Proper Bike Fit: Biking your Way to Health or Hurt

Love the feeling of the wind in your hair, the sun shining down on your pale northwest skin and the energized pumping of your legs as they pedal you towards your destination? While cycling is fun and a excellent form of exercise, it can also create a variety of hazards — and we’re not talking about the traffic related kind. With more new cyclists on the road than ever before, as massage therapists we’re finding more and more patients with body issues related to their new favorite past time.

Whether you’re a newbie rider or an old pro,  riding a bike that is the wrong size or fit or that causes improper positioning of the body, can wreak havoc on your muscles, joints and spine.  The following tips should keep you rolling all summer long!

  • Places like the Bike Gallery and other bicycle shops offer “Fit Services” (for a fee), some chiropractors also offer these services. These experts can help you get the best fit for your body with your bicycle. It’s amazing what raising or lowering a seat, handlebar or pedal, can do to improve both your alignment and your performance on the bicycle. Allowing you to avoid injury.
  • Watch for biking tips on local blogs. Many of the local bike shops now have blogs that offer a variety of ideas on how to keep your bike and your body in tip-top condition. Bike Gallery has a wonderful blog as does The Recyclery,  as well as the  BTA’s (Bicycle Transportation Alliance) site — they are chock full of resources for riders such as maps, bike safety tips and tutorials for new riders.

Biking Health and Gender

Interestingly enough there are some issues that are gender specific on a bicycle. Male and female bodies are, quite obviously, “different down there,” making for very different seating ideals, biking fit and comfort and subsequently, different problems.

  • Women often develop sores and vaginitis as a consequence of riding a lot. Visit these sites for more information on women’s cycling issues and how to prevent them, as well as how to find the right fit for your bod.
  • For men there are also specific problems (in the genital region) that can be caused by riding. Much has been said on the topic of saddle type and claims of damaging effects on the prostate. We found a wonderfully informative article that speaks about the importance of bicycle fit and its influence on erectile dysfunction.  Another great article by Charlie McCorkell of Bicycle Habitat in New York City seeks to “debunk the cycling-creates-impotence myth.”

Whether you ride a little or a lot, remember to be aware of your body and please listen to what it is telling you!  Sometimes it’s just a matter of finding the right style bicycle, adjusted for proper fit, that can mean the difference between arms and legs that fall asleep and an energized ride with the wind in your face.

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