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Bike fitness: Tips to get the right bike fit

Looking for the ultimate outdoor workout now that summer is in full swing? Gaynor Collester, chief Spin Doctor for Performance Bicycle, the nation’s largest specialty bicycle retailer, says it’s high time to get on a bike. But before you saddle up, the biking expert suggests getting the right bike fit. Here’s how.

Couple with mountain bike

Road bike or mountain bike?

If you’re in the market to purchase a bike, first decide what type of workout you want and where you plan to go biking. Your basic choices: road bike or mountain bike.

Road bikes

In general, cyclists with a need for speed and a cardio challenge – or those that live in mostly paved areas – should opt for a road bike. “Road bikes are generally lighter and faster than mountain bikes, but their lighter and less-hardy components limit their use to smooth paved roads,” says Collester.

Mountain bikes

Cyclists who prefer rugged terrain and workouts that challenge their agility will be happiest on a mountain bike. “Mountain bikes are built to take a beating, and their frames, wheels, brakes and drive trains are designed to function on all types of surfaces and in all types of weather,” Collester explains. “They are best suited for use on rough trails. They can be used on roads and graded paths, but their heavier, hardier construction and wider, knobby tires make them inefficient and slow.”

Regardless of the bike you choose, the right fit is crucial to providing the most comfortable biking experience so you can experience the ultimate biking workout.

The type of bike and the biker’s goals determine fit

The importance of getting the right bike fit goes beyond the comfort factor. It also includes performance and your safety. According to Collester, a bike will not function optimally for its intended use unless the rider has the right balance and position on the bike.

“For technical mountain biking, the rider will need room to maneuver,” the Spin Doctor explains. “Altering the bike’s center of gravity is the key to maintaining traction while climbing or fast cornering, whether in loose sand or on slick rock.”

On the other hand, the road racer wants and needs an efficient yet aerodynamic position. “She will be more down and forward on the bike, which reduces wind resistance and provides better balance for cornering at speed,” he explains.

If you’re just considering a bike to leisurely tour the city or countryside, Collester suggests a bike fit that allows you to sit more upright to lessen the strain on your hands and neck.

Dangers of an incorrect bike fit

Biking is an excellent no- to low-impact workout, but an incorrect fit can bring on aches and pains, particularly in the knees, low back, shoulders and neck. Collester explains: “A sore knee may be the result of a too-low saddle. Pain behind the knee may mean a too-high one. Neck pain may be caused by a too-long stem.” Finding the right position will help keep you injury-free.

Up next: Finding the correct fit and position >>

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