Bike fit limitations
Much as I wish it were otherwise, a bike fit cannot instantly solve every injury or cause of discomfort that a cyclist might suffer in the course of their cycling journey. Don’t get me wrong, there is a huge array of problems that a bike fit can fix. But, in the interest of expectation management, let’s explore some bike fit limitations.
Often the trigger for a cyclist to seek a bike fit is that they already have a problem. Their knee hurts. Or they have saddle sores. Or their hands get numb. Often such problems are directly caused by a sub-optimal position or equipment that isn’t right for the rider. I really treasure the look on a client’s face when, with a position adjustment or a change of saddle, the pain goes away. It just makes my day!
But there are times when the pain remains, even though the position is now improved. If you have developed a cyst on your under carriage from saddle friction, any contact is going to hurt until that cyst heals. Similarly, knee tendonitis caused by having your saddle too low is going to take some time to resolve itself after the aggravating factor has been removed. Time, and perhaps some remedial massage, is what’s required.
Another common cause for problems on the bike is an existing injury. These are caused by all sorts of things. Like a bike crash, an old rugby injury or repetitive strain experienced sitting at a desk.
It’s not all bad news here. Often we can make changes to the bike to accommodate an injury and minimise the impact it has on your cycling. This can keep you on the bike as you recover, limiting loss of fitness and helping with your mental health. It these cases it’s good to revisit the bike fit as you improve, eventually getting back to a (non-injured) optimal position.
There are cases where no position on the bike is going to work. (I really can’t do much to help you ride with a broken leg.) Sometimes you just have to take time off the bike to let things heal.
As an aside, there have been a few times during the process of a bike fit where I’ve identified possible injuries that the rider hasn’t been aware of. I have collaborated with a number of sports physicians over the years and refer the rider to the appropriate one.
Suffering an underlying pathology
Saying that someone has a ‘pathology’ is just a fancy way of referring to an underlying medical issue. This covers a huge number of things that can impact comfort and power on the bike. Things like iliac artery endofibrosis (there have been some high profile cases of this in the professional peloton recently), peripheral arterial disease or adhesive capsulitis (frozen shoulder).
Like with injuries, we can sometimes adjust the fit to reduce the impact of these medical issues. That said, most of the time the issue itself needs to be addressed for there to be a totally satisfactory solution.
From the stiffness caused by sitting at a desk all day to the impacts of cerebral palsy, physical limitations can’t help but impact a bike fit. With a bit of work, the bike can be made to fit most people but there are limits. If you have fused vertebra, you might not be able to get the handlebars as low as you want. If your stomach protrudes enough, it will mean we have to keep the hip angle more open than we might otherwise.
Some physical limitations can be reduced or overcome in time. Whilst working towards that, your fit should reflect where you are now.
But still hopeful
So a bike fit can’t fix everything. But don’t lose hope. It is rare that between my bike fit, remedial massage and exercise physiology knowledge I can’t find ways to at least reduce the impact of an injury/pathology/physical limitation. Get in contact and we can discuss your particular circumstances.