Just like in many things in cycling, the issue of a bike fit is also hotly debated. Some folks assume getting measured for a bike at the moment of purchase is enough.
Another group believes a proper fit is something only serious cyclists do, and recreational riders need not bother. There’s also the opposing camp that believes just about anyone at the bike shop can do a decent fit for you, based on their experience riding or selling bikes.
Whichever school of thought you subscribe to, it’s definitely worth considering the new breed of bike fitters who are also trained physiotherapists. With the rise in cycling activity, it’s great to know that these guys are not only certified to do a bike fit, they also understand your body better too. It’s probably the most perfect marriage in cycling.
Further information can be found at www.malaysiaphysio.com or contact +6011 3739 4801 for enquiries.
Why Should You Have a Physiotherapist Do Your Bike Fit?
Bike fitting is still a relatively new profession, arising from the shift away from the inseam method of fitting a bike to a dynamic fit, where the fit is performed whilst the person is cycling. Initially most fitters were bike mechanics and ex-professional cyclists, but now an increasing number of physiotherapists with an interest in cycling injuries and performance are now entering the profession. As physiotherapists, we aim to fit the bike to the capabilities of the rider rather than fit the rider to the bike.
The actual bike fit itself is generally standardized across most fitters, as there are only a finite set of variables available to modify. Physiotherapists use a parameter of joint angles that we would like to get you within based on research, but there can still be large differences between two similar riders for the perfect fit. Physiotherapists have an excellent understanding of the body, so we are in the ideal position to be able to assess the rider physically, which allows us to identify different weaknesses or range of movement issues which could be contributing to pain, numbness or reducing performance.
I have seen many riders that initially appear to have the perfect position, but continue to have pain and reduced power, and when we dig deeper we find that the position is not right for their body type. Along with adjusting the fit of the bike and cleats, we also use our physical assessment to set up a specific exercise program, to improve the rider’s performance and reduce pain. We aim to provide a more rounded experience, getting the rider and the bike to work together, not against each other.
What Are The Most Common Misconceptions About Bike Fitting?
One of the biggest misconceptions I deal with, is the idea that you need a big branded fit machine to get a better fit. The parameters that you walk out with after the fit, come down to the skill of the fitter, and not a set of processed numbers from a computer.
Another misconception is that once you have a bike fit you are set for life, because the reality is that riders change over time. Professional riders will fine tune their fit regularly depending on the type of race, the conditions, injuries, fitness and bike skill level. I try to remind clients that we change physically every day, and consequently our bodies can change a lot over months or years.
There’s also the misconception that a bike fit is a one size fits all. On paper the measurements will look perfect for the rider, but this isn’t always the case.
How Different Is The Bike Fit For A Recreational Vs Professional Cyclist?
Our bike fits are based purely on the individual rider and their physique, I have seen recreational riders that can quickly adjust to a position which can be even more aggressive than how some pros will ride. For example if you are a professional with a history of back problems and cannot touch your toes, it does not make sense to slam the stem and give you a large drop, but a very flexible amateur racer may do well with this set up. If you watch a bike race closely, you will see a huge range of positions in the peloton, as each bike is set up for the rider’s own strengths and weaknesses.
We always do an in-depth interview with every client, to help us identify the best set up for them based on their goals. There are many factors which may lead us to putting someone in a more comfortable position or pushing them towards a more aggressive position. The physical assessment will play a big part in this too; a professional will be a fine-tuned machine, but a recreational rider might have issues that need addressing first, especially for that super sleek TT position we all dream of. However, with good training and following the right exercises it certainly isn't impossible. On the other hand, a lot of clients are quite happy just being comfortable so we tailor it accordingly.
What are the common problems that you run into when it comes to bike fit?
Unfortunately, one of the biggest and hardest problems we face is when our client brings in the wrong size bike! Luckily in most cases we can work around this with changing different parts, but this will certainly influence the overall feel and performance of the bike, as well as the additional cost to the client. Getting a proper sizing done by a reputable bike fitter is best BEFORE you go out shopping.
The other common issues are probably more physiotherapy based, especially when it comes to training. I am a big advocate of strength training due to its massive benefits in injury reduction and increase in performance, but most recreational cyclists/triathletes are not doing enough, if any at all.
A high percentage of people will only get a bike fit when things start to hurt, most commonly these would be the neck, back or knees, but many things can happen if the fit isn't right or you have some underlying physical issue. As always, prevention is always better than cure, so my advice is to get your fit done sooner before any problems arise.
Tell us more about Malaysia Physio and what you specialise in.
We opened in Malaysia almost two years ago in conjunction with 2Escape and have since opened two other locations: Verve shopping centre in Mont Kiara and our new flagship clinic in SoHo Suites KLCC. We specialise in sports injuries, back and neck pain, scoliosis, bike fitting and running gait analysis. We set ourselves apart by trying to reduce reliance on machine based treatments and use manual and exercise based therapies that are evidence based and provide lasting results for our clients.