Tag Archives: bike fit

No bicycle discomfort is as debilitating as back pain. Luckily, back pain is usually caused by a few, simple to fix issues.

Back pain and biking, searching for the cause and finding the solution

by John Brown, HaveFunBiking

Over the past quarter century, I have helped all manner of riders get going on their bikes. I’ve been lucky to see the life changing power of a bicycle. Sadly, I have also seen riders walk away from the sport forever due to simple discomforts. No discomfort is as debilitating as back pain. Luckily, back pain is usually caused by a few, easy to fix issues. These issues manifest themselves into lower back pain and upper back pain. See below for the causes and fixes.

Lower back

The sky high seat rider can result in back pain

The #1 cause for lower back pain is saddle height. Not only is this problem common and painful, but also easily fixed. Many riders, while trying to get a more efficient pedal stroke, will raise their saddle too high. If your saddle is too high, you will tilt your hips at the bottom of each pedal stroke, trying to reach the pedals. That tilting forces the very small muscles in your back to do the job that the very large muscles in your leg should be doing. To find a proper saddle height, check out our bike setup article, or visit your local shop for a bike fit.

The shocking truth

Another frequent cause of lower back discomfort is road shock. While riding, it is common for the small imperfections in the road to send vibrations through the bicycle and into your body. After some time, this constant vibration can fatigue the muscles in your back. There are a few quick fixes for this problem. The first and easiest solution is tire pressure. Rather than maxing out your tire’s pressure, lower the tire pressure in 5 psi increments until you find a pressure that works for you. Another quick way to squelch road vibration is by adding a suspension seatpost.  Suspension seatposts absorb the shock before it gets to you.

How is your reach?

Finally, the last common cause of lower back discomfort is your reach. If the distance from your seat to bars is too great, you begin relying on small muscles in your lower back to support the weight of your upper body, instead of your core and arms. Look into having your bike properly fit at a local shop or follow our simple fit guide.

Upper back

Shrugging off your responsibilities

The leading cause of upper back pain is riding position. More specifically, the shrugging of one’s shoulders. In my experience, many riders don’t know they are lifting their shoulders when they ride. It is just a tense habit they formed somewhere along the way. Paying attention to where your shoulders are typically helps you relax them, alleviating pain. Additionally, try moving your hands to different positions on the bars. That change in grip does wonders to rest different muscle groups. In some cases, a proper bike fit is needed to remedy shrugged shoulders, so if the problem persists, visit your local shop for a fitting.

Don’t become a pack mule

Be careful how much weight you carry on your shoulders. Riding with a backpack is a great way to carry the things you need, but be careful not to overdo it. If you use a pack to commute, try leaving heavier items like shoes at work. If you absolutely need to carry a lot of weight, install a rack with panniers and move that weight onto your bike frame and off your body.

Keep on going

Like I stated before, I have seen riders get off their bikes forever due to discomfort. It’s always sad to see, especially because I know that their pains can most likely be eliminated with some simple adjustments. Be vigilant about eliminating discomforts. After all, small pains today can manifest into serious problems later. Find a bike fitting professional you feel comfortable with and talk about your issues. Your back will thank you.

Summer fun for you and the kids is two wheels away. Here are the best ways to keep your kid's bike working well and operating safely.

Tips and tricks for keeping your kid’s bike running smooth and safe

by John Brown, HaveFunBiking.com

Summer fun for you and the kids is two wheels away.  It a time to bond, explore a new area of the neiborhood and maybe share some life lessons? Sadly, that fun can come to a premature end if your bike breaks down, or worse, you crash. Here are the best ways to keep your kid’s bike working well and operating safely.

How much air should you put in kid’s bike tires

Nothing will spoil a fun ride faster than a flat tire, and most flats are due to low tire pressure. Take a few minutes before your kids ride to help them check the tire pressure. If your kids don’t know how to use your pump, checking pressure is a great way to teach them. When considering a pump, remember you kid’ bike tires work best around 35psi so make sure your pump can easily hit that pressure.

Adjusting your kid’s bike brakes

The biggest key to control is braking. Adjusting brakes for children is a little different than for adults. Due to children’s small and relatively weak hands it is important to focus on the brake lever position before adjusting the brake. Ensure the lever is as close to the bar as possible (see image) and the spring tension on the brakes are as low as possible. You have it right if your kids can easily reach and squeeze the brake levers.

