Upgrade your Bike with Ottawa Bike Fitting

Bike fitting is the best upgrade

Fit is the most important consideration when it comes to deciding on a bike. Forget the fancy wheels and carbon fiber bits. If the fit isn’t right you won’t be comfortable, you won’t perform up to your potential and it could lead to overuse injuries.  At out Westboro Physiotherapy location, bike fitting is done here.

  • Do you suffer from numb hands or feet?
  • Is your back or butt sore after a ride?
  • Are you as comfortable as you could be?
  • Are you positioned to put out the most power you can?
  • If you have a road bike and weren’t fitted, ask yourself are you getting all the performance you could?

Before you think about frame material or what wheels you want, think about bike fit. Consider the fact that a 60 km ride equals more than 10,000 pedal strokes. If you are riding an ill fitting bike you will be at best uncomfortable and slower than you could be, and worst case it can lead to injury.
We operate on the philosophy of adapting your bike to you, rather than the other way around.
For recreational riders it’s all about comfort. The right equipment with the right set up for you, leads to an enjoyable ride. Your butt and back don’t have to hurt.
For performance oriented riders and racers, it has to be a balance between performance, comfort and bio-mechanical alignment. I’ve been refining our fitting system for 12 years, using the most up-to-date research combined with use of fitting technology from Bikefitting.com and Lemond Fitness.
To get the your bike adjusted to you, we look at more than just your measurements. There is an interview where we find your athletic and injury history, comfort issues on the bike, riding goals and anything you might have done to try to fix any problems before coming to us.
Then we do a structural assessment. Most people have imbalances, whether in flexibility, strength or stability. By assessing which muscles may be tighter or weaker we can find and address the root cause of alignment and performance issues.
Only then do we get your on the bike. Starting with your feet we work up until you have a total body alignment on your bike. When your bike is fitted properly, you feel like you could fly. Hill climbing is easier. 100 mile rides are much more enjoyable because your hands and neck aren’t hurting. More speed, less aches and pains.
Do you want have up to 10% more power in one day?
I’ve had customers gain this much of an increase in sustained power just by having there bike adjusted to match their bio-mechanical structure. Even riders who are fitted pretty well can see improvements that would take months of training to accomplish. And this is in just a few hours of repositioning on your bike.
Each Ottawa Bike Fitting session works with your measurements, cycling history, flexibility and preferences to dial in your position for maximum performance while still being comfortable for the long haul.
A quality road bike is like a suit, it only looks good on you when it is tailor fit. By getting the three contact points ( handlebars, pedals and saddle) in the right position you will find your self riding faster and longer with less soreness. Add to this foot and knee alignment for optimal power output and injury prevention.
Getting your alignment and balance right on the bike will make riding faster and more comfortable.

Our list of fit factors includes:

  • Saddle shape and position
  • Saddle height and fore-aft balance
  • Handlebar shape and angle
  • Choice of type of handlebar tape
  • Brake lever angle
  • Cleat alignment and shimming
  • Knee and foot alignment
  • Leg length imbalances
  • Pedal stroke mechanics
  • Custom molded orthotics
  • Crank length
  • Pedal stance width
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Ottawa Bike Fitting process

Serious cyclists, who spend big bucks on their bikes and log lots of hours in the saddle, will often invest in a personal fitting, available at more and more quality bike shops. A fitting, almost always done by appointment, can take over an hour and cost upwards of $100, though some are complimentary (usually with the purchase of a very expensive bike).
There are several schools of bike fit. The older theory is machine-based. It involves adjusting a universal, bicycle-like machine to each rider, taking measurements, and applying the measurements to that rider’s own bike. The newer, “organic” school is more movement-based and yoga-influenced, in that it takes the rider’s physical range of motion into account. It relies much more on the skill and experience of the fitter than on a fit-bike machine.
Ultimately, there are a few basic tenets of bike fit, and these center around the contact points with the bike: pedals, saddle, and bars. The process begins by getting the rider is on the right frame for his or her size.

