Whether you cycle off-road or in the comfort of your home, having your bike properly fitted is one of the best investments you can make as a cyclist. In this blog post, we’ll talk about what happens during the bike fitting process and the benefits that come with a proper bike fit.
What Happens During a Bike Fitting?
When you come into our clinic, we’ll first interview you. This helps us learn your goals and history as a cyclist and also learn of any injuries you may have suffered in the past that could affect your performance. We’ll also measure parts of your body and your flexibility. Then we’ll begin the fitting process. Here’s what we look at:
Seat height: your hip bone should be parallel with the top of the bike seat. A seat that is too high or too low will cause discomfort.
Foot placement and cleat fit: we’ll have you strap or attach your feet into the pedals ensuring you are on the balls of your feet.
Reach to the handlebars: you should be able to easily reach your grips or handlebars. Your elbows should have a slight bend.
Frame size: you don’t want a bike that’s too long or too short.
A bike fitting can take anywhere between an hour to two hours. When you schedule a bike fitting with us, we ask that you bring all of your riding gear with you and be prepared to spend about 10 minutes or so riding. If like more information on bike fittings at New Heights take a look at our informational bike fitting page.
Why Proper Bike Fit is Important
Proper bike fit is when you are positioned in a way that will allow you to ride for as long as you want and as hard as you want while remaining comfortable. A proper fit will also:
Reduce your risk of injuries
Help eliminate saddle discomfort
Help eliminate pain or numbness
Who Needs a Bike Fit?
Everyone can benefit from a bike fit, especially new riders. We also recommend experienced cyclists who’ve been fit before get a fresh fit every year. Your body changes over time whether it’s your age, weight, core strength, flexibility, or maybe you’ve had a child. What worked in the past may not work for you now so by evaluating you, we’ll be able to make some adjustments so you can once again ride efficiently.
Where Can I Get Professional Bike Fitting?
If you’re interested in improving your cycling performance and comfort, contact New Heights Physical Therapy Plus. We’ll properly fit you to your bike, whether it’s a road bike, mountain bike or stationary bike so you can ride for as long as you want to, pain-free! Call us to schedule an appointment. We have two convenient locations: one in Portland OR and another in Vancouver WA.
We don’t have to tell you this; bike riding is big in the Portland OR and Vancouver WA area. Cyclists ride bikes for recreation as well as transportation to work and school regardless of the weather. But did you know simply hopping on a bike and taking off may cause you to suffer pain later? In this article, we’ll talk about how to properly fit a bike so you can ride in comfort.
What is a Bike Fitting?
Before we dig into bike fitting, it’s important to know what a bike fitting is in the first place. A bike fitting is a process performed by a professional. Because everyone is different, they may ask how you use your bike and what your goals are. Then they’ll have you sit on the bike and adjust things like the frame and saddle so you and the bike work in synchronization.
Adjusting Your Bike For You
Cycling should be pain-free. Here are a few ways you can change your experience, so you can ride longer and harder.
Adjust the Saddle Height
This step is probably the easiest and most important one to set. You want the saddle to be at a height that when your leg is extended during a pedal stroke, your heel barely touches the pedal, and is not above your toes.
Adjust the Saddle Setback
To avoid pain in your pelvis, your saddle setback should be adjusted as well. This involves moving the saddle forward and backward until your knee is over the pedal spindle.
Change Bike Stems
The bike stem is the piece that bridges your handlebars to your steerer. It shouldn’t be too long or too short because your reach to the handlebars is important for weight distribution. When reaching for your handlebars, your elbows should have a slight bend.
If you travel and take your bike apart often it’s a good idea to measure and record these adjustments. Keep them somewhere handy so you can use them for a quick and easy reference.
Signs Your Bike is Not Properly Fitted
If your bike is not properly fitted, your body will tell you. Below are some of the common symptoms you may experience.
Knee, hip, and ankle pain: if you’re experiencing pain in these lower extremities, it is likely due to your saddle’s position.
Shoulder and neck pain: if you suffer pain in these areas this is likely from your stem or handlebar position.
