Updated: August 06, 2021 07:38 AM
Created: May 27, 2021 10:15 AM
When riding a bike regularly, too often we assume discomfort is inevitable. However, adjusting your bike to better fit you can save can save a lot of pain down the road.
Tjaard Breeuwer is a certified master bike fit technician for Ski Hut. He explains the problems many see as a result of poor bike fit by imaging himself, a 6’5” adult, trying to get by using a bike meant for a child.
Tjaard said, "On my daughter's bike, down the block, I'll feel fine. But if I were to ride that little bike for an hour, I would get sore. If I rode it for an hour three times a week, I might create real injuries."
Tjaard’s job is to identify the ways in which a rider may be overcompensating for poor fit, whether it be hunching over, raising their legs too high when pedaling, or straining the wrist based on handle bar positioning, and make the necessary changes to the bike.
"There's so many adjustments that we can do that all influence how you will feel on the bike," Tjaard said.
While a proper fit can allow you to ride faster, it isn’t just for the pros.
Tjaard said, "For most of the people I see, the biggest one is just being comfortable on the bike and being safe, not creating injuries over time because biking is so repetitive."
If you’re experiencing any discomfort on your bike beyond fatigue, fit is likely your problem. For mountain bikers, the wrong fit can mean a lack of control.
"A lot of people think maybe they're not so athletic and they can't learn to mountain bike, but their bike fit is actually what's hampering them," Tjaard said.
Tjaard fitted our Brandon Weathers for a bike. It began with making sure the bike is the right size. It sounds simple, but Tjaard says that is where a lot of people go wrong. He says a bike should be thought of as a fine suit.
“That would be analogous to me buying a suit or jeans and getting the right waist and inseam, right? So that’s already different than me just picking the first one on the rack. Which a lot of people, with bicycles, the do. They don’t realize that bikes come in different sizes.”
Tjaard then recorded Brandon riding a bike and watched it back to assess any problem areas.
Brandon’s saddle was too low, and this can put strain on the knees overtime. Tjaard said that this is far too common. Fortunately, there’s a simple way to check your saddle height at home called the heel back pedal test.
You get someone to hold the front of the bike steady, place your heels on the pedals, and begin pedaling backwards. When the pedal is at the bottom of its rotation, your leg should be fully extended. If not, the saddle has to go up.
Tjaard’s sessions can take 2-4 hours as he goes in depth customizing the bike to fit his clients.
For general tips, he says saddle height is key. With handle bars, young riders often have them too high. This can cause them to crash, particularly when mountain biking.
Tjaard said, "A too big of bike means they're sort of spread eagle like a medieval torture device. You can't move, so you can't control your bike."
So parents, it may be best to hold onto that smaller bike for your child longer than you think.
"Instead of buying one now that they'll grow into, I'd rather buy the size now and have them grow out of it a little bit. It's the opposite of shoes because we can raise the saddle," Tjaard said.
Every Thursday, WDIO News will bring you a story about the sport of bike riding. We will focus on the trail systems in our viewing area as well as equipment and bike maintenance. If you have a biking story that you think we should cover, e-mail Brandon Weathers at email@example.com.
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