Bike Fit and The Right Frame

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To get the rider on the right frame, a fitter will first look at “standover height,” the distance between the top tube (the horizontal frame member) and the rider’s crotch. On a traditional road frame or fitness hybrid, there should be about an inch or so of clearance. A mountain bike rider may prefer a little more. While this measurement is general, the fitter will take into account eccentric frame geometry, the rider’s purpose and goals, and any physical limitations or anomalies.

Fitting Bicycle Pedals

A good fit starts at the pedals and works upwards. The ball of the foot should be positioned approximately over the pedal axle. The joints where the toes meet the foot is usually (for a road bike) positioned a centimeter or so forward of the axle, which alleviates pressure on the sensitive nerves between the toes. A fitter will usually position the foot by dropping a plumb-bob from the knee to the axle and moving the saddle forward or backward to adjust the foot position.
To achieve and maintain this positioning, some form of foot retention is mandatory to keep the shoe in one place. Clipless pedals are the best option, but toe clips and straps will suffice for the rider who is intimidated by clipless pedals. Choice of pedals should be made before the fitting.

Saddle Position

The saddle’s fore-and-aft position should have been determined when the foot was placed, as it is dependent upon the length of the rider’s femur.
Saddle height is trickier, depending more on rider preference, though many fit experts will say that most cyclists, especially “serious” road riders, ride with their saddles too high. The old wisdom that the leg should be slightly bent when at the bottom of the pedal stroke is correct to a point. How much the leg is bent remains problematic and shouldn’t be just loosely estimated.
The fitter looks at the heel in relation to the pedal axle when the downward knee is locked in a stationary position; the heel should be a centimeter or two below the ball of the foot. Also, when pedaling, the angle between the rider’s foot and the front of his/her leg should not open at the bottom of the stroke. Nudging the saddle downward will eliminate this unwanted action.

Handlebars and Hand Position on The Bike

This last adjustment may seem the most important, as it affects the rider’s angle of lean, stretch of the shoulder muscles, reach, and perceived comfort. But it can only be set after the feet and the saddle are positioned correctly.
While road racers still prefer their bars in a low position, well below the saddle, the trend today is toward a more relaxed hand position. A few centimeters of bar height can go a long way toward putting the rider in a comfortable, yet ergonomically correct, posture on the bike.
A good fitter will have a selection of stems (the piece that attaches the handlebars to the bike) in varying length and angle of rise. The right stem length and rise will put the rider in the perfect position.

Finding a Bike Fit Expert

The rider seeking a good fit should find out his local shop’s philosophy of fit and its fitters’ accreditations. If possible, talk to someone who has been helped by the fitter – satisfied fit customers are usually quick to talk about their experiences.

Benefits of a Good Bike Fit

The benefits of a “dialed” fit cannot be overestimated, especially in road riding, where the rider often stays in the same position for long periods of time. In addition to enjoying ergonomic and aerodynamic efficiency, a well-fit rider will have fewer pains in the back, neck, and hands. Comfort is more important to most riders anyway, so investing in a professional fit session is often seen more as a necessity than an extravagance. (Think of how much money golfers spend on lessons.) The elusive “all day position” on the bike can be just one fit session away.

Basics of Bike Fitting

Here is a brief summary of Ottawa Bike Fittings that we offer at the Ottawa Physiotherapy and Sport Clinics at our Westboro Physiotherapy location.

