In June 2020, Dr Rodrigo Rico Bini and Dr Jayden Hunter from the Holsworth Research Initiative in the La Trobe Rural Health School decided to find out if telehealth services could be used effectively to give professional guidance on bike fitting for recreational cyclists.
Poor bike fit seems to anticipate a range of non-traumatic injuries including neck, hip and back pain, knee strain and aching hands. The research team wanted to help cyclists improve their comfort on the bike and reduce the likelihood of these injuries. At the six-month mark, we checked in to see how the study was going.
La Trobe cycling community powers our research!
Rodrigo and Jayden sent a shout-out to cyclists through La Trobe social media. Thanks to the support of the enthusiastic La Trobe sports community they got a record number of responses – 124 enquiries resulted in 35 volunteers enrolling in the study.
The volunteers self-assessed for power and fitness using a vertical jump test, a wall squat and a sit-and-reach test. They submitted bike and body measurements and a video of them riding on an indoor bike trainer for the team to assess. They also rated how they felt on the bike, using a comfort bespoke scale.
Telehealth helps people living in regional areas access specialist services
The study helped cyclists learn more about their bike fit and levels of fitness. The success of the telehealth strategy is vitally important. As Rodrigo says:
The strategy to offer bike fit via Telehealth is very important. If we want to engage more people to use bikes for exercise, particularly those in regional and remote areas with limited access to specialised services, these services have to be available to these cyclists.
More than 50% of cyclists report discomfort when riding
Rodrigo and Jayden found that even when their volunteers had adequate strength, power and flexibility, 53% reported riding with musculoskeletal pain. When they looked at the cycling videos, they realised that over half of their volunteers had bike positions that potentially increased the load on the joints. Some had a seat position that was too high or too low, potentially increasing knee joint loads, and some had their handlebars too far forward, potentially increasing strain on the lower back and neck. The team were able to assist cyclists in recognising the problem and improve their bike fit.
We look forward to reporting on the lasting impact of their intervention in another six months. Calls for further recruitment of cyclists will be sent out early in 2021 with the aim to increase the power of the study.