Complete Bike Fit and Cycle Clinic

Complete Bike Fit and Cycle Clinic

At Complete Bike fit we provide the highest quality service to enhance our clients cycling performance and reduce the risk of injury. We have teamed up with GebiomizedÆ for their market leading equipment and software analytics, as used by Team Ineos (formerly Team Sky), Trek/Segafredo, and Mitchelton/Scott world tour UCI (Union Cyliste Internationale) teams.

We have Dan Boyd, a physiotherapist with over 12 years clinical experience and renowned bike fit specialist. Dan is a multiple ironman, nxtri series athlete and endurance cyclist. As an IBFI (International Bike Fitting Institute) certificated bike fitter, Dan combines his clinical experience and bike fit skills to provide an unrivalled service.

The process of an ideal bike fit begins with the analysis of the individual. We carry out a movement screen and use specialist musculoskeletal tests to quantify range of movement in the ankles, knees, spine, hips and shoulders. We aim for parity of movement and highlight anything outside of the normal range for this series of evidence based musculoskeletal screening.

We also utilise handheld dynamometry (HHD) to ensure the best opportunity of perfect 50:50 strength distribution on the bike. HHD has been shown to be an effective and reliable method for measuring muscle strength (Thorberg et al, 2010). We test all major muscle groups involved in cycling and add exercises to the bike fit report. This ensures clients find comfort and enhanced performance prevention on their bike, whilst being painfree. Our testimonials and reviews highlight the importance and benefits of seeing a specialist in these scenarios.

Once we have gathered and discussed all the physical data, we move our clients straight onto the bike. Cadence, Power (Watts), and predicted average speed are monitored via Tac X software, and the biomechanical motion analysis is captured with 60 Hz high speed motion capture cameras using grids and reference lines to allow for the best analysis of movement quality.

Bottom Dead Centre (BDC)

The first and often the most helpful position that we assess during the bike fit is the BDC (Bottom Dead Centre) position, this is technical shorthand for the angle of the knee at the very bottom of the pedal motion. The opposite is TDC (Top Dead Centre) where the opposite knee would be placed, and the crank arms would be vertical. We often find that Saddle Height, the factor that is most prominent in affecting BDC position. This is an area that clients often receive conflicting information on. With so much evidence available it is difficult for cyclists to understand what works for their level of cycling and body measurements. Therefore, it is essential this is carried out by a professional bike fitter to ensure you gain the right information and ultimately the most effective set up.

Price and Donne et al (1997) first highlighted the ‘optimal position’ of BDC and this has been modified and adapted in the professional arena of cycling with use of software and motion analysis equipment, such as GebiomizedÆ which is available in our clinics.

We aim for a BDC angle (B) of between 35∞ and 40∞ for most of our cyclists.

diagram-showing-optimum-knee-angles-for-cyclists

It is argued that more advanced or ‘trained’ cyclists would aim to progressively reduce this angle over time. Strengthening, stretching and training principles over time allow cyclists to achieve more aggressive positions on the bike. A widely held opinion is that the lowest BDC position should be between 20∞- 25∞.

Measuring the best BDC position for you is completed with a physical measurement and confirmed utilising our GebiomizedÆ motion analysis. We optimise the BDC position by altering the saddle height of the bike to bring the knee into the optimal angle range. We avoid making large corrections unless it is absolutely necessary and will always supply our cyclists with target ranges along with a review consultation if needed. This allows a more gradual change towards the most optimal position; however, we pride ourselves on ensuring this is the only bike fit you will need!

Knee Over Pedal (KOPS)

The second position that we analyse during the bike fit is the KOPS (knee over pedal) position (A). This is where the foot and crank are in the 3 o’clock position and the knee is sitting over the pedal spindle.

cycle-clinic-bike-fit-london-plumb-lineIdeally at this point you should be able to imagine a plumb line directly from the knee through the pedal spindle. Fantastically simple and in real terms it is still used by many bike fitters around the world. The KOPS position is where you can gain some serious power, make a difference and also resolve cycling related knee pain, whether PFJ (patella-femoral joint) or ITB (iliotibial band) or simple tendinitis pathology (Asplund, C. and St Pierre, P., 2004. Bailey M, Maillardet F and Messenger N., 2003. Nguyen, A.D., Boling, M.C., Levine, B., et al, 2009).

Problems are frequently reported within the literature, about the standardisation, approach (aerodynamics vs power) and individual complexities for the rider on ‘non-road bike fits’. The physical assessment for bike fits is completely flawed for TT (time trial) cyclists and in fact any speciality cyclist from BMX to MTB cycle set ups (Kraus, L., Schade, D. and Natrup, J 2015) (Rottenbacher, C., Zaccaria, D., Gualea, M.R., 2009). This, however, is where our 10,000 motion analysis data point assessment really stands out from the crowd. KOPS provides the basis for a good starting position and certainly a great way of completing a basic bike fit at home.