Fitting systems based on body measurements can provide a good starting position. To get a position really “dialed-in” to perfection, most riders will need to “tweak” the position – make small adjustments, up, forward, back, down, to accommodate their personal flexibility, range of motion, and other bio-mechanical variations.
Time-trial, triathlon, crit, downhill and other specialized riding events require different positions because the emphasis on  various criteria such as power, endurance, comfort and aerodynamics change. However, the basic principle, that the geometry of the position is a function of the rider’s anatomy remains the same. To my knowledge, these differences have not been published anywhere, but are embodied in many commercial fitting systems and fitting calculators.  
Cyclemetrics can be used both for measuring a rider’s anatomy, and position tweaking (a well-known pro dubbed it a “truing stand for your riding position”). 
FRAME SIZE AND SEAT HEIGHT – The “LeMond Formulas”
The frame and seat height tables on the back of the use formulas originated by engineer, Wilfried Hüggi, and one of Greg LeMond’s cycling coaches, Cyrille Guimard. I first saw the formulas in Greg’s book, Greg LeMond’s Complete Book of Bicycling, published in 1987. For a thorough discussion of the formulas, and a broad overview of fit, Greg’s book is recommended. Further discussion of these formulas (and other generally sound fit advice) can be found on the Bike Fit Page of the Colorado Cyclist’s Web Site.

BIKE FRAME SIZE (in cm)  =  Inseam (cm) x .67 
This gives the recommended size for a road bike frame, measuring from the center of the bottom bracket to the top of the seat tube (also called center-to-top or c-t sizing)*. 

  • Larger riders (6’0″ and up) who want a frame that allows them to stretch out, may be better off selecting a frame 27-28cm less than their inseam length. In general, this will be a cm or two larger than the frames the formula recommends.
  • Mountain Bike frame sizes are generally 10 to 12 centimeters (4-5 inches) smaller than road frames.
  • On both mountain & road bikes, if it comes down to choosing between two sizes, choose the one that matches the length requirement most closely.

    I.E., bikes on either side of the suggested size allow the same saddle position, but tend to be shorter or longer than the suggested size. Choose the one which allows the rider to bend over to the desired degree. As a general rule, larger riders tend to be more comfortable with a slightly larger frame, while smaller riders often do better with a slightly smaller frame.

* The original formula used a factor of .65 times inseam to give a size measured as center-to-center (center of the bottom bracket to center of the top tube). These days many bikes use odd-sized tubing, sloping top-tubes and other non-traditional geometries, so center-to-center sizing is less meaningful. Accordingly, the factor was adjusted slightly to yield the center-to-top. Remember: if the length of the top-tube is right, you can usually adjust the seat height and setback to obtain a good fit. 

SEAT HEIGHT (cm) = Inseam (cm)  x .883

This formula assumes that at the bottom of the pedal stroke, the knees should be slightly bent, about 15 degrees. Riders who pedal slightly toe-down will find the resulting number a bit short. Riders with reduced flexibility or other special considerations want the saddle slightly lower to start (This tends to change as the rider gains experience).
In general, the resulting number will be within a cm or two of “correct”. So, use this as a starting point. Many riders may never need to alter this setting. For the rest, make small adjustments as needed. Use the FitStik to track changes so you can return to a previous setting if need be.
KNEE OVER PEDAL SPINDLE
While promoted as Natural Law by some, and Hype by others, the consensus seems to be that your knee should be more or less over the pedal spindle when the cranks are level. Truth is, the “rule” evolved because most riders find that this setting works for them. If it doesn’t work for a particular rider, so be it. As always, if the rider doesn’t like it, it’s wrong…
Note: Most fitting systems first set the saddle height, then position the knee by sliding the saddle fore and aft. Catch is, when you slide the saddle back and forth, it also moves up and down because the rails are angled in relation to the saddle’s top. But when you move the saddle up and down, it also moves back and forth because the seat tube is angled. In other words, it takes some trial and error to get the saddle in exactly the right spot. 
TOP TUBE AND STEM LENGTH
The FitStik can also be used for torso and arm length measurements.  Many well-known formulas convert torso and arm length measurements to total reach (length of top tube + stem). One such common formula, for a  road bike sport/racing position is:

     ( (Torso Length + Arm Length) / 2) + 4  = ( Top Tube + Stem)

Reasons for Bike Fittings

At our Westboro physiotherapy location in Ottawa, we provide bike fitting services by one of our physiotherapists. 
 
