Learn what to look for in a properly fitting bike

May is National Bike Month. We know many people who purchase a bike just jump on and start riding. That’s the fun of it, right? Maybe for a bit — but after riding for a while, many riders complain of a hard seat, numbness in their legs, or just overall discomfort. Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be this way. There is a science behind proper bike fit and how it impacts your comfort and performance.

The UPMC Sports Medicine Cycling Performance program’s own bike fitting expert, Matt Tinkey, MS, ATC, PES, knows that a proper bike fit brings with it the benefits of:

  • Preventing injuries.
  • Improving rider comfort.
  • Improving overall cycling performance.
  • Eliminating pain and numbness while riding.
  • Improving efficiency on the bike.

Never Miss a Beat!

Get Healthy Tips Sent to Your Phone!

Message and data rates may apply. Text the word STOP to opt out and HELP for help. Click here to view the privacy and terms.

How a Bike Fit Assessment Works

During your bike fit assessment, Matt guides you through flexibility and bone structure evaluations and asks about previous injuries that could affect your ride. He then discusses bike fit fundamentals, the goals and challenges of your cycling experience, and proper positioning. He uses state-of-the-art technology to measure body angles while you’re aerodynamically positioned on a time trial bike in order to find the proper position for maximum comfort and performance.

Matt also uses video analysis, with cameras positioned at both the back and front to measure certain angles and display how your body moves. He’ll ask you to pedal for few a minutes so that he can capture the position of your knees, feet, hips, and upper body. The video will help him make minor adjustments to the saddle, cleats, and aerobars. After the adjustment, Matt may have you jump on your own bike and pedal for a few minutes in the aerodynamic position to capture more footage of your body positions throughout the pedal strokes. He can compare both sets of footage side-by-side to be sure the adjustments correct your body position appropriately.

The Basics of a Bike Fit

At your assessment, we want to mimic your typical bike ride and improve it. So, be sure to bring the cycling shorts or bib you typically ride in, bike shoes, a small towel, and a water bottle. While there are a variety of comfort and performance factors that come into play with each individual cyclist, these are the basic bike fit fundamental adjustments you’ll go over with Matt:

  • Saddle position:
    • Height.
    • Tilt angle.
    • Position on the rails.
    • Suggestions on the best saddle to meet your requirements.
  • Handle bar/aerobar position:
    • Height.
    • Length.
    • Angle.
  • Shoes:
    • Cleat positions.
    • Insole.
    • Suggestions on the best shoes to meet your requirements.

Whether you are just getting into bike riding or have been cycling for a while, you can help your body stay injury-free by having a proper fit on your bike. Every cyclist has their individualized pedal stroke, body type, and comfort needs, so having a fit tailored just to you can make a big difference in injury prevention and performance.

About Cycling Performance at UPMC

UPMC Sports Medicine’s Cycling Performance program can help you ride longer and faster while preventing or managing a biking-related injury. Our highly trained experts and evidence-based cycling performance program offers:

  • Assessments of bike equipment, mechanics, and proper bike fit.
  • Management and treatment of cycling-related injuries.
  • Technical consults and injury prevention methods.
  • Other cycling performance tips to assist performance on your rides.

Matt is a certified athletic trainer and an expert in all things cycling, including bike fitting. He has more than 15 years of experience helping cyclists manage and prevent injuries by making sure they are properly fitted and free from any biomechanical issues. Matt is also an avid competitive and recreational cyclist, competing in numerous local and regional events.

Our cycling performance experts — all certified athletic trainers — have helped riders manage and prevent cycling-related injuries since 2004 and are certified by CyclePoint. The out-of-pocket rates for a bike fit session are detailed on our website. Come see us at the UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex!

To learn more about the UPMC Sports Medicine Cycling Performance Program or schedule an appointment, email CyclingPerformance@UPMC.edu or call 724-720-3047.

[Thank you to UPMC Health Plan health coach Christian Gabarda MS, CWWS, AFAA, whose positive bike fit experience inspired this article.]

About Sports Medicine

An athletic lifestyle carries the potential for injury. Whether you’re an elite athlete or a weekend warrior, UPMC Sports Medicine can help. If you are looking to prevent, treat, or rehabilitate a sports injury, our multidisciplinary team of experts can help you get back into the game. If you are seeking to improve your athletic performance, we can work with you to meet your goals. We serve athletes and active people of all ages and experience levels. Our goal is to help you keep doing what you love. Visit our website to find a specialist near you.