• Dean Waterman

Why Get Fit?

Updated: Feb 21, 2019

“Bike Fitting” has become a modern-day norm among amateur and professional cyclists. Road, time-trial, triathlon, mountain and commuter bikes are commonplace in fit studios, and for good reason. In an industry dominated by impulsive tech upgrades, ‘marginal gains’ and $20k superbikes, an investment in a decent bike fit may be the most economical and sensible investment of all. The benefits extend beyond comfort, speed and aerodynamics, towards long term health promotion and longevity in the sport.

Cycling, in all forms, is a repetitive and stressful sport, from a 200m sprint on the velodrome to 3500km at Le Tour de France. On average, a cyclist will pedal over 5000 revolutions per hour. That’s 5000 times through a joints range of motion, 5000 muscle contractions. Imagine doing 5000 squats in an hour?! Cycling has us fixed to the bicycle at 5 points and demands constant and repetitive exertion. The potential for pain and injury is obvious.

The human body is resilient, yet at some point tissues rebel. Humans are designed to move, bend,twist, walk, run. We were not made to sit on a bicycle saddle for hours on end. In endurance sports, the old adage “practice makes perfect” does not apply if we are practicing wrong. Practice makes permanent. Riding, with an incorrect saddle height or hyper kyphotic thoracic spine, is more likely to land you in the waiting room of your local GP or physiotherapy clinic than the top step of the podium.

In Australia, approximately 3.7 million people ride their bike up to 3 times per week. Of these, 85% have reportedly suffered from non-traumatic cycling related injuries, with a lesser degree seeking intervention from medical practitioners, physiotherapists and local bike shops. Traumatic cycling injuries, (fractures, abrasions, haematomas), are typically easier to diagnose and have clear, proven recovery protocols. Historically speaking however non-traumatic injuries are blamed on seat height, horizontal reach, cleat position and lower limb malalignment.

Traditional bike fits are designed to alter and optimise cycling positions and kinematics, and in effect claim to reduce pain. Evidence suggests those reporting non-traumatic cycling injuries have demonstrated different kinematics to those without. The traditional prescriptive or “recipe” based bike fit measurements do not accommodate individual ergonomics, anatomy, previous injury/disability, and goals of the client. In fact, there is conflicting evidence in respect to commonly accepted bike fit ‘norms’. The relationship, for example, between knee pain and knee angle at 25- 35 degree (bottom dead centre) has been labelled “ideal”, while other studies propose increased patellofemoral compressive forces at these higher angles. Consequently, a foundation in human movement, methodical objective data collection, and comprehension of historical cycling principals are all fundamental to a successful fit.

Physiotherapists are movement specialists. According to the APA (Australian Physiotherapy Association), physiotherapists “assess, diagnose, treat and prevent a wide range of health conditions and movement disorders. Physiotherapy helps repair damage, reduce stiffness and pain, increase mobility and improve quality of life”. Preliminary data has shown that a geometrically centred bike fit performed by an experienced physiotherapist can improve cycling function and performance, decrease pain, and reduce fear avoidance. Physiotherapists too have the clinical expertise to incorporate previous history, current pathology, anatomical and biomechanical disparity, gender differences and individual goals to achieve a symbiotic fit between rider and bike. Knowledge and expertise irreplaceable regardless of the bike fit system and technologies.

In cycling terms, speed = comfort + aerodynamics + power. As such, a successful bike fit should focus on each, with priority of each element dictated by the rider’s goals and/or target event. Placing a rider in an aggressively aerodynamic position for an Ironman Triathlon bike leg for example will wreak havoc as the athlete’s power and comfort is sacrificed, and the distance becomes unachievable. An accurate balance of these elements relies on clear communication between rider and fitter. A systematic musculoskeletal pre-screening and subjective interview are fundamental to a successful bike fit. Flexibility, neural tension, lumbo-pelvic stability and motor control are few of the components assessed by a physiotherapist prior to any adjustments being made to the bike. As our bodies are organic structures, it may be necessary to complete multiple fits or adjustments in the pursuit of an optimal fit, and improved performance. Though the bike can be adjusted in minutes, our joints, tendons, and neurovascular systems take time to adapt and respond to an altered biomechanical position. Decisions should be amicable and based on the experience of the fitter, objective data collection, and active feedback from the athlete.

Here at Cyclefit Physiotherapy we use the SST Cycling 3DMA system in combination with our physiotherapy expertise to get you comfortable, fast, and injury free. SST systems provide real time 3D motion capture, delivering instant and dynamic feedback. This assists us to make decisions and changes to the bicycle, as well as postural and biomechanical corrections to your position and technique.

If you are looking to improve your comfort, speed, or manage those niggles on the bike, jump onto

the new online booking system at Come in, get fit, and get fit!

Happy and safe riding!

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