Bike fitting is very useful in the prevention of possible injuries that might occur during cycling and below are a few examples.  

Cycling is seen by some[who?] to be an inherently high-risk, dangerous activity although use of appropriate safety equipment and obedience of road rules can reduce risk of serious injury. In the UK, fatality rates per mile or kilometre are slightly less than those for walking.[18] In the US, bicycling fatality rates are less than 2/3 of those walking the same distance.[19][20] For a child cyclist the rate per mile or kilometre travelled is around 55 times that for a child occupant of a car[citation needed], while the fatality and serious injury rates per hour of travel are just over double for cycling than for walking (due to the reduced travel time), in the UK.[18] It should be noted that calculated fatality rates based on distance for bicycling (as well as for walking) can have an exceptionally large margin of error, since there are generally no annual registrations or odometers required for bicycles (as there are with motor vehicles), and this means the distance traveled must be estimated.
Most cycle deaths result from a collision with a car or heavy goods vehicle, both motorist and cyclist have been found responsible for collisions [21][22][23] However, a very high proportion of non-fatal injuries to cyclists do not involve any other person or vehicle.
A Danish study in 2000 concluded that “bicycling to work decreased risk of mortality in approximately 40% after multivariate adjustment, including leisure time physical activity”.[24]
Injuries (to cyclists, from cycling) can be divided into two types:

Acute physical trauma includes injuries to the head and extremities resulting from falls and collisions. Since a large percentage of the collisions between motor and pedal vehicles occur at night, bicycle lighting is required for safety when bicycling at night.

Bicyclist pedals uphill at the Taroko Gorge in Taiwan

The most common cycling overuse injury occurs in the knees, affecting cyclists at all levels. These are caused by many factors:[25]

  • Incorrect bicycle fit or adjustment, particularly the saddle.
  • Incorrect adjustment of clipless pedals.
  • Too many hills, or too many miles, too early in the training season.
  • Poor training preparation for long touring rides.
  • Selecting too high a gear. A lower gear for uphill climb protects the knees, even though your muscles are well able to handle a higher gear.

Excessive saddle height can cause posterior knee pain, while setting the saddle too low can cause pain in the anterior of the knee. An incorrectly fitted saddle may eventually lead to muscle imbalance. A 25 to 35 degree knee angle is recommended to avoid an overuse injury.[26]
Overuse injuries, including chronic nerve damage at weight bearing locations, can occur as a result of repeatedly riding a bicycle for extended periods of time. Damage to the ulnar nerve in the palm, carpal tunnel in the wrist, the genitourinary tract[27] or bicycle seat neuropathy[28] may result from overuse. Recumbent bicycles are designed on different ergonomic principles and eliminate pressure from the saddle and handlebars, due to the relaxed riding position.
Note that overuse is a relative term, and capacity varies greatly between individuals. Someone starting out in cycling must be careful to increase length and frequency of cycling sessions slowly, starting for example at an hour or two per day, or a hundred miles or kilometers per week. Muscular pain is a normal by-product of the training process, but joint pain and numbness are early signs of overuse injury.
Cycling has been linked to sexual impotence due to pressure on the perineum from the seat, but fitting a proper sized seat prevents this effect.[29][30] In extreme cases, Pudendal Nerve Entrapment can be a source of intractable perineal pain.[31] Some cyclists with induced pudendal nerve pressure neuropathy gained relief from improvements in saddle position and riding techniques.[32]
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has investigated the potential health effects of prolonged bicycling in police bicycle patrol units, including the possibility that some bicycle saddles exert excessive pressure on the urogenital area of cyclists, restricting blood flow to the genitals. NIOSH is investigating whether saddles developed without protruding noses (which remove the pressure from the urogenital area) will alleviate any potential health problems.[33]
A Spanish study of top triathletes found those who cover more than 186 miles (300 km) a week on their bikes have less than 4% normal looking sperm.[34]
Despite rumors to the contrary, there is no scientific evidence linking cycling with testicular cancer in men.[35]

