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.
A professional, biomechanical bike fitting may not only prevent injury, says Seattle physical therapist Izette Swan. When done thoroughly and correctly, the service can also enhance performance and increase the joys of cycling.
“Generally, people who get bike fittings feel that they are much more comfortable on the bike,” said Swan, owner of Real Rehab Sports + Physical Therapy in Seattle. “They are able to ride longer, and they are able to ride with a feeling of more power and speed.”
Without pain, and when employing the proper alignment that a bike fitting offers, competitors may be able to ride faster, and mountain or recreational bikers may be able to ride longer. Either way, it comes down to improving the health and wellness of the rider.
“Benefits are that a bike fitting reduces pain, but it also puts you in a biomechanically advantageous position to create more power through the pedal strokes,” Swan said. “Through a poor bike fit, you lose that power.”
After a bike fitting, the rider may feel more confident on the bike, Swan added. That confidence could support an individual’s purpose and reasons for riding, in addition to the feeling of independence that being on a bike affords.
The benefits and confidence gained from a bike fit could also lead to social benefits. Swan says that joining a bike club or team provides a community of like-minded people and connections, which can be encouraged through the confidence of better, more comfortable performance on the bike.
Real Rehab Sports + Physical Therapy administers two types of services for those looking for a bike fit.
If one is experiencing pain while riding, and this pain continues during other activities, the rider is a physical therapy candidate and their evaluation can be included in a larger care plan.
If discomfort only arises while riding, however, or if one is looking to find specific ways to improve performance and efficiency, a two-hour cash pay visit can offer the rider a thorough evaluation and bike fitting.
“The intention is to get people to ride their bikes, but in the physical therapy client, we are working to make them whole with all of their activities, not just biking,” Swan said. “The intention with the cash pay is cycling. Sometimes we suggest to the cash pay customers to go to physical therapy in order to, say, strengthen hips or improve ankle mobility.”
In either approach, Swan and her team assess the body through a movement, strength, and flexibility screening. The results of the screenings are then applied to the bike fitting, ensuring a symbiotic marriage between the bike and the body.
“It allows you to ride without pain,” Swan said, “and it allows you to go further and explore more.”
To help encourage such exploration, Real Rehab Sports + Physical Therapy is offering a 10% discount on all cash-pay bike fits through the month of May. Just mention this article to get this discount for yourself, your family and/or your friends.
“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.