Secrets To Treating Bicycling Injuries

Author(s): 
By Mark A. Caselli, DPM, Edward C. Rzonca, DPM and John J. Rainieri, DPM

Ensuring The Best Size Fit For Bicycles

   The frame size is the single most important aspect of the bicycle and the proper size is vital to safety, performance and injury-free biking. Correct frame size is determined by straddling the bike in a standing position. Lift the entire bike off the floor until the top tube is pressing against the crotch. The distance between the bottom of the bike’s tires and the floor should be 1 to 2 inches for a road bike and 3 to 6 inches for a mountain bike.    Correctly positioning the saddle will help maximize power and stability while minimizing the risk of lower extremity pain. To set the saddle height, the cyclist should sit on the bike in a normal riding position with the crank arms straight up and down. With the ball of the foot on the pedal in the 6 o’clock position, the biker should bend the knee at an angle of 25 to 30 degrees. Some mountain bikers prefer a lower seat to improve off-road stability and maneuverability.    To set the saddle fore and aft position, one should drop a plumb line from the front of the cyclist’s patella while he or she is sitting on the bike with the crank arms horizontal. Adjust the saddle forward or backward until the kneecap of the front leg is directly over the pedal axle. Some mountain bikers prefer to have the saddle about one-half inch back from this position in order to improve rear wheel traction while climbing. The biker may then adjust the saddle for tilt. The saddle should be level or slightly upward for men and level or slightly downward for women.    Foot placement varies depending on what type of pedal system the rider is using. If the bike has simple platform pedals or pedals with toe clips and straps, the widest part of the foot should center over the pedal axle. If the rider uses clipless pedals (which firmly attach to cleats bolted to the cycling shoes), one should adjust the cleats so foot placement on the pedals is the same as the natural foot position during ambulation. Most modern pedal systems offer a choice of cleats. Some fix the foot to the pedal in a single position while others allow some internal and external rotation (floating) of the foot while pedaling. The latter type may be less likely to cause overuse injuries. One can post cleats with spacers to help correct faulty biomechanics created by pronated or supinated feet.

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