Lubing their chain

A dry chain will wear faster than one that is properly lubricated. Additionally, a dry and worn chain can break under stress. To avoid excess wear, be sure to lube the chain periodically in dry conditions and immediately after wet rides.

Inspect you kid’s bike for bent or broken parts

Every year, bike makers change bike designs to make them indestructible for kids. The following year, kids find new and interesting ways to destroy those bikes. Pay close attention to your kid’s bike for bent or broken parts. The most common parts that get bent are rear wheels, seats, handlebars, and rear derailleurs. The parts that most frequently get broken are brake levers, shifters, pedals, and reflectors (reflectors leave sharp sections of plastic behind). If anything is bent or broken, replace it immediately.

Also inspect tires for wear

Tires are more susceptible to flats when worn. The normal wear indicator for a tire is when the tread goes bald. Beyond tread wear there are a host of other indicators. Look for cracks in the tread or sidewall, threads coming loose, or bubbles in the tire. Worn tires should be replaced immediately.

Are the handlebar grips tight?

As rubber wears and ages, it becomes harder and less elastic. For grips, the softness and elasticity is what keeps the grips in place. Put your hands around the grip and twist hard. If the grip can rotate or move, get them replaced. Also, when a bike gets dropped on the ground the end of the grip can get torn. Once torn, that grip will leave the sharp end of the bar exposed with the potential to cut small riders in the event of a crash.

Is the seat adjusted and tight?

When riding, a stable seat allows your child to control the bike with their hips. If that saddle is loose, it can be difficult to control the bike. Check the saddle by grabbing it firmly, flexing up and down, and twisting. Be sure to tighten it if there is any movement.

How to bike fit your kid’s bike

Kids grow so quickly that it’s important to constantly check their fit in the bike.  Be sure they can easily pedal without their knees going to high. Also ensure that they aren’t reaching too low for the bars.

Proper helmet fit

The final bit of safety for riding is probably the most important. A helmet needs to fit properly to work well. If the straps are too tight or the shell is too small, it will be painful to wear and your child will try not to wear it. Additionally, always check for dents or cracks in helmets. It is possible to break a helmet without crashing on it. Most helmets are relatively inexpensive, so making sure they are comfortable enough for your kids to want to wear them is a small investment to keep them safe.

Riding a bicycle is one of the most enjoyable hobbies available. When you have your bike fit to your body it becomes even more enjoyable. Don’t let little nagging annoyances take away from your great ride.

Be more comfortable and have more fun when you follow these bike fit tips!

John Brown, HaveFunBiking

Riding a bicycle is one of the most enjoyable hobbies available. When you have your bike fit to your body it becomes even more enjoyable. Don’t let little nagging annoyances take away from your great ride. Read on to learn the causes and fixes to cycling’s most basic discomforts.

Before you ride, visit your local bicycle shop for a bike fit

A proper bike fit can alleviate most common discomforts. To set up your bicycle, I encourage you to find a friend to help look at you on your bicycle and adjust your bike fit. If no one is available, use your phone and take video of you sitting and riding your bicycle.

Bike Fit explained

The left rider’s position is safe and comfortable while the rider on the right is in for some sore days

Saddle Height

Look at the two riders above. The rider on the right is in for some sore days. The excessive amount of bend to his legs is making his knee support all his pedaling forces at a very acute angle, which puts excess strain on the joint when pedaling. His low saddle overworks his quadriceps and doesn’t engage his gluteal or calf muscles. The rider on the left is bending his leg at a wider angle which results in proper leg extension while pedaling, and incorporates all his muscles (helps with efficiency).

To set saddle height: Sit on your bike, place your heel on your pedal. Next, rotate the pedals backward (see below). You want your leg completely extended while keeping your hips level (at the bottom of the pedal stroke your leg should be just barely locked out with your heel touching the pedal). If you find you aren’t getting complete extension raise your saddle, but lower it if you’re tilting your hip to reach the bottom of the pedal stroke. Once you begin pedaling naturally (with the ball of your foot on your pedal, rather than your heel), you will have the proper amount of bend to your knee.

Don’t Lean Too Much

The rider on the right above is leaning over drastically, which means his upper body weight is supported only by his lower back and arms. This position will results in a sore back, shoulder, arms, and painful hands. His head is positioned so low he must crane his neck up aggressively just to see. This will also result in a sore neck.

