Bike Fit and Choosing a Bicycle
You spent $3000 on your bicycle, so don’t ignore the investment to get a professional bike fit. Use a reputable professional, especially one who understands older cyclists. Even small changes can make worlds of difference. Many modern bicycles have low handlebars that are positioned far from the saddle. Decreased flexibility and neck/back are problems in today’s aging population. Consider adjusting the bars or top tube to match the flexibility of your spinal alignment (usually this means a higher bars). Remember, optimal bicycle comfort will increase efficiency and decrease fatigue. A core strength assessment is also important when considering bike position.
Carbon frames are all the rage, but the reality is that most 50-year-old cyclists have little in common with the Pros and their needs are diametrically opposed. Carbon frames are the ultimate in light weight and stiffness but may or may not be the best choice for the older cyclist. It is wise to choose a bicycle and components that suit the rider’s true needs, or at the very least do not severely compromise their cycling experience in the name of “performance.”
Limiting vibration and shock dampening is important for the older cyclist. Small imperfections in the road pavement send high-frequency vibrations through the entire bicycle, which are often absorbed by the rider’s hands, neck and lower back. Selection of frame material and design can greatly affect the ride quality and the amount of vibration being sent to the rider’s body. According to Calfee designs, vibration dampening using composite carbons is far superior to any metal. There are several types of carbon fiber frames built to absorb vibration and be flexible; examples of these types of frames typically have the label of Roubaix attached to them (Specialized Roubaix and Fuji Roubaix). Shallow wheels (25 – 35 mm) will generally ride softer and more comfortable than deeper wheels (45 – 90 mm). Vibration can also be reduced by wider tires and using the lower inflation pressures.
The next article for Cycling Beyond 50 will be about Training and Endurance