The combination of physical assessment, motion analysis data points and Dan Boyd’s clinical expertise provide the best situation for you to achieve the best power transfer possible, crucial for any cyclist.

The most common injuries for cyclists are the knee (34%) and hip (28%). The BDC and KOPS assessment points on the bike fit not only help these issues but will often eliminate pain on the bike. (Wilber, C.A., Holland, G.J., Madison, R.E, 1995). The nature of cycling makes a 3-6 hour cycle, a weekly occurrence for some riders and this amount of cycling can magnify insufficiencies in the biomechanical set up of the bike and human resulting in injury and a reduction in optimal performance.

Handlebar Position

Our third position is one that can pull these positions together and also is the one used to optimise aero silhouette, comfort and handling for a cyclist. The handlebar position is vital.

Firstly, get the basics right! With a vast array of handlebars available, make sure that on a road bike the width of the bars is equal to your shoulder width. This is one of the simplest aspects of the bike fit for people to do at home, you should measure acromion to acromion (shoulder to shoulder), and instantly you have your ideal handlebar width.

For MTB (mountain bike) cyclists this width would indicate where your brake levers should be and the grips further to the side of the brake levers allowing for more comfort whether seated or standing on the bike and comfortable braking in both positions also. If the handlebar width is incorrect then pressure placed on the wrists will be excessive and will normally cause problems. These issues occur when the rider does not achieve a neutral position, causing excessive pressure on the muscles, nerves and joints of the wrist this is potentially very debilitating and is usually very easy to correct.

The positioning on the bike will differ if you are a mountain biker compared to a road cyclist. For the rest of the article we will focus on the road bike positioning, which starts with stem length.

Frame size and stem length

As a general rule, if your frame size is correct, then a stem length of 100mm-120mm should be ideal (Silberman, M.R., Webner, D., Collina, S, et al., 2005). There are arguments for stems of 130mm and 140mm to achieve greater length in the spine and therefore a more pronounced aero position. These positions are extreme and take time to get use to and are not suitable for everyone. For most, including professional cyclists, achieving this position is the result of hundreds of hours on the bike, Pilates, Yoga and strength & conditioning work must be part of your preparation to achieve this position and avoid injury.

Another consideration that we are always mindful of is that handling can be adversely affected by a stem that is too short or too long. Too short and it can be twitchy, too long and it can feel laboured and ‘out of touch’. Recognising this, we aim to avoid extreme positions and gain good aero and hand positions utilising all elements of the bike fit process.

The recommended Torso angle is between 45∞- 55. The TT and Crit riders reading this, who are aiming for the perfect aero silhouette will want to manipulate this position. This is where the bike fit can be essential to achieve the “best” position whilst maintaining cardiovascular optimisation, biomechanical optimisation and comfort to hold that position for 20, 30, 40 minutes or longer. (Silberman, M.R., Webner, D., Collina, S. et al., 2005)

The bend in the arms is also critical before accepting a position on the bike, having relaxed arms allows for less tension (contraction) in the upper limb muscle, therefore allowing for more blood to flow to your legs. Also bracing through the arms is a very common cause of neck pain in cyclists especially during your longer rides. You do not have to settle for neck pain, it is not normal just because you ride for a long time!

As a guide, a cyclist riding a road bike should have approximately 10∞-25∞ elbow bend, depending on the type of position you would like to achieve and the cyclist should also be able to reach the drop bars easily (Silberman, M.R., Webner, D., Collina, S., 2005). A greater arm bend generally is chosen for those wanting to get the best possible aero position, this is usually negotiated and discussed between cyclist and bike fitter.

Once we have an acceptable position for the handlebars, the torso is looking balanced and safe, and your engine (KOPS and BDC positions) is good, we move to brake levers. This is the bug bear of many bike fits!

The brake levers and hoods are the least changed or acknowledged position for most clients that we see, however, it can be the most beneficial. Cycling manufacturers have invested millions when designing the hoods and ergonomic design of brake levers. Firstly, they can and should be moved to accommodate a neutral wrist position to provide a comfortable riding position for the cyclist (Fronczek-Wojciechowska, M., Kopacz, K., Kosielski, P., 2016). A note for MTB riders is that brake levers on a mountain bike will be in line with the grips, and then positioned at the rider’s discretion for comfort and easy accessibility.

Pedals

In the final section of the bike fit, we look at the pedals, a long history of progression exists in the design and use of pedals in cycling. This leaves cyclists with a wide variety to choose from and we see all types of pedals, from platform pedals to cleats within the clinic.

The known advantage of using cleat pedals is the extra force transfer you will gain with each pedal stroke, which will increase energy efficiency and power. Further to this, the amount of cleat ‘locking’ you choose, which is again wide and varied between manufacturers, works along the basic premise that the less ‘float’ you have the better power transfer you have. Famously, British Cycling and Team Sky suffered an exponential rise in knee injuries in 2012, a crucial year, that was attributed to a new make of pedals and the amount of spring tension increase with the cleat mechanism. Thankfully the team figured this out in time and 2012 went well for most of the riders that year, however, it highlights the fact that pedals are not to be overlooked in the bike fit process!

