IS BIKE FITTING FOR JUNIORS A
Juniors are some of the most
amazing cycling athletes.
From the time they ride a
strider bike, to when they take off their training wheels to
when they start riding a real bike, kids and adolescents alike go
through a remarkable journey of growth. Parents see their kids
go through clothing and shoes almost as fast as their moods.
But what about the bike?
If you and your kid/developing
junior are into cycling and ride consistently, you need to worry
about the fit. It's not just the bike itself that matters.
Surely, you wouldn't take your kid on a 20 miles group ride on a
BMX bike. But have you considered how cycling and the bike fit
is part of their development?
kids/juniors relate to their bikes and the equipment is just as
important as it is for an adult.
Actually, bike fitting for
juniors is even more important as their development can be
hindered by their bike.
We tend to look at kids
as somewhat plastic. Their ever changing shape and
resilience makes them look as if they are made of rubber. And
while they may bounce back from a fall or an injury at an
astonishing rate, their very plasticity can also be their worse
enemy. We seem to think of their process of growing as a great
equalizer, an eraser or history.
But that's not quite the case.
Unaddressed, certain issues may actually become
permanently written into the body of a young athlete and
may even create life-long conditions.
Bones and internal organs grow
at a high rate and adapt to their environment faster during
their growth years than at any other time in a human life.
in the bones of a kid grow at different rates. Stimulate
them properly, and they'll grow strong, healthy and
symmetrical. But expose your kid to a repetitive
environment with specific pressure points (like a bike
or sitting for prolonged periods of time) and the growth
rate can be affected. Asymmetric growth in kids is
not unusual. We found many juniors to have
slight leg length discrepancies that vary
quite rapidly: during the same year, in one quarter the
L leg may be longer by 4mm; in the next, the R leg may
be 2mm longer.
While the growth process tends to equalize bone distension under
gravity's influence, we have to be keenly aware of how the
environment can affect it.
Remove the consistent force of
gravity from the process and bone growth is no longer
normalized, giving rise to abnormalities in limb growth.
As a parent, you are probably
used to noticing this in your kid's feet: they go through shoes
like nothing. And one shoe always seems to be more
worn/stretched than the other.
Feet growth is one of the key
parameters pediatricians look for in kids. The development of
the foot, toes and of the gait are key indicators of future
growth and spinal alignment health. And so we learned that
proper shoes and even orthotics are important in the healthy
growth of a kid/junior.
The act of cycling interacts
with all the key growing parameters of a kid/junior - possibly
more than any other sport with the exception of running. And so
me must look at bike/human interface closely, to ensure proper
As cycling is a
non-weight bearing sport (or very limited at best),
the symmetrical interaction of your kid with the bicycle must
be of interest. Especially if cycling is the main source
It has been found that
cycling does so many good things for kids. From building a
healthier life-style, to improving ADHD and autism, cycling is
heralded as a great activity for kid. But the ergonomics
of the interaction with their bicycle have been somewhat
Parents should have concerns
for the urogenital development in their kids.
Numerous studies have documented the saddle's negative effects
in adult cyclists' perineal area. These studies linked prostate
issues and impotence to saddle time and saddle design. They are
well documented in many sports medicine health publications. A
study was done by the saddle manufacturer Selle SMP based
clinical data that lead to their revolutionary
saddles design and the publishing of an
article in the medical journal.
But what's hardly ever talked
about is the ergonomics and urogenital health of growing kids
and juniors and the long-term effect of their health. Especially
for young males, this has to be a factor and something to
This should be a concern to all
parents with kids who are enthusiastic about bike riding and
spend considerable time on their bike.
Rather than being alarmist,
we'd like to take a preventative approach to these issues, as
very little is known on the effects of biking on the development
of kid and junior athletes.
A proper bike fit done by an experienced fitter is a
good idea to ensure your kid/junior favorite activity is
not hindering his/her growth.
Bike fitting for
juniors should focus on proper ergonomics of the saddle
itself , the saddle height and forward/aft position and the
These parameters are
vital in ensuring a symmetrical and ergonomic
relationship between the rider and the bike.
