We cyclists call it Lycra and there is a lot of it about lately. Here on Rathgar road we see hundreds of commuters and leisure cyclists pass by our clinic on their way to and from work every morning. This is great to see. All sorts of people are cycling now on all sorts of machines. Some new, some old and many ill-fitting.
For those of you who are new to cycling and training for that first triathlon, charity cycle or are just beginning in the sport, bike fit is important. The usual hotspots of discomfort for the beginner include the lower back and the back-side. This is a normal and temporary phenomenon. But often times pain and discomfort in these areas persists. Knee, neck and wrist pain are also common. Therefore having a bike that is comfortable and suitably set-up for your requirements is a must in order to minimise or indeed prevent such injuries. Appropriate bike set-up is key to enjoying injury free cycling and this becomes more pertinent as time in the saddle increases. Despite the myriad of different bike designs and new technologies available, a bicycle remains a bicycle.
Rider and bike have 5 contact points, both hands, both feet and the one bottom! The bike is a symmetrical machine. Many of us are not. Parameters such as handlebar reach, handlebar type and angle, the degree of knee flexion in pedal stroke, shoe cleat position and saddle position are the main interfaces between the rider and the bike. That results in a huge number of possible position permutations. Many people are now measured and fitted for their bikes before they purchase them. This is very useful. As with clothes, not everyone can buy “off the peg”.
Personal Health offer an individualised assessment of the individual’s anatomy and injury history and take into account the type, the intensity and the volume of cycling of each client. We don’t try to make radical changes to set-up or position, rather we look at making micro adjustments to the bike set-up that may stave off injury and reduce discomfort based on our physical assessment of the body first, and then the bike.
In examining you, the rider, we assess flexibility and muscle length, leg length discrepancies (if any) and posture. By using our 3D4Medical app we can illustrate the cycling relevant anatomy and our Personal Health exercise app can be accessed remotely so that any recommended exercises can be undertaken remotely. With the physical assessment complete we then take a look at the rider on the bike in our fitness studio and observe their riding position in motion on one of our turbo trainers. From this we film the rider and take further manual measurements of reach, knee angle and note any knee varus/valgus (in/out) that may be exaggerated by sub-optimal cleat set-up.
Based on our findings, we will provide a relevant exercise programme for the body and make some suggestions for adjustment (if required) to your bike set-up. This is a bespoke service and some clients require more focus on the physical and others require more attention on the bike set-up. Most often though, it is a combination of the two.
Tim Ahern is a Chartered Physiotherapist, an Exercise Physiologist, and a hugely passionate cyclist. He is an integral part of Personal Health, providing a valuable link between our clinical expertise and the practical aspects of exercise prescription. Tim represented Ireland as an amateur cyclist (a while ago!). He loves to work in the area of biomechanic assessment and optimising a client’s pursuit of the open road. Safe cycling people….