How To Choose The Best Bike For You

Summer is coming and so is the time for biking. There are many types of bikes that will have a different influence on your back and neck position as well as stress they put on your knees. So before you go for a ride, double check which bike will be a good fit for you.


Outdoor Cycling


City bikes or comforters are designed for urban commuting. On a city bike, you will sit upright, keeping your back relatively straight because of the high position of handlebars in relation to the seat. City bikes have sturdy wheels resistant to everything you may encounter on the city roads.

Road bikes – as the name suggests they are designed for speed riding on paved roads. Handlebars of the road bikes are lower than on city bikes or comforters. Dropped bars will put you in more forward flexed position but not as forward as in a typical racing bike. The lower position will reduce air resistance and allow you to ride faster. Even if you are sitting with your trunk flexed forward you should keep it straight, by engaging your core muscles. Avoid hunching to reduce excessive stress on your low back.

Race bikes – racers are designed for competitive cycling. Unfortunately, those bikes sacrifice comfort for speed. Handlebars are below seat height putting a rider in more aerodynamic position, keeping your back in flexed position and your neck in hyperextension.

Hybrids – a combination of road bikes and mountain bikes that allow you to ride on both paved and unpaved roads. They are lighter then mountain bikes with handlebars positioned straighter than on road bikes but lower than on city bikes, allowing the biker to sit comfortably in the seat.


Indoor Cycling


Stationary bikes – they are similar to outdoor bikes but with higher handlebars allowing you to sit more upright. They also have wider seat to help you avoid excessive stress on the pelvic area. These bikes are easily adjustable and probably the most popular type of bike at the gym.

Recumbent stationary bikes – those bikes have a back support and will allow you to sit straight since pedals are positioned in front. They isolate legs giving you a good strengthening workout for the lower body without putting excessive weight on your knees. This will be a good choice if you experience knee pain, however, make sure to consult your physician or physical therapist before you ride a bike when you experience knee pain.

Spin bikes are special types of bikes with fixed gear, so the wheels will spin even when you stop pedaling. They have to be stopped manually. They have narrow seats putting more pressure on the pelvic area, so you may consider wearing padded shorts to reduce the amount of pressure. On spin bikes, you will also apply resistance manually to imitate riding uphill. Spin bikes can be used for intense strength or endurance workouts. If you begin your adventure with spinning, ask your instructor to check your position before a ride. 


Comfort comes first!

You will put less stress on your low back when you engage your core muscles to keep your posture straight.

If you experience neck pain or low back pain while riding a bike you can adjust your position by lifting your handlebars higher or lowering your seat to sit more upright. Make sure though, that your knees are only slightly bent when your leg is in the lowest pedal stroke position.

If you experience knee pain, you should avoid standing positions or excessive resistance (seated climbing or standing climbing when going uphill). The recumbent stationary bike will be a good choice since you are not putting excessive weight on your knees.

If you experience back pain or lower extremity pain make sure to consult it with your physician or physical therapist first before you hit the road. Doctors and Physical Therapists in AllSports Physical Therapy clinic are willing to help you choose the right bike for you.

by Katarzyna Borkowska, PT

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