Find that perfect fit for a great ride

Sports scientists say bike-fitting improves performance, and also reduces risk of injury

SPH Brightcove Video
Christine Lim, 39, is taking part in OCBC Cycle's learn-to-ride programme. But before she gets on the saddle of a two-wheeler, she goes for a bike fit to find her ideal riding position.
Graphic designer Christine Lim pedalling on a stationary adjustable bicycle jig as Shuwie Chang, sports scientist and bike fitter at Loue Bicycles, makes adjustments after checking her pressure distribution results.
Graphic designer Christine Lim pedalling on a stationary adjustable bicycle jig as Shuwie Chang, sports scientist and bike fitter at Loue Bicycles, makes adjustments after checking her pressure distribution results. ST VIDEO: AILEEN TEO

Graphic designer Christine Lim might not have mastered the art of cycling just yet, but she took another step closer to conquering her fear on Thursday night.

The 39-year-old had a bike-fitting session conducted at Loue Bicycles where she completed the latest phase of Project Training Wheels - a programme by OCBC Cycle to teach beginners how to cycle.

She was nominated by her husband Wallace Tan for the project earlier in July, and has signed up for the 23km Straits Times Ride at the ninth edition of OCBC Cycle. The annual cycling carnival will take place on Nov 18-19.

"Bike fitting is for injury prevention and to improve pedalling efficiency and performance," said Shuwie Chang, sports scientist and bike fitter at Loue Bicycles.

"For beginners like Christine, it is important to be professionally fitted for both comfort and the enjoyment of cycling.

"They learn the proper pedalling technique, posture and get tips on the right equipment and gear to get."

The session started with a question-and-answer segment between Chang and Lim, where Chang learnt more about Lim's background. Her injury history - a fracture on her right knee, as well as lower back pain - was also taken into account prior to the initial bicycle set-up.

Next, Lim was put through a physical examination where the flexibility of her legs and static measurements were taken down.

Chang, 26, said: " In a bike-fitting session, the size and geometry of the frame are some things to look out for. The human-bicycle contact points like the saddle, handlebar and pedals also need to be suitable for people to enjoy their cycling experience."

Chang then introduced Lim to the different kinds of bicycles, ranging from foldable ones to mountain bikes.

After that, she observed Lim pedalling on a stationary adjustable bicycle jig, tailored to her initial measurements. Lim's movement patterns were tracked by a motion analysis system, as sensors measured how pressure was distributed throughout the bike while she was riding it.

She described the pressure to be "70 per cent on the bars and 30 per cent on the saddle" after the initial test was completed.

"In Christine's case, she's a very causal rider, so her position will be more relaxed or upright to be more comfortable for her," Chang said. "I intended (the pressure) to be borne more on the saddle than hands.

"Also, knowing that she has knee and lower back issues, I didn't want to strain that further."

Her feedback was reflected in the pressure distribution results, which were bright red in areas where more pressure was exerted and a darker blue for areas with less pressure.

Chang then made several adjustments to the bicycle, ranging from the height of the saddle to the distance of the handlebar before conducting a subsequent round of tests. "It's more comfortable, it's easier for me to pedal," commented Lim as she pedalled away following the adjustments.

Looking at a screen straight ahead of her, she could see a 3D figure of herself pedalling, along with a whole bunch of numbers calculating other aspects of her motion.

"Are you all right?" asked a concerned Chang as Lim's pace decreased as the test wore on. "She's just tired," joked Tan, who chauffeured his wife to Loue's at Midview City in Sin Ming after work, as the second round of tests concluded.

A review of findings showed that the adjustments had an impact on Lim's posture and overall comfort.

A final round of tests was then conducted. This time, the ride was smooth and effortless for Lim. It was a fit. Chang said: "For Christine, I wanted to put more of her weight on the saddle to relieve the pressure on her hands.

"I would actually recommend her to go for more fitness bikes (a cross between mountain and road) with less aggressive geometry - a generally more relaxed seat tube angle, a higher stack in front. It means the front-end handlebars will tend to be be higher than the saddle.

"We need to search for a bike that would suit her well and make sure everything is set up right so she can start cycling. From there, she has to gain confidence riding a bike."

After the session, Lim said: "This has been a different experience from my husband's bicycle.

"When I finish riding on that bike, my back and leg would be painful for one week, but after I tried this, my back and leg didn't have any pain. It was fantastic."

She also said that after the experiment she knew she had to strengthen both her back and right leg's flexibility before cycling.

"I should get a proper bicycle instead of simply getting one at a store, especially with the measurements done for me," she said.

When everything was done and dusted after the two-hour session, Lim and Tan were leaving the shop and said they were driving home.

"How are you going home Shuwie?" asked the 38-year-old Tan, wanting to offer a ride.

"There," said Chang, pointing at her own bicycle resting against her locker.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on August 20, 2017, with the headline Find that perfect fit for a great ride. Subscribe