Poor Fit Can Contribute to Pain and Injury Risk
ALEXANDRIA, VA, May 15, 2008 — With gas prices steadily
climbing, commuters may find that biking to work not only provides
excellent health benefits but also drastically lowers commuting costs.
In conjunction with National Bike to Work Day on Friday, May 16, the
American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) is urging cyclists to help
lower their risk of injury by ensuring that their bicycles are fitted
APTA member Erik Moen, PT, CSCS, a Seattle-based "Elite Level" coach
through the United States Cycling Federation, says, "The first thing I
ask any patient complaining of bicycling-related pain is to bring the
bicycle in to check for a proper fit. In most instances, a poor bike fit
is at the root of their problem."
Moen says that the most common bike fit errors include saddle heights
that are either too high or too low, handlebar reach that is either too
long or too short, and misalignments of the pedal and shoe. He
recommends that cyclists do the following to ensure that they have
proper bike fit:
- Saddle. Be sure that the saddle is level. If you are sliding
too far forward from a forward-tilting saddle, too much weight is being
placed on your hands, arms, and lower back. If the seat is tilted
backwards, you may place undue strain on your lower back and possibly
experience saddle-related pain. A physical therapist can measure proper
saddle height by measuring knee angle at the most extended position of
the knee in common pedaling.
- Handlebars. Handlebar position will affect hand, shoulder,
neck, and back comfort. The higher the handlebars, the more weight will
be placed on the saddle. Generally, taller riders should have lower
handlebars in relation to the height of the saddle. Moen notes that
riders should re-examine their bicycle fit after bad falls or crashes,
due to possible re-orientation of handlebars, brakehoods, cleats, or the
- Knee to Pedal. A physical therapist also can measure the
angle of the knee to the pedal. The closer the angle is to 35 degrees,
the better function the cyclist will have and with less stress on the
- Foot to Pedal. The ball of the foot should be positioned over
the pedal spindle for the best leverage, comfort, and efficiency, Moen
notes. A stiff-soled shoe is best for comfort and performance. Pedaling
is a skilled activity that requires aerobic conditioning," Moen says.
"You should make it your goal to work toward pedaling at 80-90
revolutions per minute (advanced at 90-105 rpm). Pedaling at this rate
will lessen your chance of injury."
"Good flexibility of the hamstrings, quadriceps, and gluteal muscles
is crucial because these muscles generate the majority of the pedaling
force and must ideally move through the pedal-stroke in 80-90
revolutions per minute." He adds, "Proper stretching, balance, and
flexibility exercises help with coordination of cycling-related skills
such as breaking and cornering." Moen also cautions that changes in
riders' strength and flexibility affect the ability to attain certain
positions on the bicycle and also may require them to re-examine their
Moen points to bicycle accessories on the market-such as softer
handlebar tape, shock absorbers for the seat post and front fork,
cut-out saddles, and wider tires-that help to bring comfort to the
sport. "Cycling should be about enjoyment, not pain," concludes Moen.
"Proper bicycle fit will minimize discomfort and possible overuse
injury, maximize economy, and ensure safe bicycle operation. Proper
bicycle fit will make your ride a lot more pleasurable."
Tips for avoiding bike-related injuries, photos illustrating proper
bike fit and stretching exercises for cyclists, and other related
information can be found via APTA's consumer page at www.moveforwardpt.com.
Physical therapists are health care professionals who diagnose and
manage individuals of all ages, from newborns to elders, who have
medical problems or other health-related conditions that limit their
abilities to move and perform functional activities in their daily
lives. Physical therapists examine each individual and develop a plan of
care using treatment techniques to promote the ability to move, reduce
pain, restore function, and prevent disability. Physical therapists also
work with individuals to prevent the loss of mobility by developing
fitness- and wellness-oriented programs for healthier and more active
The American Physical Therapy Association (www.apta.org) is a
national organization representing physical therapists, physical
therapist assistants, and students nationwide. Its goal is to foster
advancements in physical therapist education, practice, and research.
Consumers can visit www.findapt.us to find a physical therapist in their
area, as well as www.moveforwardpt.com for physical therapy news and