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A Sports Chiropractor’s take on Bike set-up Biomechanics

Dr. Jason Berry, a Sports Chiropractor at Pure Healthcare in Albany, wants to help you ride faster and stronger.  Having the right bike set up is critical to be in efficient and injury free on your bike.  As Dr. Jason puts it… “I’m here to tell you that cycling shouldn’t be a pain in the neck or butt, and if you’re in pain you are less likely to enjoy it or reach you true potential.” 

Correct bike set up is crucially important in helping to take the strain off the spine, hips, knees, ankles, and feet This can prevent problems such as low back pain, neck pain, numbness and tingling in the hands/feet, ITBS (Iliotiibal Band Syndrome) and other common overuse injuries in cyclists. The following are a few of the most important and easiest ways to optimize your work on the bike.  Until you get your spine and feet moving correctly, joint and muscle discomfort will start up, return, or may never go away completely.  Being out of alignment on your bike will also make you weaker and slower.  Who better to tell you about bike and spine mechanics than a sports Chiropractor like Dr. Jason.  So, here are his tips for optimal performance on your bike.


Bicycle Anatomy

Figure 1 relates to the naming of certain bicycle parts, it is important to get to know these, when it comes to correcting your set up or asking for advice on what to change.

Measuring your body

Wear your cycling shorts and have socks on.

Inseam “I”: this is the most important dimension of all, this gives a far more accurate means of determining the size of the bicycle frame and seat height. This is the inside leg measurement while having your feet about 10cm apart. Measure from the top of the inside of the thigh, keeping the tape measure against your leg to the floor.


Bicycle measurement terminology

Saddle height (SH): (Figure 3) measure from the centre of the bottom bracket to the top of the saddle. The top of the saddle is determined by placing a ruler across the length of the saddle and measuring parallel to the seat tube to the ruler’s edge.

Saddle-handlebar distance (SHB): A guideline for saddle to handlebar reach is to put the tip of your elbow on the nose of the saddle and see how far your longest finger reaches along the stem; forearm length is generally a good indicator of full arm and torso length. Most riders looking for a fast and efficient trail riding posture will discover that their longest finger reaches to almost exactly halfway between the steerer top and the handlebar centre.

The saddle height must be adjusted first.

The saddle height is calculated by multiplying your inseam “I” by 0.885.

ie. SH = “I” x 0.885.

NB: If you have a saddle height that is lower than calculated here, you must gradually raise the height by millimetres over several months to allow your body to adapt. This is especially true if you train regularly as your muscles and their tendons will need the time to get accustomed to the new angles across your hips, knees and ankles.

The saddle-handlebar distance should be checked next, if you feel that you are too stretched out on the bike, or if you feel that your weight is to far forward either the frame is too big for you or the bicycle stem is too long. It is obviously much easier to try a shorter stem, most bike shops will have a variety for you to test.

The stem height is determined by what feels right for you. Modern cycling techniques over the years have shown that even 10cm for this measurement is not uncommon.


In Summary

After all the measuring and setting-up, the most important factor is feel. Saddle height is paramount and must be adhered to as closely as possible. However, no matter what the numbers say, if you feel that one of the measuring criteria is not quite suited to YOU, then, go with what feels correct.

Dr. Jason Berry is available to consultations regarding your bike biomechanics, body biomechanics, or injuries that are active or recurring.  Just call his clinic, Pure Healthcare in Albany on 09 414-2225 for a new patient appointment.  See the website to learn about a FREE Discovery Session with Dr. Jason or any of the other practitioners in the practice.  We have acupuncture, massage, osteopathy and naturopathy practitioners to help you be the best you can.  We look forward to seeing you soon.  Follow us on Facebook to learn more about how to enhance your health, fitness, and performance.