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November 21, 2008

Fixing Cycling Woes

Lasers, cameras, data readouts, three-dimensional motion-capture technology, light-emitting diodes, computer imagery. Welcome to the new age of bicycling.

As recreational cycling continues to be a popular past-time for health, wellness, and sporting competition, riders are discovering the aches and pains that can go along with it. I can relate. I used be a cycling enthusiast. Then I rode a century and nearly ruined my knees. If felt as though I had worn all the cushion on the inside of my patellae off. I also had a problem with numbness in my hands and wrists while I rode, not to mention neck and shoulder pain. After about six weeks when it no longer hurt to walk down hills, I cautiously mounted my bicycle and swore I would no longer ride more than 3 or 4 hours at a time.

What I needed was a bike fitter. Called biomechanists or biodynamics specialists, there are approximately 12 to 15 "master" bike fitters in the U.S. who have elevated the craft to an art. Thousands more have taken certification courses from bicycle manufacturers, with varying levels of skill.

Bike fitters start with a series of body measurements, usually beginning at the feet and work their way up. They'll change out parts on a cycle such as the handlebars, seats, and even the bike stem. Some changes are simple, such as removing the visor from a helmet to alleviate neck pain.

I sure wish I had a bike fitter who could have sized me up for a bike. I always figured my knee problems were attributed to my Q factor being too wide. I figured fixing that would require I sell my bike (which I eventually did -- I bought a touring bike instead). And I figured my wrist numbness just went with the territory. After I moved away from a metropolitan area and bought a car, my cycling fell by the wayside. Maybe if I'd had a bike fitter, I'd still be on the road.

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Posted by linda at November 21, 2008 6:21 PM

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