I have discussed in a previous post about why and how to cycle defensively in urban areas. I overlooked what is perhaps the most important thing a cyclist can do – make certain the bike fits. Otherwise, the ability to maneuver around hazards, stop suddenly and accelerate when necessary is compromised.
Bike fitting can get complicated and, expensive. You can pay hundreds of dollars for a fit and hundreds more for equipment upgrades – saddles, stems, handlebars, cranks. However, there are three essential guidelines to consider – three checks that you can do yourself from the seat of your bike as illustrated above.
- Can you touch your foot to the ground when seated on your saddle? If you are unable to reach the ground, your saddle is too high. You may be able to lower it provided the frame is not too large for you.
- When your cranks are level to the ground, is the front of your lead knee perpendicular to the pedal axle? This positioning enables you to deliver maximum power. Adjustments to saddle height and positioning forward or backward may be necessary.
- When cycling in a neutral position with the arms outstretched and relaxed, is the front wheel’s axle blocked from your view by your handlebars? This puts you in a powerful, balanced position without straining the back. Lateral adjustment to the saddle may be necessary or the stem may be too long or short.
There are several other minor adjustments that can be made – the angle of the handlebars, the positioning of the brake/shift levers, the angle of the stem, the height of the stem, the width of the handlebars and the angle of the seat. As you become stronger and more flexible, further adjustments may be necessary. Bike fitting is not a one-time event. Each season you need to re-evaluate your riding position making certain you can touch the ground if necessary, deliver optimum power to the pedals and remain in a comfortable position without reaching too far with your arms and keeping your back in a neutral position.
Get fit. Ride often. Ride safely.