Category Archives: Bike Fitting

Bike Seat Selection and Elevated PSA Levels

I recently received an e-mail from a client with an excellent question.  I’ll let our exchange do the talking.

He wrote:

I have just had a physical and the only area that showed with some concern was my PSA (Prostate-Specific Antigen) level.  It could be elevated from one of the BPH medicactions that I take and/or all the bike riding.  I have decided given this situation to get some form of the Selle SMP saddles.  I am leaning toward the Dynamic.  Any thoughts on this.

 

My response:

As for saddles, as I have researched saddle selection and elevated PSA, the link between it and specific saddle selection seems weak at best but does stand to reinforce proper saddle dimensions, position, and set up.  The strongest link to elevated PSA (as it would appear separate from causation by prostate cancer cells) appears to be with cycling in general (and strenuous exercise specifically). Research by a couple of my mentors; seems to agree with these findings.

That is to say; I wouldn’t let elevated PSA cause me to choose a saddle that I am not confident in, not comfortable riding, or just settling for in general. A saddle of proper dimensions, in the proper position; allowing it to correctly bear rider weight on the sit bones and minimize soft-tissue contact will be more prostate-friendly than otherwise.

So, as I am very commonly found to say – error on the side of your personal confidence and comfort, then be sure to have the position correct; which is my job, of course.

This is sure to raise some questions and thoughts with some of you so; fire away and I’ll answer in order and as I’m able.

Thanks for reading!

Top Tips to Avoid Cycling Injuries

I have been particularly busy with some other projects the last few weeks – directing a soccer camp among them – so I apologize for the lack of new articles.

Fortunately; I have colleagues like Mike Roberts to help bridge the gap. Mike Roberts is a writer for Priority Legal.

I am happy to have his contribution here and hope you enjoy it. My only editorial addition would be to also consider proactive injury prevention in the form of getting a proper and thorough bike fitting.

If you are a keen cyclist then you will know that there is a chance you may have a cycling injury. If you are new to cycling, or you only cycle occasionally, then you may not be so aware.

cycling injuries

Although you can’t stop cycling injuries happening altogether, there are a few things you can do to help prevent cycling injuries from occurring. Here are our top tips:

Equipment

When embarking on a cycle ride it is vital that you have the best equipment that you can. Many cycling injuries occur when equipment is faulty. So, have your bike checked to make sure that the tyres are pumped up enough, that the brakes are working and that your gears are in check. Ensure that your saddle is at the right height and that your feet can still touch the ground. Tightening any bolts and screws will also help to keep the bike secure. As you begin to cycle any loose screws will inevitably become loser.

Equipment also includes your helmet. You should be doing all you can to protect yourself, in the event of a cycling injury. Make sure that you are wearing as much protective equipment as you can.

Matching Bike Fit to a Second Bike

MULTIPLE BIKE BLUES

If you’re fortunate enough to have multiple bicycles; tell me if this sounds familiar: You have spent endless time and possibly funds perfecting the position on your main bicycle. It’s flawless. You feel like you could ride on it all day, in all conditions without pain – and then get on it again tomorrow and do it all over.

Then you get on the other bike. And, while you’ve taken some measurements and tried to match it up to the first one – stuff still isn’t right. It could be any number of things that you don’t experience on the first bike: Maybe your knees hurt, you have hand numbness, get saddle sores, have after-ride headaches, or just plain don’t feel as strong or fast. Maybe it is something else entirely. Whatever it is, you know something isn’t right in spite of your effort to fix it. What now?

bikes

In a similar post; I gave you an outline of some different bike fit symptoms, what may be causing them, and potentially how to fix it. Ultimately; the underlying theme though was to seek the help of a qualified and professional fitter. I’m going to do a similar thing here: walk through the bike’s contact-points and offer some suggestions; but the help of a professional is still priceless here and many shops offer services to help match the riding position between multiple bikes for less cost than having each one fitted individually.

That said: let’s move on. Bikes can seemingly be set up to fit identically when you measure them; but there are a variety of small details that govern why your body may not be sliding into the same position when you ride the others. Let’s take a look, starting with some standards:

FIRST, ESTABLISH WHAT IS CORRECT; THEN MEASURE AND DOCUMENT IT

Honestly, I could write volumes on measuring a bike to document a riding position. Perhaps if I get enough requests in the comments I’ll actually sit down and outline my process and post it – but you’ll have to be patient because my fitting charts document no fewer than 22 data points and detail is critical because we’re talking about millimeters here…

Do I Need a Bike Fitting?

HOW DO I KNOW?

Driving around town the other day I saw so many people who were so obviously uncomfortable on their bikes (and suffering a loss of efficiency because of their lack of comfort along with other factors).  So, since so much of my material is inspired by my experiences – I was inspired to write another post: A few quick pointers on how to know if you need someone to assess your bike fit.

Several of the signs are pretty obvious: persistent knee pain being the most common.  But there are a few quick and easy signs that something is wrong that aren’t immediately apparent (or that some of you think you just have to live with).  Let’s start at the front of the bike and work our way back.