Much of the fitting
parameters for kids/juniors are the same as those for
adults. But some vary dramatically, as growing
kids have anthropometric ratios that can vary wildly
from that of a grown adult. That means, for example,
that the length of the crank is a key parameter
that should receive as much focus as the saddle and
size of the bike.
for kids/juniors is a fit driver. It sets up the
relationship at the most critical muscles in the human
body: the hip abductors/flexors and the chain of muscles
that connects the upper to lower body: the ilio-psoas (see
here a good and short explanation on Wikipedia).
Why is this
important? Because this is where a lot of humans have
trouble later in their lives. Our sedentary life has
created a unique situation that challenges this muscle
group. Cycling relies heavily on this group and its
balanced relationship to perform. Unbalances lead to
back pain, bad posture and a host of discomforts in
adults -one of the main reason we see a lot of customers
looking for relief through bike fitting.
Too often, shorter
cranks are hard to find, and so we see young athletes
pushing big cranks that cause the ingraining of muscle
unbalance between the front and the back -setting up the
kid up for a life-long situation.
We must consider
preventing this in our kids/juniors. We must set up our
little ones with a proper bike fit and good stretching
habits for a long and healthy life. If problems develop,
the medically prescribed route is activity modification
(i.e. bike fit) and re-habilitation through therapy and
a short article here).
Wouldn't you rather
|Most parents buy
bicycles that kids can grow into. But 1 year of growth
spent overreaching for the pedals or the handlebar may
be very detrimental.
Bike fitting can
address the issues of working with slightly oversized
bikes and alter the equipment set up to make the
ergonomics of cycling acceptable at any stage of the
|For juniors racing,
a bike fit may also make the difference in their
performance and success.
Better ergonomics lead
to better efficiencies and proper muscle development.
All this translates in faster riding, longer endurance
and better bike handling.
We have consistently
seen junior athletes who have received proper fit
services thrive both at regional and national events.
might have grown in the days of strapping wood blocks
to the pedals of our parents bike - but then again, in those
days we had lead paint and cars that ran on leaded fuel. We survived just
fine, but today we know better. And we have access to better
technology to care for our young ones.
bike fitting for your kid/junior.
Food for thoughts:
for kids/juniors is an ongoing process. A
junior should be checked 3 times/year
to evaluate the development and bike fit.
improve both performance and muscle balance development.
junior development program
is the best approach to save $.
See here how we work this process in our practice.
"You don't have to be a Pro to get a bike fit. Everyone who
climbs into a bike deserves to have a great experience,
regardless of their fitness, expertise or equipment level."
A Perfect Bike Fit Pro Studio
Love your ride. Get a bike fit.
|- Steffi Bici
A Perfect Bike
Fit Pro Studio owner, founder, senior fitter
About the author:
||Steffi is a
senior fitter with a long history in cycling. She has worked
for Colnago as US Director of Sales and Marketing, wrote for
sports magazines such as "The Racing Post", "Miami Sports
Magazine" and Activate Outdoor Sports Magazine". Steffi has
raced with much success with an International UCI Pro
license in road and mountain biking. Cross and Triathlon
racing followed, not a Pro level, but with more success.
Considered an advanced fitter with a propensity for
troubleshooting, she has built her reputation as the go-to
person for bike fitting. Retül certification and a degree in
Aerospace Engineering seem to be the right combination for
her to understand the complex relationship between cycling
biomechanics and aerodynamics and injury prevention/recovery.
A deep understanding of people's behavior and coaching
add a layer of inter-personal connectivity skills that makes
her fun to be around and completely understood in your
cycling life hurdles. Never afraid of blazing her own trail,
she has had several breakthroughs in bike fitting coming
from her active mind and constant research.
Steffi established her own business, A Perfect Bike Fit
Pro Studio in June 2010 after over a decade of bike fitting
research, experimentations and success with customers
winning local races and state championships as far back as
Don't keep it to yourself...