Your Local Source for Bike Fitting
Want help with your bike fit? At New Heights Physical Therapy, our highly-experienced therapists provide professional bike fitting for patients whether it’s a road bike, mountain bike or hybrid bike, we can help. So contact New Heights Physical Therapy today for your professional bike fitting in the Portland OR and Vancouver WA area!
Cycling is a popular pastime for many. A lot of people even rely on biking for commuting to work and school! Whether you take advantage of cycling for your health, or simply as a cheaper way to get to work, you’ll be happy to know that you are doing more than strengthening your body, burning calories, and saving on gasoline. When you choose to cycle regularly, you may be significantly improving your mental health!
You May See Mood Improvements With Cycling
As you exercise, your body produces special hormones called endorphins, which are the “feel good” hormones of the body. Your brain also produces serotonin and dopamine, two of the hormones within the brain responsible for mood stability and happiness. All three of these can surge in your brain with regular exercise. They may help your mood remain stable and elevated, making cycling a great way to maintain your mental health and even combat your down days.
Cycling Can Decrease Stress
Not only will your “feel good” hormones rise, but the stress hormone cortisol will decrease with aerobic exercise. Stress reduction decreases your chance of developing other ailments that are tied to raised cortisol, such as inflammatory diseases. Biking can help you relax and let your worries go.
Cycling Can Improve Brain Growth
Riding a bike can improve blood flow throughout your body, including to your brain. As blood pumps more vigorously into your brain, new capillaries slowly grow, helping your brain receive more oxygen and nutrients, which in turn can help grow new brain cells. Over time, this habit can help you think more clearly and may even decrease memory loss.
Take Advantage of a Bike Fitting for the Best Results
As you get healthier through continued cycling, your body will start to reflect this positive change, and you may feel your self-confidence rising. You will feel great about doing something so good for your body.
Of course, cycling also benefits you physically. Science has proven that it is good for your heart and lungs, while also strengthening your bones and muscles. However, if your bike does not fit you well, you may end up with aches and pains rather than with a strong, flexible body.
At New Heights Physical Therapy, we offer professional bike fitting to help you get a comfortable ride that aligns your body, helping you and your cycle work together. We can look at your bike size, frame, and handlebar setup, as well as the way you ride your bike, to get you the right adjustments. We have a physical therapist who specializes in bike fittings and cycling injuries, so you’ll get expert care, as usual! Contact us today to schedule your fitting, and discover what cycling for mental health may do for you!
What is Sports Medicine for Bicycle-Related Injuries?
Sports medicine for bicycle-related injuries is a specialized field that cyclists can seek in order to restore full movement and function of injuries. In this field, the doctor or physical therapist requires special training in order to give the patient the fastest possible treatment to get them moving again. Bicycle-related injuries require specific treatment plans to ensure the patient can be cycling again in no time.
Bicycling requires strenuous use of leg bones and muscles. Common injuries include numb hands and toes, knee pain, lower back pain, and other aches and pains after riding. It’s important for cyclists to prevent pain and injuries from occurring in order to prevent more serious injuries. Prevention of injuries is just as important as treating injuries.
An incredibly beneficial type of sports medicine for bicycle-related injuries is bike fit. Bike fit is a process that takes many factors into consideration. The following factors are taken into consideration:
Background and History
Assessment of current equipment
These are all aspects that need to be individually assessed for each patient. It’s vital to treat each patient with a specialized plan to meet their needs. Bike fit is a program that can be applied to all cyclists from casual, to professional athletes. As your body grows stronger, the bike fit program may be altered in order to account for strengthening of certain muscles. Ensuring the proper fit can enhance your performance and prevent serious injuries from occurring.
We have specially trained physical therapists in sports medicine for bicycle-related injuries. The links below give more detail for the services we provide:
By now, you have heard over and over again that regular exercise is essential for happy, healthy aging. But establishing an exercise program, and sticking to it, can be extremely difficult, especially for those for whom exercise has never been a part of their life. As a physical therapist, I have had many people express the desire to start a regular exercise program, or lament that they were exercising regularly for a while but then stopped and have been unable to get back to it.
