned on the shoe, or your shoes may be too tight.
- Calf or Achilles heel pain. You are riding pushing through the ball of your foot with your toes pointing down. Your saddle may be too high.
In all these cases, I’d recommend you get a professional to adjust your bike for you; however, it’s not always the bike’s fault when you’re feeling pain.
Try my bike fit health check-up
If you’re in discomfort while riding, I offer a road-test service. I’ll come out and ride with you but I’ll be observing your joint movement and the relative positioning of neck, shoulders, back, pelvis and knees to see if there are any noticeable musculo-skeletal, joint misalignment or bike-fit problems.
Once I’ve given you an appraisal, you may need to visit a professional bike fitter or work on your stance. Either way, you could be saving yourself from long term harm and I hope you’ll be able to enjoy many miles of enjoyable, pain free cycling.
If you’d like to book a cycling assessment with me, or need treating for any of the problems I’ve described in this article, then please contact me on 01730 267645 or visit our website at Petersfield Physiotherapy and Sports Injury Clinic.