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Safe Biking Requires Annual Check-Up

By
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Gary D. Vogin, MD

April 11, 2001 -- Spring has definitely sprung. That means longer, warmer days -- which many plan to spend exploring the open road on a bike. But before peddling off into the sunset, experts say a check-up is in order -- for the bike.

Bikes that have spent the winter in storage will need some maintenance before they can safely begin a new season, Rich Litsky tells WebMD. Litsky oversees the bike department at The Sports Authority corporate headquarters in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.

"Both extreme cold and extreme heat will affect all the fittings on a bike, so a bike stored in a garage or attic for long periods is not going to come out of storage in the same condition that it went into storage," he says.

At a minimum, Litsky says the bike will need a tune-up from a qualified bike technician at a bike shop or sporting goods store.

Stephen Pribut, DPM, tells WebMD that a detailed safety check is probably in order to avoid biking injuries. Pribut, a Washington-based podiatrist and member of the board of directors of the American Academy of Podiatric Sports Medicine, says that the safety check-up should include a size or fit analysis.

Bikes, he says, need to be properly "fitted" for the rider. Any reputable bike shop can help with fitting, Pribut says, but he offers a few hints: The seat should be level, tilted neither back nor forward, and if one is pushing the pedal with "tippy toes" the seat is too high.

William D. O'Halloran, DPM, of Fort Collins, Col., says that ideal seat placement would put the "the front of the knee directly over the ball of the foot when the pedal is completely depressed."

O'Halloran authored a recent study of the biomechanics of bicycling injuries and has served as an advisor to the Coors Classic bike race. He tells WebMD there is a limit to how high a bike seat can be safely raised.

"There is a score line on the stem that marks how high the seat can be raised. Raising it higher will mean that there is too little stem left in the frame and the seat will come loose," he says.

This can be a particular problem for parents whose children have shot up over the winter months. O'Halloran says that rather than raising the seat too high, parents should consider buying a new or used bike with a bigger frame.

The other important consideration in bike size is the cross bar.

"The cross bar should be an inch to two inches lower than the riders crotch when the rider has both feet on the ground," says O'Halloran.

Even if the bike is still the right size, O'Halloran says it will still require a tune-up before starting a new season. That means checking brakes, brake pads, gears, spokes, rims, and tires. "The front tire is more important that the rear tire because a blow-out on the front is more likely to cause an accident," he says.

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