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?

 How 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.


Epithelial plates 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 ergonomics.

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 of activity.

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 neglected.

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 on 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 discuss.

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 handlebar reach.

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.

Crank length 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 stretching (see a short article here).

Wouldn't you rather be proactive?

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 kid's growth.

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.

Our generation 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.

Consider bike fitting for your kid/junior.





Food for thoughts:

Bike fitting for kids/juniors is an ongoing process. A junior should be checked 3 times/year to evaluate the development and bike fit.

This will improve both performance and muscle balance development.

A 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 2001.


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