Whether riding a bike to race, commute, explore or simply get outside, Seattle cyclist and physical therapist Izette Swan enjoys working with other cyclists to help them become one with their bikes through individualized bike fittings.
“Bike fitting is taking a look at the person and the bike, figuring out how to make the bike fit the body so that the cyclist can ride in a relatively pain-free state with good mechanics,” said Swan, owner of Real Rehab Sports + Physical Therapy in Seattle.
Swan loves the feeling of freedom when on her bike. As a former Cat 2 road and endurance mountain bike racer, she understands the value of a good bike fit. And, it’s a service she’s been offering for about 14 years and has taken a variety of course work to support her fits.
“Bike riding is such a great way of getting out, getting exercise, seeing places, going places, and commuting to avoid traffic — which in Seattle can be a huge ordeal,” she said. “The more comfortable you can be, the more pleasurable that experience is.”
Swan and her team at Real Rehab Sports + Physical Therapy cover fittings for most types of bicycles, including road, gravel, mountain, cyclocross, track, time trial, and even Recumbents or electric bikes.
She recognizes that it is no fun to ride a bike while experiencing pain. If you are riding with pain, she says, then there is also the potential for that pain to cause injury that could be felt in other areas of life.
Knee pain could cause tears of the meniscus or patella joints, and lower back pain could result in a future disc bulge. Swan explains that it’s important to take care of these seemingly little discomforts before they grow into something else.
During bike fits at Real Rehab Sports + Physical Therapy, some common adjustments may include changing saddle position, modifying handlebars, and altering placement of the shoe on the cleat to better align feet, knees and hips.
Swan suggests getting a bike fit if you regularly ride for more than 10 miles, after purchasing a new bike, or if experiencing discomfort when riding. She also suggests following up with bike fits every two or three years as our bodies change and sometimes the bike changes without us realizing this.
“The bike is a machine, and a person is a machine. One or the other can be faulty,” she said. “It’s good to have them both checked. As we age, we get stiffer and have these little issues that creep up, and we may not realize it but we may be compensating when we are riding the bike.”
While many bike shops offer fittings, a physical therapist who has training in bike fitting has the added benefit of a deeper understanding of the biomechanics of the body. A biomechanical bike fitting with a physical therapist should take into consideration past injuries, current ailments and with the help of a biomechanical screening the current joint restrictions and or muscle weaknesses of the rider when performing a fit. The combination of the above should help prevent new injury while improving the comfort and performance for optimal riding enjoyment.