The RIGHT Bike Fit
Physical fitness for the industrial athlete is essential. We write about this all the time. All. The. Time. Recently it was on a simple aerobic walking program. The industrial athlete, however, is often already standing or walking for most of the day. While this is not specifically aerobic in nature, the thought of doing additional walking may be mildly to offensively off-putting. We get it. Spending more time on your feet some days, no thank you.
Here is another idea. A fantastic way to work on cardiovascular and physical fitness while staying off your feet is cycling. National Bike to Work day falls in this week and though you may not be biking TO work…you can celebrate by biking FOR work. As in, biking for physical fitness!
There are some important guidelines to know before you start. Finding the right fit while on the bike is important not only for comfort but for preventing repetitive motion injuries. If you find this to sound more appealing, a review of proper bike fit is important.
Here are some things to consider:
First, bikes are not a one size fit all (excluding stationary bikes which have adjustments). Without getting into nitty gritty details, you want to choose (or have) a bike where you are able to stand while straddling your bicycle without touching the cross bar. It will be about 1-2 inches below you.
Second, consider seat height: This is important for protecting your knees and hips. When your foot is at the bottom of the pedal stroke, your knee should bend slightly. The recommendation is the knee should be approximately 80-90% straight. If your knee is bent too much you are not leveraging use of the correct muscles and putting yourself on a course for knee soreness. If your leg is too straight you will feel like you are constantly reaching from one side to another and likely getting some unfriendly friction in the seat area. Take our advice, don’t do this.
Third, consider the height of your handlebar: This can be the difference between a sore neck and an enjoyable ride. Particularly for non-competitive cycling, having a handlebar too low forces you to look up and extend the neck (leading to a sore neck). You want to aim for a position where your arms have a modest amount of “shock absorbing” bend to them. Avoid straightened, locked out elbows. This does not lend itself to healthy elbows AND you will miss out on the great core work!
#StrongIsNeverWrong tip: When riding, you want to think about engaging your core to keep a straight, upright trunk. Save the slouched shoulders for another time. Use this opportunity to strengthen the core muscles of your trunk and train them to stabilize you.
For example, think about opening your chest and giving a slight squeeze to your shoulder blades. Then draw your belly button towards your spine, tightening your lower abdominal muscles. Can you put less pressure on your handlebars? Test yourself to see if you can hold your position on the bike with 25% of your weight through your arms. How long can you hold this? Not only will you be working on cardiovascular endurance, but you will also be doing your low back a favor and strengthening your spine! Win win win.