When it comes to bikes, one size does not fit all. At a glance, you may think we’re talking about bike height. Whilst this is a factor—and there is a selection of bikes available for different baseline heights—it is a cookie-cutter strategy compared to an individualised bike fit. ‘Bike fit’ may sound like a state of being—fit enough to ride a bike, so to speak—but it’s actually a process whereby a cyclist customises a bike to their unique preferences. When getting a bike fit, you should consider three main factors: comfort, injury prevention, and performance optimisation. You can achieve all three of these by adjusting your bike’s parts—such as the handlebars, pedals, and saddle—to your biomechanical requirements.
Not all bike fits are the same. Think of a quick bike fit session as a light proofreading job: you’re correcting all the surface issues (such as or saddle and cleat height) without a thorough dive into the functionality. A three-hour bike fit, however, is like a full editorial re-write: diagnosing some of the deep (syntactical or biomechanical) inner workings and changing them up accordingly. Whether you’re doing a quick ‘proofread’ or want a more thorough ‘edit’, here are some key things to consider when getting a bike fit.
If you’re an active cyclist experiencing knee pain, this likely originates from your saddle positioning. Where is the pain located? If you’re feeling it in the front of the knee (anterior knee pain), your saddle is likely too low. This positioning places undue pressure on the patella. If the back of the knee is hurting (posterior knee pain), your saddle is likely too high. When your leg reaches excessively far down, this strains the hamstring attachments.
Pain at the side of the knee is a different story. This suggests poor cleat set-up, meaning your knees literally aren’t on track (we’ll elaborate on that more later).
If your hips rock as you reach for the pedals, and your forward kneecap does directly track directly above the pedal spindle, you have not set up your saddle optimally. Adjust your positioning until you find your kneecap’s correct alignment. When making this adjustment, witnessing a third-person perspective of yourself can help. Get a friend to measure your leg positioning with a protractor or goniometer. Alternatively, take some video footage of yourself and measure your positioning (also using a protractor or goniometer) on the playback.
Saddle up correctly for a comfortable ride.
Ensure that the handlebars are neither too low nor too far away. If you’re hyperextending just to tilt your head up to survey the oncoming conditions, this is an obvious sign that your handlebars are too low. The handlebars should be aligned with your saddle’s height, unless this feels uncomfortable for the lower back—in which case, there is no harm in elevating your seat slightly higher.
Incorrect handlebar alignment can also cause wrist pain. To alter your handlebar position, loosen your stem bolts. This will reduce the reach by rotating your bars upwards. As a general rule of thumb, check for a straight line between your elbow and your fingers, and ensure that your index finger rests on your brake lever. To avoid locking out the joint altogether, allow for a slight bend in the elbow
Compact or shallow-drop handlebars can also be a great option if you’re looking to reduce pressure in your grip.
Get a handle on your handlebar preferences.
It’s important to align the feet correctly to ensure efficient energetic outputs and optimal injury prevention. The ball is your foot’s largest and strongest surface area, so you need to align it over the centre of the pedal. This will go hand-in-hand with setting up your cleats correctly. Align your cleats to your shoes and check its tension against the pedals. Foot positioning can also go hand-in-hand with saddle positioning. Sometimes, the way that your feet fall will depend on the saddle alignment. If something is afoot here, feel free to double-check the saddle height and adjust accordingly.
On your full extension (or the six o’clock stroke), ensure that you are extending to your full potential. Hint: overextension and your full potential are not one of the same.
In general, riding a bike should feel like…well, riding a bike. Everything should feel ergonomic, natural, and free of uncomfortable postures. If anything is preventing that feeling, professionals from Evoker recommend a professional bike fit that suits your biomechanical and budgetary requirements.