SOURCE: American Physical Therapy Association

July 05, 2005 12:09 ET

American Physical Therapy Association Offers Tips for Leisure Cyclists and Competitive Riders Alike

Poor Bike Fit Can Contribute to Cycling Injuries

ALEXANDRIA, VA -- (MARKET WIRE) -- July 5, 2005 -- For weekend bicycle enthusiasts and competitive riders alike, the risk of a bicycle-related injury may increase with an ill-fitting bicycle, says the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA).

According to APTA member Erik Moen, PT, CSCS, "Good bike fit promotes good posture with muscles and joints working in harmony. If this doesn't exist, riders will likely experience pain and be predisposed to injury." Moen, an "Elite Level" coach through the United States Cycling Federation and director of physical therapy at PRO Sports Club Seattle, says, "The first thing I ask any patient complaining of bicycling-related pain is to bring the bicycle in to check for a proper fit. In most instances, a poor bike fit is at the root of the problem."

Only 1 percent of America's cyclists are elite racers, Moen notes, so the majority of his patients are recreational cyclists. But he says that the same advice holds true for everyone. "It doesn't matter if you're Lance Armstrong preparing for an unprecedented seventh Tour de France victory or a leisure cyclist, bicycle fit is an individual matter that reflects a person's coordination, flexibility, strength, and skeletal parameters." He adds, "A properly fitted bicycle should allow the rider to maintain common riding positions with an acceptable level of comfort and the greatest pedaling economy."

Moen, who races on the road and in an indoor cycling arena called a velodrome, says that the most common bike fit errors include excessive saddle height (high and low), excessive handlebar reach (long and short), and misalignments of the pedal and shoe. He recommends that cyclists do the following to ensure that they have proper bike fit:


Be sure that the saddle is level for endurance and recreational riding. If you are sliding too far forward from a forward-tilting saddle, too much weight is being placed on your arms and back. If the seat is tilted backwards, posture will be compromised and you may place undue strain on your lower back and possibly experience saddle-related pain.


The location of handlebars will be determined by a person's height, strength, coordination, and functional goals. Higher handlebars will have you put more weight on the saddle. Generally, taller riders should have lower handlebars in relation to the height of the saddle. If handlebars are too far forward, you'll be putting strain on your back.

Moen notes that riders should re-examine their bicycle fit after bad falls or crashes, due to possible re-orientation of handlebars, brakehoods, cleats, or the saddle.

Physical Condition

Equally important to proper bike fit is a rider's physical condition, observes Moen. "Good flexibility of the hamstrings, quadriceps, and gluteal muscles is crucial because these muscles generate the majority of the pedaling force and must move through the pedal-stroke in an ideal 80-90 revolutions per minute." He adds, "Proper stretching, balance, and flexibility exercises help with coordination of cycling-related skills such as breaking and cornering." Moen also cautions that changes in riders' strength and flexibility affect the ability to attain certain positions on the bicycle and also may require them to re-examine their bike fit.

Moen also points out there are bicycle accessories on the market -- such as softer handlebar tape, shock absorbers for the seat post and front fork, cut-out saddles, and wider tires -- that help to bring comfort to the sport. "Cycling should be about enjoyment, not pain," concludes Moen. "Proper bicycle fit will minimize discomfort and possible overuse injury, maximize economy, and ensure safe bicycle operation. Proper bicycle fit will make your ride a lot more pleasurable."

Tips for avoiding bike fit-related injuries follow this release and images demonstrating proper bike fit are posted on APTA's Web site,

The APTA Web site also offers consumers access to health information in the form of brochures and news releases, as well as "Find a PT," a national database of physical therapist members of APTA.

The American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) is a national professional organization representing nearly 67,000 members. Its goal is to foster advancements in physical therapy practice, research, and education. For more information about APTA and physical therapy, please visit


    Posture Tips
--  Knee should be slightly bent when you are at the bottom of the
    pedal stroke, and your hips should not rock while pedaling.
--  Hand position should be changed frequently for greater upper-body
--  A higher cadence (speed) and using easier gears will help you
    achieve better
    pedaling skills. Your goal cadence should be 80-90 revolutions per
    minute. A bicycle computer with cadence read-out is very useful.
    Common Bicycling Pains
--  Anterior (Front) Knee Pain. Possible causes are having a saddle that
    is too low, pedaling at a low cadence (speed), using your quadriceps
    muscles too much in pedaling, misaligned bicycle cleat for those who use
    clipless pedals, and muscle imbalance in your legs (strong quadriceps and
    weak hamstrings).
--  Neck Pain. Possible causes include poor handlebar or saddle position.
    A poorly placed handlebar might be too low, at too great a reach, or at too
    short a reach. A saddle with excessive downward tilt can be a source of
    neck pain.
--  Lower Back Pain. Possible causes include inflexible hamstrings, low
    cadence, using your quadriceps muscles too much in pedaling, poor back
    strength, and too-long or too-low handlebars.
--  Hamstring Tendinitis. Possible causes are inflexible hamstrings, high
    saddle, misaligned bicycle cleat, and poor hamstring strength.
--  Hand Numbness or Pain. Possible causes are short-reach handlebars,
    poorly placed brake levers, and a downward tilt of the saddle.
--  Foot Numbness or Pain. Possible causes are using quadriceps muscles
    too much in pedaling, low cadence, faulty foot mechanics, and misaligned
    bicycle cleat for those who use clipless pedals.
--  Ilio-Tibial Band Tendinitis.  Possible causes are too-high saddle, leg
    length difference, and misaligned bicycle cleat for those who use clipless

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