Avoid Pain By Getting The Right Bike Fit

Adjust Your Bike for a Better Fit



If you are a biker in the Vail Valley, you are in luck when it comes to the trails. Singletrack, paved, beginner and expert— if you love to bike, we've got it!

Unfortunately, more than 1.3 million people are treated for bicycle-related injuries each year. As orthopaedic surgeons, we treat many of these injuries.

So let's talk about how to avoid biking injuries, and how you can get the best fit for your biking adventures!

The most common cycling and accidents involve

  • getting hit by or running into a car

  • colliding with another biker loss of control

  • feet slipping off the pedals

But injuries can also crop up from a bad bike fit. That's why it's crucial to get your bike fit right. Here are some tips on how to you can adjust your fit and position and prevent injury.

Bike Fit Tip: Adjusting the Saddle


Your bike seat should be at a level that supports your full body weight and allows you to move around on the seat. Too much upward tilt will cause pressure points, leading to an uncomfortable ride, which can lead to injury. Too much downward tilt can result in a forward slide, putting undue pressure on your arms, hands, and knees.

To adjust the seat height, place your heels on the pedals and pedal in a backward direction. Extend your knees fully. You can tell if the seat is too high by the hips— if they rock side to side, your seat is too high.

You can also adjust the seat to the front and the back. Doing this should give you more overall comfort.

Here are four steps to find the right position:


Put your feet on the pedals. The crank arms should be parallel with the ground. If you are in the right position, your forward knee will be directly over the axle of the pedal. Drop a weighted line from the patellar tendon in your knee to make this adjustment easier to see.


Bike Fit Tip: Handlebar Adjustment


The length of your stem will give you either more reach or more of an upright feel. What happens if your handlebars are off? It could lead to:

  • neck pain

  • shoulder pain

  • back pain

  • hand pain

You should be able to comfortably use all the positions on the handlebars and bend your elbows while riding.

Common Bike Fit Complaints and Possible Solutions


To find the proper fit, we sometimes need to employ a trial and error approach. If you fit is even slightly off, you might be facing pain in the future.

Here are some tips for adjusting common bike fit problems.

Knee Pain From Improper Bike Fit

Knee pain is a frequent complaint among cyclists. The following issues in bike fit can cause knee pain:

  • High seat

  • Low seat

  • Forward seat

  • Bad foot position on the pedalImproper cleat alignment

  • Problems with inconsistent leg length (one leg longer than the other). We can use orthotics to correct this issue.

  • Using a gear that is too high. You want to be able to pedal quickly. 70 to 100 strokes per minute is recommended.

Back Pain From Improper Bike Fit

Being hunched over for a long time can lead to back pain. Cyclists are in this position quite a bit, so we can see how it may result in pain.

To avoid back pain from cycling, we want to concentrate on one thing: proper posture. Getting this right can lessen strain upon the lower back and allow you to bike longer, stronger, with less pain.

Neck Pain From Improper Bike Fit

If your handlebars are too low or your bike frame is too long, you might end up dealing with neck pain. If you start having pain in your neck while or after riding, get your frame looked at and make sure it's not sized improperly for your body.

Foot Pain From Improper Bike Fit

Not surprisingly, they make special shoes for cycling and mountain biking. Stiff-soled cycling shoes help to distribute pressure evenly. Even pressure distribution leads to efficient pedaling, which can lessen the chance of foot pain.

Hand Pain or Numbness from Biking

Switching up your hand position occasionally while you are riding can reduce pressure.

Wear padded gloves. Keep your elbows bent slightly and don't "lock them out."

Better Bike Fit, Better Bike Ride


As we age, our bodies face more wear and tear, and we grow a bit less flexible. Being in an upright position will counter this effect, so don't be afraid to ride with good posture.

If you want to ride longer with less pain, consider getting a professional bike fit. This will help you avoid the pain that might make your cycling experience less enjoyable. The pros know that fit is key, and it's about fitting the bike to the rider, not the other way around.

Have fun out there!


For a custom bike fitting in the Summit County area, visit our friends at Avalanche Physical Therapy.

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