The rider on the left has more support. By sitting a bit more upright he is using his bone structure to support his upper body. Adjust your handlebar so that your back is at an angle over 45-degrees from the ground. Your arms should extend at a 90-degree angle from his back with a very small bend to the elbow. Adjust your grips and controls to be in place when you reach out to take the bar. If you need to turn your wrist up or down to shift or brake you should re-adjust the controls.

Look Around

The rider on the left also has a very comfortable position for his head. He can see around and in front naturally without needing to stretch.

Once you have a comfortable setup, you should experience hours upon hours of painless riding. If discomfort continues after looking at charts on the web, then consult with your local bike shop. They are trained in advanced personal fitting techniques and can offer insights into potential causes of discomfort.

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Bike commuting is an easy way to increase fitness, jump start your energy level, and enjoy nature. Read and learn about what you need to commute in comfort.

New Year’s Resolution: make 2018 your best bike riding year ever!

By John Brown, HaveFunBiking

After all the presents are opened and the last of the cookies disappear many of us turn our attention to the year ahead. More specifically, many of us begin the annual task of developing new year’s resolutions for ourselves. This year, why not resolve to make this year your best year of bike riding ever!

Get ready for the bike season

For most of us, the season doesn’t begin in earnest until April 1st. Coincidentally, April 1st is also the first day of the 30 days of biking pledge. Therefore, why not take the next three months to get ready for April’s goal of 30 days of riding!

best year of riding

A happy rider having completed his 30 days of biking!

It’s been proven countless times in history – the mind drives the body! I find a great way to get my mind ready for a goal is to share that goal with others. For me, once I tell others about my goal, I am making a deal with myself that it is a real thing. Once your goal is real, begin clearing your schedule for it.

Get your body ready for the bike

Make a training plan now. Your plan can be as simple as committing to ride two times a week or as detailed as planning the mileage, date, and time. Just be sure that plan matches with your goal (example: riding for only one hour a week wouldn’t give you the fitness you need to ride two hours a day through April).

Minnesota is currently locked in a winter freeze, so conditions may not coincide with your availability to ride outdoors. But keeping yourself physically active is paramount for this time of year and it’s especially crucial for your training. You can go snowshoeing, running, swimming, cross country skiing, indoor riding (on a trainer), take spin classes, or anything that raises your heartbeat.

best year of riding

Indoor rides can be fun with the right group.

To ensure you have on-bike fitness there is no better indoor exercise than riding a bike trainer. There are spin gyms, training centers and bike shops that run classes a few times a week. Look into what programs are available and you will stick to in your community.

How to fit riding into your daily routine

Most people don’t have time to do the things they need to do (like that home project you swore you would finish last summer). So how do you fit in time to train? To start, try not to add too much separate riding time to your schedule. Instead, commute to work by bike. Drive part of the way and ride the rest. A normal 30 minute drive could turn into a 15 minute drive and the rest on your bike with a little planning. That way, you only add a 15 to 20 minutes to your schedule and still get a ride in. Do it in the morning and the evening and you bought an hour of riding while only adding up to 40 minutes to your daily schedule.

I find that I make a trips to the grocery store for a handful of items a few times a week. Try to ride your bike to the grocery store, rather than drive once a week.

Also, try adding a ride to your normal downtime. If you have an indoor trainer, ride for one hour a night while watching TV rather than sitting on the couch. It may seem counter-intuitive, but being active is a great way to wind down from a busy day. You will find you sleep better and generally feel more relaxed.

Get your bike equipment ready

Bring your bike out of hibernation and put air in the tires. Take it for a spin around the block and check to see if it’s functioning properly. April 1st is smack dab in the middle of when many people begin to think about riding their bike. If you wait until the last minute to drop your bike off for service, chances are, you will be waiting longer than you like for you bicycle. Click the  (link) here to read about some of the benefits of servicing your bike in the winter.

best year of riding

This rider is looking for speed, but a good bike fit can benefit any rider!

If you bring your bike in for service, think about making sure your bike fits you properly. A professional bike fit will lower the chance of repetitive motion injuries and make you more comfortable and efficient. While you’re having your bike serviced and fit you can also find the right clothing and accessories for the year ahead. The weather in April can be a mixed bag, so make sure your clothing options include something to keep you comfortable in the sun,rain, snow, wind, or cold.

The First step

The longest journey begins with a single step and that step should be taken on January 1st. Making the time to ride or exercise on new year’s is easy considering most of us are off of work. Getting started right away is a huge moral booster, for the goal of having your best year of bike riding ever!