Finding proper bike fit is key for century rider |

Finding proper bike fit is key for century rider

Proper bike fit is pivotal in order for the rider to attain an efficient pedal stroke. While bike fit priorities for the competitive racer are efficient pedal stroke, power output, bike handling, aerodynamics and comfort, for the century rider, comfort, bike handling and pedal stroke top the list.

Here are a few general rules to effective bike fits:

Strive to blend the individual to the bike. Consider the body type and fit it to the bike and#8212; donand#8217;t force the body to fit the bike. A bike fit is a work in progress. As a new rider invests time on the bike and develops cycling-specific musculature, suppleness and posture, the rider will attain a more efficient, powerful aerodynamic position. There is not an absolute in bike fitting, but a window of the right fit.

A bike fit starts with the most essential aspect and#8212; saddle height and#8212; and works out from there with saddle fore/aft, saddle tilt and handlebar reach and height.

The greatest concern with improper saddle height is knee injury. A low saddle produces too much force on the back of the patella and behind the knee. The compacted knee experiences constant pressure.

Too high of a saddle position and the rider is reaching at the bottom of the stroke, placing a strain and stretch on the hamstrings. This high position also has the potential of leading to saddle sores and#8212; especially aggravated with long rides, like centuries.

There are numerical formulas to reach the ballpark saddle height, but the position is honed by the experienced eye of the bike fitter. Once the cyclist has pedaled steadily and settled in to the saddle, the bike fitter looks for level hips, as well as hip, knee and toe alignment, among other factors, to confirm proper seat height. Finally, the bike fitter measures the cyclist knee flexion at the bottom of the pedal stroke and#8212; with a neutral ankle, acceptable knee flexion measures between 25-35 degrees.

Saddle fore/aft is the next factor to be considered. It is ultimately the riderand#8217;s femur length that determines this position, placing the kneeand#8217;s pivot point over the pedal axle. This is measured when the forward pedal is horizontal and#8212; the bike fitter drops a plumb bob from the kneeand#8217;s center of rotation to the crank arm. An acceptable window for the recreational century rider has the plumb line hit the pedal spindle to one cm behind the pedal spindle. It is also acceptable to drop the plumb bob from the front of the knee and use the front of the crank arm for comparison.

With saddle tilt, in general for the century rider, the saddle should be level to the ground. And with the handlebars, the reach and height are more subjective than saddle positions. For the recreational/century rider, comfort rules the day. As a result, a more upright position is most suitable.

The riderand#8217;s reach creates an angle with the torso in relation to the ground. The reach is greatly determined by the riderand#8217;s functional movement, core strength, and lower back and hamstring flexibility. The key to reach is rotating at the hips rather than rounding the back. For the sake of comparison, competitive riders strive for a 45-degree torso angle and#8212; avid, fit riders a 40-50-degree angle, and recreational riders a 50-60-degree angle.

To achieve an optimum bike handling position, strive for 40 percent of the weight on the front wheel and 60 percent on the back.

Next on tap is perfecting the century riderand#8217;s pedal technique.

and#8212; Julie Young is a Truckee resident and owner of o2fitness. She is a former U.S. National Team member and pro cyclist who currently competes in triathlons and trail runs. Contact her at

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