Woman cycling in forest

Avoid Injury by Making Sure Your Bike Fits Right

Cycling is an important part of rehabilitation for many conditions including post-op ACL repair, total knee replacement and osteoarthritis.  It is used to help improve range of motion, aerobic capacity and strength of surrounding muscles.  For a number of people, this is an important activity to help maintain health and fitness.  Therefore, it is important that the bike is fit properly to avoid injury.

The most commonly reported musculoskeletal injuries are patello-femoral pain, limited hip and knee ROM and neck pain.  These injuries can be avoided with the correct bicycle fit.

Bicycle Anatomy

Anatomy of a bicycle
(Source: Will Brooks, pintrest)

There are 3 main contact points on a bicycle; 1) the saddle, 2) the pedals, and 3) the handlebars.  Next there is the bottom bracket (Crank) which is where the pedals attach to the frame.

Saddle Height & Position

A demo showing saddle height
(Source: rei.com) – Image above shows proper alignment for saddle height

The goal for your saddle height is to have a 25-30 degree bend in your knee.  Check this by putting your foot on the pedal at the bottom of the pedal stroke while a friend is holding your bike.

Demo of checking saddle position
(Source: rei.com) – Image above shows proper alignment for saddle forward/back

To check for the correct saddle position, drop a plumb line (a string with a weight) over the top of your knee while the pedal is in the 3 o’clock position.  If the saddle is in the correct position, the plumb line should bisect the pedal axle.

Handlebar Height & Extension

The most comfortable position for road cyclists is where the angle between your upper arm and torso is around 90 degrees.  You should have a slight  bend in your elbows to maximize comfort and control and your wrists in a neutral position. Comfort should be your guide when adjusting the height of the handlebars. 

An adjustable stem is ideal for finding your most comfortable position.  It also gives you the flexibility to make adjustments if you have a neck issues or if you share your bike with others.  There are one and two-axis adjustable stems and can be found in most bike shops.

Proper Bike fit angles
(Source: bikefit.com)


Of course all of these suggestions are only a starting point.  Depending on the type of bike you ride and whether you are a commuter, weekend rider, triathlete there will be different set ups.  If you are unsure where to start, contact your local bike shop and book a fitting.  Don’t be afraid to try different set ups until you find one that is comfortable for you!

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