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Joe DiMaggio Sports Medicine Blog: Making Your Bicycle Fit You

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Editor's note: The Huffington Post is pleased and excited to inaugurate the first installment of the weekly Joe DiMaggio Sports Medicine Column. This column will run every Tuesday, and will focus on how to limit the strain and maximize the benefit to your body while enjoying your favorite sports.

Most people can relate to a "golf club fitting"" and appreciate its positive effects on the enjoyment of a round of golf, but a "bicycle fitting" is a spanking new concept to most. The cycling world is experiencing a revolution in helping consumers enjoy their bikes and many observers report that cycling is outpacing golf as the activity of choice. The revolution centers on custom fitting a bicycle to its intended rider....bicycle fitting.

Bicycle fitting had very humble beginnings at the turn of the century - an era where bicycles had common design and sizing features. These features and the fact that bicycles were largely similar in size and were made of the same materials, allowed many "anecdotal fitting" techniques to suffice. As bicycle design and performance has evolved steel has been replaced with carbon, titanium and exotic aluminum and magnesium alloys. The once standard bicycle sizes of the 60's, 70's and 80's have been replaced with a proliferation of choices that make each brand somewhat unique. There are women's specific bicycles (more upright with shorter reach), there are "Tour De France" replica bikes (featuring long and low reach) and there are the rotund cyclist versions that have all the high tech features, but are slightly gentler on the body of a weekend warrior.

So how does one choose a bike given the myriad choices in the sizing, materials and features? Perhaps the better question answers how can you avoid buying the wrong bike. There is one company that has a three decade obsession with the science and art of bicycle fitting. When Ben Serotta built his first bicycle sizing machine in 1979 he knew that was going to be pioneering a new approach. His company, "Serotta Competition Bicycles" has relentlessly developed new ways to enhance the cycling experience.

Ben Serotta realized very early in his career that the fit of the bicycle is as important as the bicycle itself. This philosophy was borne out on the world stage when the first American victory at the "Tour De France" was aboard a Serotta. "Our company mission has always been to build the best bicycle in the world," said Serotta. "Like everyone else, our focus always was centered first on the bicycle itself- frame materials, construction technology and general design. But the more we conversed with our clients, be they Tour de France contenders or weekend warriors, the more we realized that 'fit' was absolutely key to the feel and performance potential of the bicycle we'd built. So we realize better than anyone else that truly building the best bicycle in the world really means building the best bicycle in the world for you..... specifically."

In 1998, Serotta founded a professional bicycle fitting school that is now widely regarded as the finest bicycle fitting course in the world. Retailers, coaches and medical professionals from all over the world attend courses every year. As the curriculum evolved and became more sophisticated it was obvious that a broader forum was necessary to support research and the integration of the medical community. In 2006 the Serotta International Cycling Institute (SICI) was founded. The SICI mission is to unite the scientific, medical and retail communities and leverage a greater understanding of the science of bicycle fitting. Ben's thirty-five-year journey has recently culminated with the opening of the Serotta Fit Lab which will showcase the best in bicycle fitting technology. Located at the company's headquarters in picturesque Saratoga Springs, NY, the Serotta Fit Lab boasts 2D and 3D cycling analysis tools that enable the fitter to dynamically track every movement of the cyclist while they are riding.

This is certainly a quantum leap from the 1980's when holding a plumb line from the nose of the cyclist to set the handlebars in the right position was common. The days of standing over a bicycle to check stand-over clearance are also rapidly disappearing. If there is a bicycle even vaguely manifesting itself in your future, get a bike fitting first. It is easy to fall in love with a sleek Italian carbon fiber wonder bike.....fine.... but do yourself a favor and find out what fits you first. It is a very civilized way to buy a bicycle. You make an appointment, the fitter will figure out the perfect position for you and then you work together to figure out your dream ride. That old football injury or your bad back influence what bike you will be most comfortable on! So find a great fitter and bike shop that prioritizes bike fitting as a primary part of their business. The Serotta website is a great place to start. It's like Ben says: "a better fit results in a better bike." But other experts also have their ideas.

According to Happy Freedman (one of Columbia University's cycling team coaches)" "There are some very important things to remember about bike fitting, A Bike fit session is a snapshot in time. Your position on a bicycle will change with age, fitness, flexibility and injuries. Some times you have to make seasonal adjustments Adding layers of clothing for cold and wet weather can change your flexibility and functional limb length affecting your relation ship to the pedals, saddle and bars.." Mr. Freedman also advises that some issue such as burning or numbness in the feet and hands may indicate a medical problem that should be seen by a doctor." He adds that "sometimes .the aches and pains are more then just a fit issue..... these may be an early warning of something more significant."

Ironically, getting into shape and staying in shape starts with a bike fitting when you sally forth in the sport of bicycling.


For more information about sports medicine, visit the Joe DiMaggio Sports Medicine Center.

Mission statement: Manhattan's Joe DiMaggio Sports Medicine Center is devoted to rendering the very best non-surgical foot and ankle care, specializing in effective, non-intrusive methods as a primary objective. At the same time, the Center is affiliated with the world renowned Hospital for Special Surgery (HSS), affording traditional surgical and other options. The HSS has been recently rated the Number One hospital in the country for orthopedics by the US News and World Report. The Center also offers the expertise of orthopedic surgical and non-surgical clinicians in all areas of care.

The Center is named after American sports icon Joe DiMaggio, whose heel spur disability remains one of the most well-known sports injuries in history.

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