Comfort for the Long Haul

Being comfortable on your bike can make or break your enjoyment and performance. Many cyclists have experienced the pitfalls of a poor set up in various forms: poor cycling times in a race; difficultly running off the bike or feeling very fatigued; injuries to feet, knees, hips or back. Many don’t even know they can ride faster, more efficiently and — imagine this — more comfortably. Cycling is not synonymous with discomfort; however, many ride day in and day out in uncomfortable positions. In addition, many cyclists are not maximizing their potential on the bike in spite of the fact that they feel “fine” and have no specific injuries.

Many people spend a lot of money on their bikes, components and various other accessories and still neglect their position on the bike, ignoring the motor that runs the machine. It is important to have good equipment that is light and aerodynamic, however if it doesn't allow the you, the motor, to get into a position that provides the best power output with the least effort then the equipment you're using becomes as much a liability as a benefit.

Are you getting the most out of your position?

Here's a bit of background: Bike fit and positioning are two related but different topics. They have a big impact on many aspects of your cycling: comfort, power output, aerodynamics, and muscle recruitment. The focus over the past few years has been on bike fit; however fit is just the first half of the puzzle. Let's look at the difference between fit and positioning and what you can do to improve your position.

Step One: Fit. Many triathletes are riding bikes that don't fit them. Bike fit is determined primarily by two measurements, the seat tube measurement of your frame (frame size) and the top tube length of your frame. Most people consider only the seat tube length ("I ride a 56cm frame") without considering the fact that 56cm frames from different companies may fit differently due to differing top tube lengths. Based on torso and arm measurements in addition to inseam, we can determine your "ideal" top tube and seat tube lengths. With this information you can find a bike that fits you. This is where positioning comes into the picture. A bike that fits simply means that you have to potential to achieve a comfortable and efficient position on it.

Step Two: Positioning. Positioning is more complicated due to the number of inter-related factors. In a sense it is like a puzzle whose pieces include: saddle height, saddle fore-aft, overall extension, arm rest drop, arm rest width, and aerobar angle. The adjustment of these factors is governed by their effect on the angles at your knee, hip, shoulder and elbow. We look for a particular range at each of these angles. One of the biggest issues for triathletes is being too stretched out when using the aerobars. A good rule of thumb is that you should be able to fit not much more than a fist between your knee and your elbow when they are at their closest point in your pedal stroke. If you are too stretched out you can correct this in several ways: 1) Shorten your stem length (also effects weight distribution) 2) Shorten your aerobar extension (also effects comfort of your arm rest position) 3) Move your saddle forwards (also effects your hip angle). If you are riding a road bike, moving your saddle forwards or using a forward seatpost may be your best option as it will also open up your hip angle, however you need to be careful not to upset the handling of your bike.

Call, or visit out website for more information.

Fiona Gray and Dan Rishworth are bike fit specialists at Enduro Sport/Athletes First and are certified by the two major fitting schools in North America. In addition, they have conducted their own research into rider positioning over the past ten years. You can contact them at 416-449-0432 or at Enduro Sport or Athletes First