  1. ^ a b “Road Casualties Great Britain 2007 – Annual Report (page 82, “Fatality rates by mode of travel”)” (PDF). Department for Transport. http://www.dft.gov.uk/adobepdf/162469/221412/221549/227755/rcgb2007.pdf. 
  2. ^ “Daily Travel by Walking and Bicycling”. Bureau of Transportation Statistics. http://www.bts.gov/publications/transportation_statistics_annual_report/2004/html/chapter_02/daily_travel_by_walking_and_bicycling.html. Retrieved 2009-09-29. 
  3. ^ “Fatality Analysis Reporting System”. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. http://www-fars.nhtsa.dot.gov/. Retrieved 2009-09-29. 
  4. ^ “Cycling in Great Britain”. Department of Transport. http://www.dft.gov.uk/pgr/statistics/datatablespublications/personal/articles/cyclingingreatbritain1. Retrieved 2009-09-29. 
  5. ^ “44 tonne articulated trucks and towns don’t mix”. Cambridge Cycling Campaign UK. http://www.camcycle.org.uk/newsletters/53/article4.html. Retrieved 2009-09-29. 
  6. ^ “Lorries and Towns Don’t Mix (video)”. Robert Webb. http://showcase.commedia.org.uk/article/articleview/390/1/13/. 
  7. ^ Andersen LB, Schnohr P, Schroll M, Hein HO (June 2000). “All-cause mortality associated with physical activity during leisure time, work, sports, and cycling to work”. Arch. Intern. Med. 160 (11): 1621–8. doi:10.1001/archinte.160.11.1621. PMID 10847255. http://archinte.ama-assn.org/cgi/content/full/160/11/1621. Retrieved 2009-09-29. 
  8. ^ “Knee Pain in Cycling: New Twist on an old Injury”. BioMechanics. July/August, 1996. Archived from the original on 2007-09-28. http://web.archive.org/web/20070928070212/http://www.biomech.com/db_area/archives/1996/9607sports.bio.html. Retrieved 2006-11-24. 
  9. ^ “Avoid Repetitive Knee Injuries While Riding A Bike”. http://www.nasm.org/nasmpro/library/showarticle.aspx?id=14202. 
  10. ^ Leibovitch I, Mor Y (March 2005). “The vicious cycling: bicycling related urogenital disorders”. Eur. Urol. 47 (3): 277–86; discussion 286–7. doi:10.1016/j.eururo.2004.10.024. PMID 15716187. 
  11. ^ “Bicycle Seat Neuropathy, follow up”. eMedicine. February 8, 2006. http://www.emedicine.com/SPORTS/topic12.htm. Retrieved 2006-03-20. 
  12. ^ “Cycle of despair”. BBC News. 1998-08-12. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/149268.stm. Retrieved 2009-09-29. 
  13. ^ “Cycling linked to impotence”. BBC News. 1999-06-07. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/363070.stm. Retrieved 2009-09-29. 
  14. ^ Ramsden CE, McDaniel MC, Harmon RL, Renney KM, Faure A (June 2003). “Pudendal nerve entrapment as source of intractable perineal pain”. Am J Phys Med Rehabil 82 (6): 479–84. doi:10.1097/00002060-200306000-00013. PMID 12820792. 
  15. ^ Silbert PL, Dunne JW, Edis RH, Stewart-Wynne EG (1991). “Bicycling induced pudendal nerve pressure neuropathy”. Clin Exp Neurol 28: 191–6. PMID 1821826. 
  16. ^ “NIOSH -Bicycle Saddles and Reproductive Health”. United States National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/bike/. Retrieved 2007-10-10. 
  17. ^ BBC: Elite cyclists ‘risk infertility’
  18. ^ “Testiclar Cancer Fact Sheet” (PDF). Monash Institute of Medical Research. http://www.andrologyaustralia.org/library/TesticlarCancerFactSheet.pdf. Retrieved 2008-09-30.