Befitting Bikes

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anatomy of the bike photo

Anatomy of a Bike Fit with Millcreek Bicycles

My bike was trying to kill me. The fun wasn’t worth the pain I experienced every time I rode it. I was ready to swear off road cycling and bury my bike in the middle of the desert where it couldn’t hurt anyone else. Before I did, I visited local bike fitting expert Mike Hanseen of Millcreek Bicycles, who saved us both.

Does road cycling cause you to have a sore neck, back, babymaker? Chances are your bike doesn’t fit you properly.

1. Bike Frame Size: To achieve the best fit, measure your torso and arms to get the ideal top tube length and leg inseam for proper Standover Height. Neck pain is often the result of riding a bike frame that is too long.

2. Saddle Tilt and Height: When seated on the bike, your knees should have a slight bend in them at the bottom of the pedal stroke. Poor fore-aft positioning of the saddle and the seat height is responsible for knee pain. Too much downward tilt can lead to pain in triceps, shoulders, hands, and elbows.

3. Saddle Width: Your sits bones need to be measured in order to map pressure distribution. Having the wrong saddle size causes you to sit asymmetrically on the bike and rock your hips, which can cause discomfort in your nether region.

4. Saddle Position: The fore and aft position of the saddle is all about the position of your knees over your pedal spindles. A saddle that is too far forward can be the culprit behind sore wrists, hands, and triceps.

5. Saddle Height and Angle: Fully extending your arms to reach the handlebars means the stem is too long, and that’s going to make your arms, neck, and back hurt. If the saddle is too low, your quads will get fatigued fast.

6. Cleat Position: The position of your cleats affects your knees, calf muscles, and Achilles tendons. If you’re sore under the arches of your feet, you may need to adjust the cleats in your shoes.

7. Crank Length: Getting a specific crank length will reduce the stress on your legs. If you have pain in the back of your knees, a crank length that is too long could be the issue.

8. Stem Height: The stem height is relational to the saddle position and can cause neck and lower back pain. Stems are easy to switch out and can even be flipped for better adjustment.

9. Handlebar Positioning: There are lots of things you can do to modify your bike handlebars for a better fit. The rotation, width, reach, and drop affect your overall comfort. Handlebars that are off can cause neck, lower back, shoulder, and wrist pain.

The litany of bike-sizing disparity issues I had was no joke. Lesson learned. Buying an off-the-rack bike without customizing it to your body is like buying a wedding dress and failing to tailor it. Fine-tuning your bike can save you from misery and in some cases surgery or—if your bike is really mean—death.

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About Author

Melissa McGibbon is the Senior Editor of Outdoor Sports Guide Magazine. She is an award-winning journalist and is a member of the Society of American Travel Writers, the North American Travel Journalists Association, and the Adventure Travel Trade Association. She is usually in pursuit of adventure, travel, or some daring combination of the two. IG @missmliss // melissamcgibbon.com

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