So, what to do? It’s all about clearing any blocks you might have to getting to the gym, pool, Yoga studio, rock climbing gym or local track and starting.
Here is my advice:
Make it convenient
Choose a location close to work or home or on your daily route. You will find it much easier to get to the gym if you pass it every day than if you have to go out of your way to get there. Make it difficult to give yourself the excuse that it is inconvenient. Every day as you pass the gym, thinking to yourself, “I’m signed up and paying my dues, I should go in there”, remember it will only take a turn of the steering wheel to get you in the parking lot. First obstacle: Get into the gym. You can’t work out if you aren’t in there. Also, remember to look for spontaneous and easy to establish ways to exercise. Walking in the evening, playing with your kids, riding your bike to do errands, taking the stairs when you have time and parking further away from your destination are all really easy ways to get your exercise in without having to carve time out of your schedule.
Find something you really like
You will not stick with something that doesn’t challenge you or is not fun. Sure, you may force yourself to go for a while, but come the holidays, or your vacation or nice weather; you’ll fall out of the habit and not really want to go back. Don’t like aerobics, how about swimming? Don’t like the gym? How about dance, or Yoga, or Pilates? Can’t afford the gym or classes? You can walk, or ride your bike or look for free classes for beginners at Yoga studios. The most important thing is that the activity itself motivates you. If you are going by will power alone, it won’t stick.
Get a buddy
Finding a reliable workout partner is hard but worth the effort. Many people turn to family, friends or neighbors, but sometimes the best workout partners are found right where you work out. Like you, they have summoned the willpower and have the motivation to show up, which is half the battle. Having a partner helps keep your workout consistent and challenging. You both bring ideas to the workout and when you are having a day when you are less than motivated to go, having someone waiting and counting on you can be just the extra little something you need to motivate you.
Change it up
Many people learn or develop a workout routine and then do the same routine every time they go to the gym. It’s worth it to gradually add to your routine options, learn new machines, try new classes, watch and learn from the people around you. Not only will your workout be well rounded, you will have more fun and never get bored. I am a regular at the gym in the cool, rainy weather and we rarely do the same workout twice. But come summer, I would far rather go for walks, do gardening or go for hikes. And by the time the rainy weather returns, I am ready and excited to get back to the gym!
Build the habit slowly
It is really important to set realistic, achievable goals at first. Of course the ultimate goal would be to do some kind of exercise at least 3-7x/week. If you have not been working out regularly, it is REALLY hard to put this in your schedule. You’ll start well for maybe one or two weeks then life will get in the way and next thing you know you haven’t exercised in 2 weeks. Then it is very discouraging and hard to recommit. Instead, start with committing to 1-2 days/week. Even if this is all you do for a month or two, it is much better then stopping and starting or doing nothing. Once it is an easy and normal part of your weekly schedule, try adding more days as you are able.
When we become injured or sick, it is often in our nature to think there is a one-solution fix. We see our primary care physicians or our physical therapists in hopes that they alone will rid us of our ailments. However, this is not always possible and although our healthcare team plays a critical part in our healing process, there are often behaviors we practice outside the clinic that stand in the way of optimal recovery.
Here at New Heights, our PTs have identified a number of barriers that prevent optimal recovery. The top five were:
Inactivity or TOO MUCH activity
Other barriers include environmental toxins and lack of sleep. All play a part in our body’s ability to repair itself. Processed foods, pushing through pain and not giving our bodies enough time to heal can lead to chronic inflammation which in turn leads to degeneration and loss of function in the affected area. Factors such as chronic stress or anxiety cause our bodies to be in a constant state of tension, inhibiting the healing process.
Because our PTs recognize these and many other barriers, New Heights’ Portland Clinic is hosting wellness classes and lectures that focus on a holistic health approach. Every month, we invite experts from around the Portland-Metro area to come and share what they know. A majority of these offerings are free and open to both patients and the community.
