Author: Phil Burt
Date: June 2014
A book about bike fit? Before you turn away saying that you don’t want to read any book about training, let me assure you that this is about good positioning on a bike, not fitness.
Before you turn away again saying that it will be all about helping racing cyclists to go faster and so of no relevance, let me assure you that there is plenty here for the normal cyclist: we could all do with being more efficient and suffering from fewer injuries on the bike.
The concept of good positioning on a bike ranges from those who don’t seem to be aware that saddle height can actually be adjusted, through to those who will spend many hours and many hundreds of pounds on a professional bike fit.
There is a wide gap between the two, which is where most of us find ourselves. Burt “likes to think this book will bridge the gap between occasional cyclists and wealthier, top-end riders, and will provide the majority of today’s cyclists with a handy guide to help yourselves”.
Reviewed by Richard Peploe
There is of course a lot of advice already available about bike fit, so what gives this author any credibility? Burt has been heavily involved as lead physiotherapist with British Cycling over the last two Olympic cycles, and with Team Sky since they started – and no-one can argue with the results that they have both achieved.
Sometimes the famous names mentioned on the cover of a book are just there to attract your attention, but in this case both Chris Boardman and Sir Chris Hoy have worked with Burt professionally and are full of praise for the work he does, and both have provided a foreward for the book.
Just as ‘bad fit’ often plays a part in cycling-related injuries and ailments, so ‘good fit’ has a role in preventing them. There is always a reason why we sometimes experience issues such as such as back pain, knee pain, hand numbness, or hot feet, and this book is a pretty good value way of trying to resolve them.
A more common example would be saddle discomfort, which probably causes more people to curtail their cycling than anything else: we hear how saddle height, angle, and horizontal position can be as important to saddle comfort as the type of saddle that you have, and neither expensive saddles nor well-cushioned saddles are necessarily the solution.
Even if you have a comfortable saddle in the correct position now, we are made aware that other changes are likely to require a change in saddle height: a change of saddle to one with less wear, or different height rails; a change of shoes to ones with different thicknesses of sole, or with cleats in a different position; a change of pedals, or even of pedalling style.
We soon learn that bike fitting is not an exact science: not only do recommendations change over the years, but a good fit has to balance sometimes contradictory aims: different riders place different priorities on power, comfort, and aerodynamics, although all will have the aim of injury prevention. Some riders will benefit from a change of position as they get fitter or more flexible, and for this reason Burt refers to a Bike Fit Window, which is a range of acceptable measurements for a good fit, and what is right at the time depends on circumstances.
The book makes use of very accessible science to cover all the fit topics that you would expect, including saddle position, bar shape and width, brake lever position, and cleat position. After a review of existing advice, we have Burt’s well-presented recommendations. If you want to go into greater detail on any topic there is an extensive bibliography.
For anyone looking to improve their efficiency on the bike further, the advice about ‘off the bike work’ should be taken seriously: performing a small selection of stretches and strengthening exercises will improve your position and your cycling, even if you think this is taking you too far into ‘racer territory’.
The additional specialist requirements of racing cyclists are covered separately, including Track, Time Trial, and Mountain Bike riders; this has to include the constraints that the UCI (the world governing body for cycles racing) put on racers’ positions, which fortunately only apply if you are competing in a world-class event.
I found particular interest in the last chapter, which “addresses some common misconceptions about fitting”: Burt gives his opinion on crank length, cleat float, oval chainrings, and other topics that relate to bike fit.
Achieving a good position on the bike is a desirable ambition for any cyclist, and there has surely never been a more thorough and understandable book on the subject.
REVIEW FIRST PUBLISHED 2015