Understanding the connection between Bike and Rider

By Nas Karimi

With just over five months to go until you take on the Dragon Ride challenge you’re probably starting to think about training and preparing your body for the distance and climbing the event involves. It’s an obvious starting point and will prepare you physically for the demands of the ride and allow you to be comfortable spending time in the saddle, and manage your fuel loads. However, there is one important area of training and preparation that is often overlooked; the equipment you are using and how it is set up for you.

Bikes are typically designed and sized generically and the standard guide for buying a bike usually begins with the rider’s height. This is a basic starting point and it does not take into account how complex the human body is. For example take two 5 ft 10 riders, they may actually have considerably different leg length, torso length, arm span etc. The more useful process is to tailor the bike setup to fit a rider and not a rider to fit a bike.

Many riders may feel that they already know what works best for them or possibly have just got used to the way their bike was set up when they originally purchased it. Often this could create vulnerable areas within the body and increase the risk of injury or an unpleasurable ride simply from having an incorrect riding position.

Cycling is and should be an enjoyable and healthy experience, many however may struggle to get used to the endurance of longer rides and the demands of the body. This might be your first time doing the Dragon Ride, possibly the first time riding a bike for long distances, it’s why getting to know your body and understanding how you cope with cycling is really key to a successful day on the bike.

As a bike fitter I see first hand the benefits of a professional bike fit. Ultimately the aim is to make your riding experience much more pleasurable, whether that is for comfort, enjoyment or performance.

If you are considering a bike fit, here’s what you can expect:

  • The first and most important step is a rider consultation to understand each individual and find out the type of riding they’re doing and plan to do, how fit they are, how often they ride and any particular issues they have with their cycling and or general health. This will also include full body assessment determining if a rider possesses any imbalances or asymmetries that can affect the bike fit.
  • The aim of the session is to find an ideal position that will improve the connection between rider and bike. This is typically done using bike fitting equipment such as bike fit jigs and then comparatively testing different riding setups for example saddle height, handlebar reach, crank arm length, handlebar width etc. By working together, bike fitters are able to understand where an individuals’ tolerance range is and then find precise measurements that improve the connection between rider and bike. There are adjustments that can be made to that individual and their equipment (cycling shoes & kit) and of course the bike itself.
  • The outcome is positive, yet it’s not necessarily a one session fix, any adjustment can take time to settle in and feedback from the rider is always recommended in order to fine tune the position. This could be every 3-4 weeks from the initial bike fit until it’s what bike fitters like to call ‘optimal’.
  • Overall, a professional bike fit will certainly benefit you, whether you are a beginner or elite cyclist. Eliminating discomfort, reducing fatigue and improving performance are just a few objectives.

There is plenty of time to train physically and mentally, but it’s very important to pay attention to your feeling and sensitivity that you get when cycling and if anything doesn’t feel quite right, go and seek advice about your bike and your equipment, setup to explore if they can be improved in any way.

Local bike shops are a great place to start, not all will offer professional bike fitting services, so researching bike fitters in your local area or talking to others who have had this experience is also a great way to improve your cycling.

Additional tips:

Allow yourself plenty of time to plan for a bike fit, there may be some travelling to seek the right advice. There will be costs involved in a bike fit, this can vary depending on what changes are suggested but going in with an open mind is the best way and trusting the process of a bike fit. The value can be invaluable.

It’s best to be completely confident in your bike and setup as soon as you can so that it does not distract from the rest of your training. Don’t leave it until a few weeks out as this can end up being a negative experience on the day.

Some suggestions on bike fitting services:

  • Pearson Cycles – London (Nas Karimi)
  • Torke Cycling – Bristol (Tony Corke)
  • UK Bike Fit – Derby (Dan Smith)