This fall’s highlights:
Dr. Tyna Moore, ND, DC, will be leading a lecture about gut health and how the foods we eat can either promote or inhibit reactions such as inflammation
Dr. Kathy Alvarez, MD, will be speaking on stress management and the importance of understanding the effects stress has on the body
There will also be lectures on osteoporosis, concussion awareness, sports injury prevention, bike fittings and many others
In addition to the monthly lectures, weekly wellness classes have been developed to help relieve stress and promote healing. Our new yoga instructor, Heather Beckett, will be leading Yoga Steps every Monday, for those new to yoga or recovering from an injury. She will also be leading a Dynamic Yoga Flow class on Wednesdays for those ready for a bigger challenge. Furthermore, group acupuncture and CHILL classes provide more opportunity to de-stress, while MELT classes work to rehydrate to your connective tissue, reduce inflammation and increase joint mobility.
Our goal in providing these classes and lectures is to help build an awareness for the intricacies of our bodies and to recognize that in order to reach optimal health we must take care of multiple systems. Our hope is that you will take control of your health by joining us. For more information about our wellness classes and lectures visit our online wellness class schedule or call 971-339-3405.
References: U.S. News & World Report, American Psychological Association
I love to ride my bike. It is one of the most convenient, fun, healthy ways to get around the city and stay fit. I ride in the sun, the wind, the rain, the sleet and sometimes even the snow. I’m nearly as reliable on my wheels as the postal service! As a physical therapist and bike advocate, there is a phrase I hear all the time: I would really like to ride my bike more, but I just don’t feel safe on the road.
So, this post is devoted to safety tips, planning strategies, and awareness elements that will keep you safe and confident while riding your bike. These tips are geared toward both the novice biker who is currently dusting off his wheels in preparation for the spring AND the experienced cyclist, who is just waiting for the day she can remove her fenders and gortex shoe covers!
The main elements we need to address are: visibility, comfort, and respect for the road and all those who use it.
Tip #1: VISIBILITY!
There is no better way to be safe on the pedal than by being seen. This doesn’t mean you have to sing opera with wild hand gesticulations or wear only neon colors head to toe, though neither would hurt. It does mean that you shouldavoid wearing dark colors at night. It also means using appropriate lighting. When cycling at night, during dusk, or when it’s raining, bikes should have at least one white headlight in the front and one red tail-light in the rear. Law requires this at night, but remember the goal is to be seen, so use them whenever visibility is compromised (eg. when it’s raining and people’s windshield wipers may not be perfectly clearing each droplet from their windshields).
Be sure to place your blinkers in visible areas. Often lights attached to back pockets or bike bags can be covered accidentally by clothing or placed to far to the side, making them less visible to cars directly behind you. Additionally, a light on your wheel spokes, so that you are visible from the side, is quite helpful. And while you can also wear reflective vests, a cheaper and more creative solution is to decorate the back of your jacket, pants, bike, or bag with reflective tape. This cannot be underestimated; reflectors are magic when car headlights are applied!
Another aspect of visibility is awareness of whether or not you are seen. Attempt to always make eye contact with drivers, other cyclists, and pedestrians before proceeding to turn or making your way through intersections, even when you have the right of way. Making eye contact establishes the fact that both commuters actually see each other and takes the guess work out of making a safe crossing.
Lastly, be aware of your surroundings; this includes the type of road you’re on, whether or not you are in a bike lane, and what type of other people/vehicles are around you. Most cyclists who are injured by vehicles are hit when cars are making right turns and do not see the biker.
TIP TO REMEMBER: when proceeding through any intersection, ALWAYS position yourself at least a few feet
behind the bumper of the car in front of you. Though they may not have a turn signal blinking, they may
intend to make a right hand turn or decide to at the last minute. If you are next to them, you will be
in their blind spot and in a dangerous situation. If you are behind them, you will be able to see their
intentions more clearly and hit your brakes to slow down if you need to. This positioning also places you
directly in front of the car behind you (VISIBILITY) so that they are aware of your presence.
