The power of suggestion. A biomechanical or a psychological bikefit?

Joris Verreydt Research Review

As a former physiotherapist, I was constantly evaluating the effect of my treatment for the patient. In sports rehabilitation and manual therapy, the most important complaints are pain and limitation of joint range of motion. A ‘comparable sign’ is used to evaluate the effect of the treatment. To evaluate the treatment effect on pain a Visual Analogue Scale (VAS) scale is a good comparable sign. The comparable sign for joint range of motion is the simple measurement of the range of motion with for instance a goniometer. A good comparable sign is an objective measurement and is not influenced by the therapist.

As bike fitters we are also continuously evaluating the effect of our interventions on the bike position. For these evaluations several comparable signs can be used. Measuring a knee angle or pelvic motion during a bike fit is an objective measurement. A saddle pressure measurement can also be an objective measurement for saddle comfort.
The use of a VAS scale for pain but also on comfort can be useful in bike fitting. As a fitter you want to have an effect on the body during the cycling movement. For this reason it’s important to assess these biomechanical effects in a correct manner.
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A good communication with the rider during the bike fit process is essential for the success of the bike fit. Explaining the pros and cons of his/hers current bike position and why you should change these issues is important for the rider to understand. But we have to ask ourselves do we always use our communication in the right way?

The danger lies in the fact that we sometimes suggest to our riders what they have to feel as an improvement. “I have put your saddle lower, don’t you feel your leg is moving easier?” “Don’t you feel the pedal contact is better?” “If have put your saddle another 5mm higher, what do you think about this new saddle height? Is this not too high for you?” This way of communication is very suggestive, and has no objective value. Instead of an objective evaluation, this type of suggestive communication works on psychological processes of the rider. In a way the rider gets convinced that he/she has to feel a difference and that this difference is beneficial for them. Using this type of communication as an objective evaluation is wrong, as this is completely influenced by the fitter.

If we evaluate the effect of our bike fit, it’s important to do this as objective as possible. For this evaluation the use of specific measurement tools is required. As technology is making his way more and more in the bike fitting world, more tools to assess the effect of a bike fit will be available in the future.

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