Cycling is a versatile activity. We use it for transport, exercise, recreation and as a sport. Despite the plethora of benefits it offers, many of us are not able to pursue cycling for longer periods, the primary reasons being pain, injury and discomfort. We need to understand that everybody’s body is different – height and weight differ, some have long legs-short torso, small hands, some pedal a little differently. Even our purpose of cycling and goals differ. One size doesn’t fit all. The good news is bicycles have adjustable parts, which means with a little bit of knowledge, we can fit the bicycle to our comfort.
Bicycle fitting has a set of parameters to match the body’s geometry to the bicycle’s, in order to maximise efficiency and comfort and minimise injury and pain. In many countries, there are professional bike fitting companies that help you find the right fit. India is slowly catching up on the importance of this, but the options currently are not very wide. This doesn’t mean you cannot do it yourself. Understanding the fundamentals will help you decide on the bicycle and adjustments before you buy one.
Why Bicycle Fitting?
Bicycle fitting is an optimisation of your riding position. The main idea behind doing a bicycle fit is to adjust the components with these goals in mind:
- Enhancing comfort, efficiency and power
- Enhancing rider comfort/Reducing discomfort
- Prevention of injuries
- Reducing fatigue
- Eliminating/reducing pain
- Improving performance on the bike
How to check the fit?
When you walk into a store to buy a bicycle, the store people will most likely perform a basic fit. Jump on a few cycles and give them a spin. Keep the following things in mind while trying out your cycle:
A good bicycle fit starts with a proper frame size. An easy way to judge if a bicycle is the right size for you is to stand over it and ensure that there is 1 to 2 inches of clearance between the frame’s top tube and your crotch.
Your bicycle’s seat (saddle) should be high enough so that your leg will be almost fully extended (with a slight bend at the knee) when the pedal is at the lowest point during its downward stroke.
Sit on the seat with your hips level with the ground (when viewed from behind). The height of the seat should be set so that your leg will be fully extended (no bend at the knee) when your heel in on the pedal when it is at its lowest point on the downward stroke. When cycling, you should have the ball of your foot on the pedal, and this will ensure that there is a slight bend at the knee when your leg is almost fully extended during the down stroke.
The general rule for adjusting handlebars is that they should be set above the height of the seat for a more upright and comfortable riding position, and below the height of the seat for a more forwarding-leaning, performance-oriented position. How much will depend on your preference and what you are comfortable with.
The adjustments described above are a good starting point for a basic bicycle fit. There is scope to make more tweaks to accommodate different riding styles and physiques.