We don't stop hiking because we grow old, we grow old because we stop hiking. -- Finis Mitchell

Bicycle fitting means a better ride

May is National Bike Month, and perhaps you've pulled you're bike down from the garage rafters and have decided to ride around the block.

Or perhaps you've been training for that century bike ride that you have coming up this summer.

Whether you're a casual rider, or an advanced rider, you have to ask yourself one question, is you bike fit correctly?

When my dad first told me he was taking his bike in for a professional fitting, I knew that was something I had to see. I had no idea such things existed.

We headed down the hill to the Bonney Lake Bicycle Shop of Sumner.

Here we met Jim Stevenson, customer service and bicycle fit specialist for the shop.

There are three different types of fittings. One for casual riders, one for enthusiast riders and one for elite riders. And since my dad has been training for the last few years to become the next Lance, he was going for the advanced fitting for elite riders.

"I start each fitting with an assessment intake," Stevenson said. "This helps me to understand the rider and their person goals."

The assessment included questions about riding style, how long the rider has been cycling, hours they bike per week and any physical issues that he needs to be aware of, such as knee replacements.

After the questions it was time for the physical assessment.

He checked my dad for flexibility, the angles of his body and had him perform a number of exercises while standing barefoot on the ground.

"Every motion that he is performing will be a motion that is experienced on the bicycle," Stevenson explained as he watched my dad perform one legged squats.

While performing this motion Stevenson noticed something about the way my dad's knees were moving. He pointed out that they were collapsing inward. "This is very common among riders. Remember how that movement looks, and we'll look for it once he's on the bike."

With the bike hooked into a trainer, my dad was ready to pedal. He warmed up for a bit and then it was time for more measuring of angles.

Stevenson was looking for the angles at which my dad's knees were moving when his leg was fully extended. He found that the bike seat was too low and the angle needed to be changed. By lifting the height of the seat, that angle was corrected.

Next Stevenson had my dad pedal more while he studied the movement from the front of the bike.

"Notice anything similar about this movement?" He asked me. And it was true. His knees looked just like they had while he was performing the squat exercise.

"It is so common among riders, but often not corrected," he said. "Poor knee alignment is a very easy way to injure yourself."

To correct this, Stevenson added inserts into my dad's shoes, and replaced the clips on his shoes.

He then hung a plumb bob from my dad's knees to check that the knee was in the correct position with the ground during pedal strokes.

"I would say that about 60 to 70 percent of riders that I have worked with have needed some major changes," said Stevenson.

Stevenson uses the Specialized program for fitting. It is one of five proven methods out there. To become a certified bicycle fit specialist, he had to travel to the Specialized bicycle component university in Morgan Hill, California. While there he spend four solid days completing the Body Geometry & Product Fundamentals of Specialized and the Body Geometry Fit Course.

"The program is not about trying to fit the rider to the bike," Stevenson said. "It's about fitting the bike to the rider."

Click on each photo to make them larger.

Jim Stevenson (right) talks with Al Knopik about goals, riding style and previous injuries.

Stevenson checks Knopik's spin for any discrepancies or abnormalities.

One of the most important aspects of riding is the angle of the knees during full extension.

Stevenson explains where the seat height should be on Knopik's bike for proper angles while riding.

In addition to explaining to the riders, Stevenson shows pictures of proper form so they can better understand what he is looking for.

Stevenson makes notes while Knopik rides after the adjustments have been made on his bicycle.

"The program is based so much on rider feedback," Stevenson said. "Without communication from the rider, I can't know how they are feeling."

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