1stTimer : The Ergonomics of Bike Fitting

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Ergonomics can be loosely described as how well an item is designed and engineered to fit the user comfortably. A product with good ergonomics allows the user to operate continuously for a longer time period, subsequently increasing efficiency without the risk of injury.

Cycling discomfort like pain, stiffness and numbness are signs that a bicycle is not properly fitted to the cyclist. Riding a badly fitted bicycle will cause prolonged discomfort to the body especially at the joints, muscles and along the spine. If left unresolved, it will lead to long term damage and injuries to tendons, soft-tissues and bone structure. So how do we prevent discomfort when cycling? This is where bike fitting comes into play.

Bike fitting is the process where a bike fitter observes and analyses movements of a cyclist on a bicycle, then makes reasonable adjustments to the bike which allows the cyclist to pedal as efficiently as possible in a posture which he can sustain comfortably throughout the cycling journey. A fitting process can be very quick or extremely lengthy depending on how detailed the fitting session is required.

Basic fitting sessions usually focus more on setting up the cycling posture by using generalized measurement guidelines, which can be easily found on the Internet and commonly passed on from one cyclist to another. These guidelines are useful for first-time bicycle buyers or beginners. However, when they start to ride further and train more frequently, the limitations of these generalised settings will start to show themselves.

The reason for this shortcoming is because every single person has anatomical differences as compared to another, and these guidelines will only be sufficient to put a cyclist within a tolerable range of fitment, and might not be the most comfortable (and thus less efficient) for him. Once a cyclist reaches this stage, they will have to move on to more advanced and personalized fitting.

Advance bike fitting sessions are usually more detailed and work towards solving individualised issues which include analysing and making compensations to natural anatomy inconsistencies (i.e. natural foot-tilt and leg-length-difference), and functional deficiencies caused by long term injury (i.e. joint dislocation). Also the bike fitment will take into consideration a cyclist’s performance goals (distance vs. sprints), capability (strength vs. stamina) and training program (frequency, intensity and distance).

With a properly fitted bicycle, cycling will become very enjoyable and cyclists will consistently feel that they are far more capable of pushing harder or going further during their training rides. Bike fitting puts the body in the most natural riding position possible and allows the major muscle groups to function with the least strain.

The upper torso region including lower back, shoulders and neck will be in a relaxed state allowing control of natural breathing and the head has much greater rotation flexibility. Steering control feels almost as easy as extending your hand for a handshake, and even with some weight loading on the handlebars, the arms and elbows are not locked and remain flexible to manoeuvre the bike. Pedalling strokes will be fluid and the body remains nimble throughout the journey.

The current market rate for bike fitting sessions ranges from RM120 to RM800 (and sometimes more). However, pricing alone does not ensure the effectiveness of a fit, as factors such as store operation overhead costs and investment on support equipment affects rates, too. It is best to discuss with a bike fitter your expectations beforehand and know the scope of work they offer for the price you pay. Go the extra mile by asking “what if” questions, especially on follow up services after the initial fitting. Some are more flexible in terms of offering free follow up services within a certain time frame while some will charge extra.

After completing a bike fit session, don’t be shy to communicate with your bike fitter on your progress and provide feedback on any oddities that arise after the fit. Feedback is essential for a bike fitter to further analyse and fine-tune settings they made on your bike to bring you closer to your perfect fitment.

Have a look at our previous article on Bike Fitting to understand more the difference between Bike Fitting Vs Bike Sizing.

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