-Numb hands: Bike fitting can’t always eliminate this issue as sometimes there are some deeper things going on (poor circulation being an obvious one).  But, often this is a marker that something is wrong with your position and your hands are having to do too much of the work of supporting your torso.

bike-fitting

-Can’t comfortably use all or most of your handlebar: I see this one pretty often.  You paid for all of that handlebar, you might as well be able to use all of it that is possible!  All kinds of position errors can limit your access to your handlebar.  If you’re not able to reach all the different positions on the bar, you’re not getting the most out of your bike and not able to change positions enough to enhance your comfort.

-Poor handling characteristics or difficulty descending: There can be many causes to these symptoms ranging from the mechanical to the psychological.  But, a correct position on the bike is not only comfortable, but lets the bike work as it is designed because the rider’s weight is distributed properly.  Handlebar position, stem length, and saddle position can all contribute to fit related causes.

-Locked elbows: Usually mean your handlebar is in the wrong spot.  This makes your bike handle less predictably and often causes soreness in the elbows, shoulders, neck, and possibly elsewhere.  Your bar could be wrong in any direction though: High, low, too close or too far; so consult a pro.

-Sore neck or headaches after riding: Often also an indication of poor handlebar position requiring the rider to hold the head up too far or driving the shoulder blades together.

Quick note: Bicycle Fitting “Apps”

First – don’t get me wrong.  I’m not a Luddite. I love many things that have come along in the technological revolution.  But, we still must be careful how much gravity we give these tools and applications that actively or passively claim to replace humans.

I’ve talked some about the bike fitting calculators which can be found at various locations online and how; while they may be based on good equations, there are two inherent flaws when it comes to claims of delivering “correct fit” or “correct frame size”:

bike-fitting-iphone-ipod-ipad-app

1. The accuracy of the resulting dimensions is only as good as the accuracy of the measurements used in the equations.  Garbage in, garbage out.

2. Unquantifiable factors such as injury history, desired riding position, physiological asymmetries, riding history and goals are not accounted for.  Additionally, flexibility and ranges of motion also weigh heavily into determining a rider’s optimal on the bike position.  These factors are glaringly absent from these applications because they introduce an “X” factor which cannot be caluclated.

Bike Mistakes Series

Here for your easy browsing; an index of the posts I have created (and the planned posts for future publishing) on what has turned out to already be a popular topic. I hope you find all this helpful in making your bike more comfortable, run more smoothly, and last longer.

Have any suggestions? The comments section of this post is the place to leave them; so comment away!  But most importantly – enjoy.

Bike Mistakes – Part 1: Handlebar

This is the first in a series on common mistakes on your bike…

I’ve been thinking about a series of posts about common mistakes that most everyone (even some shops) makes on bicycles. I’m going to give this a stab here and see how it goes. I’ll be focusing on mechanical mistakes as well as those that may effect comfort, handling, or safety. I don’t know how many parts there will be – this will just sort of evolve. If you have a suggestion or something you’d like to see covered: leave a comment and let me know.

IN THE BEGINNING…

So, let’s start at the front of the bike – and with an important contact point: the handlebar.

This is the control center of your bicycle. Almost every control command; braking, shifting, and steering, must go through the bars in one way or another. Sure, there are other ways to control the bike by shifting weight and changing position on the bike – but when you really think about it; most of these maneuvers require some sort of interaction with the bars too. So, how do you set up your handlebars for maximum effectiveness? I’ll start with road drop-style bars and the move to flat and riser mountain-style bars.

bike-handler01First, some guidelines: Always use caution and NEVER do this while riding the bike. Preferably you will have the bike set in an indoor trainer for these steps for easy adjustment and self-evaluation. Always use a torque wrench set to manufacturer’s recommendations when tightening bolts – especially on carbon fiber and lightweight aluminum. This is implied any time I say to tighten the bolts. Any longer, nearly 99% of bolts on bicycles are metric. Use a metric wrench. If you are not certain about anything, consult with an experienced, professional mechanic.

And this article is by no means a substitute for a bike fitting or visit to the mechanic. This is meant to be a guide to help you identify some of the mistakes that may be present on your bike and give you a starting point to solve them. Consult with a professional for a solution to your unique problem. I mean, come on – you really expect me to solve your problem through a blog? 🙂

2/16/06 – Bike Fit

I try to study bike fitting every winter. While I definitely have enough fitting appointments to keep me busy (and some of you keep me busier than others…just kidding), I think it’s important to keep up with new developments in physiology, bike geometry, and theory in general.

It’s this time of year that I get especially frustrated though, by being reminded of all the bad advice that is swimming around out there on the “Bike Club Circuit”. Now, that’s not a knock on bike clubs – they’re vital to the existence and continued growth of our sport – but it seems that there is a great deal of misunderstanding about how bikes ought to fit and about what you can and can’t get away with when it comes to choosing a bike and making it fit. Worst of all, some of those rumors are propigated by bike shops!

Poorly trained (or not trained at all) professionals some times give out the worst advice of all! Ultimately, this leads to an amazing amount of people running around on bikes which don’t fit and therefore aren’t comfortable to ride. (One fitting school puts the figure at almost 80% of cyclists. Now, what they don’t disclose is whether that number is just enthusiasts or whether it also includes the 11 year old who just got a bike for his birthday from Toys-R-Us which is 5 sizes too big, but no one knew better – he just thought it looked cool).

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