So I just talked about what getting the proper sized bike is all about and went through a few things about how and why you shouldn't go in with just one sized bike in mind. But this time I'm going to talk about choosing what bar width you should go with and how your cleats should be placed on your shoes.
First off is the bar width. It's not something a lot of people never consider when looking at a bike. In terms of selling bikes, I have yet to have a customer ask me what width bar the bike comes with when I have sold them. Truth be told, most bikes are pretty well equipped with the right width for a given size. Under 54cm, seems to be in the 40cm range, 54, 56 and sometimes 58 have 42cm and anything 60+cm has 44cm. A pretty safe rule to follow for most stock bikes. But what if you're a guy like me and you like riding a smaller frame bike and have shoulders as broad as a barn? And what's the big deal if the bars are a little narrow or wide?
The ideal position you want is a direct line from your hands to your shoulders. If you are doing shorter rides, or less intense rides, this may not be that bike of a deal. But as you ride longer and harder, you start putting more stress on your body. With that, it all ripples. If your hands are resting inside of your shoulders, you'll be putting unnecessary stress around the outside of your shoulders, causing you to tense up and giving you shoulder and neck pain, and possibly even elbow and wrist pain from your body contorting to fit on the bike.
I personally had been riding 42cm bars my entire life. Only until recently have I started looking at 44cm bars as a better option as I have extremely broad shoulders. The more I ride them and work with them, the more I am personally realizing how big of an issue it is to have the right width in my bars.
Now, onto cleat position.
This goes right in line with how you line your bars up to your shoulders, but instead this is your hips. When you look down, or if you have a mirror in front of you and you can see your knees, ankles and hips, you want to see them all in line. why is that? Think of your legs as pistons and your knee is the driving force. If your cleats are placed too far inward, your feet will swing out away from your body, almost like your stepping on a ridge every time you pedal. If you place the cleats too far outward, you'll end up placing too much stress on the outside of your knees. Again, more pain!
Here's what all this basically comes down to: lines. Nice, straight lines. The straighter the lines, the smoother the ride, the easier the ride and the more powerful the ride can be. Not having these things lined up properly can cause pain and in the long term injuries. So if you can, even if you can't afford a full proper bike fit, get your cleats and bars positioned properly. If you've got a mirror you can see yourself ride in or have a trusty bike partner, spend some time getting these things dialed in and you'll be a happy rider.