Tip #2: COMFORT
…ahhh yes. Many times I have heard people say, I would like to ride my bike, but it’s uncomfortable and the weather isn’t always great. Numero Uno: Welcome to the Pacific Northwest. But moving beyond the fact that Oregon (and many other states) does not provide windless sunny days with the consistency some might hope for, there are heaps of ways and strategies that will keep you comfy on your bike, no matter what the circumstances!
First of all, if your bike is uncomfortable, you may simply need to have changes made to your bike’s set up. It could be as simple as moving your seat, changing the angle of your handlebars, or learning the correct position on your bike. Luckily, there are skilled physical therapists (and you might know a few) who are trained to do cycle fits and can make changes to your bike to appropriately fit your anatomy or teach you exercises to improve your position, comfort, or efficiency when pedaling!
If you are pedaling frequently, the importance of having a good fit can not be overstated.
Preparing appropriately for the weather, or the possibility of weather, is another key factor in being comfy cozy on your bike! First and foremost, dress in layers! Nothing beats the elements of hot and cold like variety. It may be 10 degrees cooler in the hills than it is in the valley and you should plan accordingly.
Secondly, purchase, borrow, or find in a free box some good rain gear. It’s truly amazing how impervious to wet Gortex can be; and how much easier it is to get your pedal on in the rain when you know you’ll still be dry once you strip off your waterproof layer upon arrival. Additionally, you can bring extra clothes with you to change into or leave a spare set at your common destinations. For example, I leave my work clothes at work, along with an extra pair of dry shoes…never mind that half the time I opt for barefoot status…but that’s another story.
Being comfortable on your bike also includes an amount of confidence in yourselfon the road. If you feel hesitant to ride your bike amidst cars, there are simple steps you can take to be sure you have a comfortable and safe route. For one thing, improving your visibility to cars (see above) will give you confidence that everyone knows you’re there. Also, take bike routes or side streets anytime it’s possible. If you live in lovely Ptown, you’ll find no shortage of preferred marked bike routes and bike lanes; most outdoor or bike shops sell maps that specifically detail these. Mapping your routes accordingly will dramatically decrease the number of cars you get close to while pedaling and you will get to see more fantastic bike commuters like yourself!
If you don’t feel confident about your balance on a bike, particularly at intersections when a stop is required, try these tips:
When you stop at an intersection, DO NOT try to continue sitting on your seat with both your feet touching the ground on either side. This is a precarious position full of terrible teeter totter possibilities. INSTEAD, bring your seat off your saddle and place one foot (or both) on the ground. Lean your bike slightly down towards the foot you have placed on the ground (the other may be on the pedal still). This will give you a more stable gravitationally affected triangle AND it will have you in the ready position to push down on your pedal and restart when that light turns green!
Practice your starts and stops around your neighborhood (that’s right, where everyone can see you). This will help you gain confidence in going at different speeds, stopping appropriately, and restarting…without any other cyclists or cars to worry about.
Tip #3: R.E.S.P.E.C.T.
find out what it means …for you…sing with me now!
No matter where you’re going or what kind of bike you’re riding, you should always always ALWAYS respect the road.Remember that it is a very hard surface and fairly unforgiving to your amazing flesh covered body. I could rant about wearing a helmet, but I will assume that if you’re smart enough to be reading this blog, you likely R.E.S.P.E.C.T your brain and the way it currently functions, so I will not address its importance specifically in this article.
Respecting the road also meansadhering to the rules.Stop at signs and lights that involve the color red, use appropriate signals for turning and indicating a change in direction, and just say no to agro! Remember, you have nothing to prove out there and in a fight between you and a heavy metal box with wheels, you will always lose. Keep this in mind.
Some of these tips go back to visibility and communication. Just because you’re wearing that superstar helmet does not mean that cars or other cyclists can read your mind. Tell us what you’re going to do before you do it! Biking on the street is like having a relationship, the more open and forthright you are, the less likely that anyone will get hurt.
Riding a bike is one of the funnest, bestest, most awesomest ways to get around. Making every pedal a comfy cozy happy safe ride can only help! More power to the pedal!
Morgan’s commute to New Heights is 30 miles round trip. This is the view from her bike during the February snow storm.