Choosing a pedal set up can be discussed at the fit, as they are always specific to the individual. Tell-tale signs, such as a cyclist’s heel hitting and scuffing the crank arm are examples where energy is being wasted and abnormal forces are placed through the lower limb. We provide a NWB (non-weight bearing) and FWB (full weight bearing) measurement of pronation/supination values to adopt the cyclists individual requirements. This combination is essential for gaining the right information about your foot and your pedal!.

This involves making sure we capture the highest contact points of the cyclist’s foot with the pedal (Ruby, P. and Hull, M.L., 1993). It is commonly accepted that we aim for a valgus (knees pointing in) position if neutral cannot be achieved, as Ruby P and Hull M.L., (1993) conclusively demonstrated. They demonstrated that this will reduce injury forces at the knee compared to a Varus (knee out) position.

The last argument on pedals is the width of pedal spindles. We all have different pelvic widths or ‘Q-angles’ (‘Q angle’ is a measurement of pelvic width that is thought to contribute to sports injury risk) so we should adapt the bike fit here also. We start with ‘stance width’ and work out angles via motion analysis from this starting position. This again ensures our clients get the best force transfer onto the pedal, reducing injury forces through the lower limb.

The last consideration is, balance of weight on the bike, used by some bike fitters as a method of fitting, full stop. Which in our opinion is a disservice given the amount of data and research ignored when doing so. However, the ideal distribution should be between 55-60% at the back and 40-45% at the front (Burt, P., 2014. Silberman, M.R., Webner, D., Collina, S., 2005). This is difficult to measure in practice accurately, but we take into account the values and appearance of our clients on the bike to ensure a balanced position is obtained.

The unique combination of evidenced based practice, clinical knowledge and experience offered during your Complete Bike Fit ensures that the bike fit itself is as individual as the cyclist.

Whilst the modern bike fit is underpinned by evidence-based practice and science, there is always room for discussion between cyclist and bike fitter as each cyclist is as individual as the bike fit itself.

To ensure the final fit is the best it can be, Complete Bike Fit ensure good communication, clinical experience and relevant knowledge transfer for each cyclist. Bike fitting is an increasingly popular process and one that in our opinion has certainly improved and culminated in a definite evidence base for fitting a cyclist optimally.

For more information please contact info@complete-physio.co.uk or to make a booking contact 020 7482 3875.

References:

Asplund, C. and St Pierre, P., 2004. Knee pain and bicycling: fitting concepts for clinicians. The Physician and sportsmedicine32(4), pp.23-30.

BAILEY, M., MAILLARDET, F. and MESSENGER, N., 2003. Kinematics of cycling in relation to anterior knee pain and patellar tendinitis. Journal of sports sciences21(8), pp.649-657.

Burt, P., 2014. Bike Fit: Optimise your bike position for high performance and injury avoidance. A&C Black.

Fronczek-Wojciechowska, M., Kopacz, K., Kosielski, P. and Padula, G., 2016. Optoelectronic analysis of cyclists’ position before and after a bike fit: A case study of a professional women’s cycling team.

Kraus, L., Schade, D. and Natrup, J., 2015. Evaluating the central pressure point to determine the optimal saddle setback. Journal of Science and Cycling4(2).

Nguyen, A.D., Boling, M.C., Levine, B. and Shultz, S.J., 2009. Relationships between lower extremity alignment and the quadriceps angle. Clinical journal of sport medicine: official journal of the Canadian Academy of Sport Medicine19(3), p.201.

Price, D. and Donne, B., 1997. Effect of variation in seat tube angle at different seat heights on submaximal cycling performance in man. Journal of sports sciences15(4), pp.395-402.

Rottenbacher, C., Zaccaria, D., Gualea, M.R., Mimmi, G., Bonandrini, G. and Buzzi, E., 2009, September. A study on the biomechanical efficiency of different cycling positions. In presented at the 19th Congresso Associazione Italiana Di Meccanica Teorica E Applicata.

Ruby, P. and Hull, M.L., 1993. Response of intersegmental knee loads to foot/pedal platform degrees of freedom in cycling. Journal of biomechanics26(11), pp.1327-1340.

Silberman, M.R., Webner, D., Collina, S. and Shiple, B.J., 2005. Road bicycle fit. Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine15(4), pp.271-276.

Thorborg, K., Petersen, J., Magnusson, S.P. and Hölmich, P., 2010. Clinical assessment of hip strength using a handheld dynamometer is reliable. Scandinavian journal of medicine & science in sports20(3), pp.493-501.

Wilber, C.A., Holland, G.J., Madison, R.E. and Loy, S.F., 1995. An epidemiological analysis of overuse injuries among recreational cyclists. International journal of sports medicine16(03), pp.201-206.