Fall for a century

Fit to be Tried
By: Julie Young Journal Columnist
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Fall is century bike riding season, with numerous organized rides taking place from the coast to the Sierra crest. Ideal temperatures and gentle fall sunshine enhance the experience.
Participating in a century is a motivation to dust off that stored bike and finally act on those fitness intentions. Centuries present opportunities to explore new riding areas and routes and enjoy the camaraderie of new riding partners.
The upcoming series of columns will focus on the recreational rider’s preparation for a century ride. Topics will include purchasing and fitting the bike, perfecting pedal technique and training tips.
Today’s column outlines factors to consider when purchasing a bike.
Stick with me, as we delve into somewhat dry, but necessary bike frame 101.
The bike frame is essentially a diamond shape. The dimensions of the main triangle shape, formed by four tubes — the head tube, top tube, down tube and seat tube — is of primary importance when selecting a bike.
The head tube contains the headset, which interfaces with the fork. The top tube connects the head tube to the seat tube at the top. The top tube may be positioned horizontally (parallel to the ground), or it may slope downwards (characterizing most contemporary frames) towards the seat tube for additional stand-over clearance. The down tube connects the head tube at the bottom bracket.
First and foremost, when purchasing a bike understand that it is not one size fits all. The individual body type dictates the frame selection. For example, a rider with a long femur and short torso, will require a longer seat tube and shorter top tube. Short femur and long torso – equates to a frame with shorter seat tube and longer top tube.
These frame scenarios are dandy assuming the rider is purchasing a custom made bike. But frames are built with proportional seat and top tubes, meaning long seat tubes equate to long top tubes. The long femur/short torso and short femur/long torso scenarios are not ideally accommodated by the frames in and of themselves. This is where the art of bike fitting perfects the marriage of bike and ride to maximize the individual’s fit.
An effective bike fit considers the individual’s goals and then blends the body with the bike to balance handling and optimum power output with comfort and aerodynamics.
The bike industry has revamped its traditional design, which produced bikes with an average three inch drop differential from the top of the saddle to the handlebars, consequently placing riders in an aggressively aerodynamic position.
Now industry engineers are designing bikes with a longer head tube (connecting the fork to the stem) — affording a higher handlebar position. This innovative design has raised the handlebars nearly even with saddle height and as a result has improved comfort while also increasing power production and maintaining efficient aerodynamics.
While cycling is easy on the body, offering a low-impact alternative activity, an improperly sized, framed and fitted bike creates a high probability of poor pedaling mechanics and potential overuse injuries. Invest time to insure the body type fits the frame and the bike fits the body.
Stay tuned as the next Fit to Be Tried installment tackles the individual bike fit to help you “fall for a century.

Julie Young was a top U.S. professional cyclist for 12 years and has since transitioned to trail running, cross-country skiing. She is the owner of o2 Fitness and now coaches endurance athletes in the region. Check her out online at