Having raced when he was younger, McGregor said he quit because it hurt too much, describing the pain in his lower back and neck as "unbearable." In 2006, McGregor said he was overjoyed and hugged the man who gave him an in-depth fitting after he was able to go on a two-hour ride without discomfort.
As a certified master fit instructor with Specialized Canada, McGregor helps others using the same customized process: a fit philosophy which tailors the ride to the individual's needs and helps ensure they're in a neutral position on the bike.
Specialized worked in collaboration with Andy Pruitt of the Boulder Center for Sports Medicine on Body Geometry Fit, which includes conducting interviews and thoroughly assessing flexibility, strength and overall ranges of motion for each rider — regardless of the type of bike.
McGregor said saddle pain is among the leading causes of discomfort due to the seat being too narrow or not set at the correct height.
"From there, knee pain is a big problem caused by instability in the foot (and) also can be caused by saddle choice or saddle width."
Back and neck pain can be addressed by the handlebar position, he added.
Especially on road bikes, McGregor said tradition states the bike needs to look a certain way, meaning the saddle sits at one height, the handlebars at another.
"In most cases, that works well. But in certain cases, if it's too low, or ... it's too long or if the bike isn't the right size, you're going to go outside of your natural range of motion. Whenever you do that, you're going to start causing pain," he said.
There are key additional tips to bear in mind in selecting a model that fits along with common mistakes to avoid in purchasing a new or used bicycle.
1. Let your ride mirror your life. The first thing cyclists should think of before buying a new bike is the type of experience they want to have while riding it, said Hannah Parish, marketing manager with Specialized Canada.
"If you're going to be riding in the forest, you don't want a race road bike. If you're going to be riding to go and get bread at the grocery store, you don't want to have something with really mountain tires on it."
Equally critical is ensuring the bike has the right components for your intended use.
Those using bikes for racing will likely want tires that are a bit lighter with a little more traction, said Aarif Suleman who owns Broadway Cycle in Toronto and Bike Depot in Thornhill, Ont.
Others relying on their ride for a work commute will want a set of wheels with a certain degree of flat protection, he added.
"Typically tires will have some type of protection, whether it's a Kevlar belt or some belting between the rubber of the tire and inner tube. So the flat protection allows you to ride, and if you hit a nail, it will very often deflect that."
2. Size matters. A stylish-looking ride will be of little benefit if it isn't the right fit.
"The most important thing for size is standover height," said Parish. "You want to make sure you're very comfortable if you have to put a foot down that you've got that right amount of clearance."
Go for a test spin to see if there are any quirks, Suleman said.
McGregor said while sitting on the saddle, pedal backward. "When the pedal is the furthest away from you, just make sure that your leg is straight and you have a heel on the pedal to give you an approximate saddle height."
Ensure the saddle is wide enough. You can ride longer if it doesn't hurt, McGregor noted.
As for grip, it's important that riders are within their range of motion, which means eliminating the need to reach or overextend, said Suleman.
"We want to have that so that when you're riding you can reach the bars comfortably without excessive force. We want to make sure you can reach your pedals without feeling like you have to rock your hips to get down to the pedals."
When it comes to fitting bikes for children, Suleman said he generally recommends customers get the largest size youngsters can fit safely in.
"We'll get parents that will get bikes that are two sizes too big, and the problem is the child doesn't enjoy riding it," he said. "You can buy a kid a size 10 pair of shoes and they'll grow into it eventually, but it's just not fun or safe to use."
There's a market for used models. It's better to upgrade a bike that has been outgrown, Suleman said.
"Get the biggest size that the child can comfortably reach the handlebars and comfortably put their feet flat on the floor."
3. Buy gender-specific models. Not all women may need or want a gender-specific bicycle, but there can be benefits to models tailored to female riders.
Women typically have shorter torsos, shorter arms and longer legs than men of the same height, said Suleman. For women opting to buy a men's bike, they'd have to go up in size to accommodate their leg length — but would have to contend with models that were longer and bigger overall, he noted.
Suleman said many manufacturers of women's bikes today make the tubes smaller to accommodate a lighter rider.
"A typical female would get on a men's bike and it wouldn't react the same as it would if a male was on it because a male has more weight."
Women also typically have smaller hands, so the handlebar grips are better designed for them, Suleman said.
"Women generally need a narrower handlebar than the equivalent male for two reasons," he said. "One, women's shoulders are narrower, so when you go to a super-wide handlebar — like if you ride a men's bike — and if you feel pain in the centre of your neck going down your upper back, that could be a handlebar that's too wide.
"Very often, if a female feels that pain down the centre her back — especially near the neck area — it's the equivalent of doing like a wide-arm pushup. The further out you are, it's just more load on your shoulders, so women very often will narrow the handlebar."
4.Remember the added essentials. Be mindful of legal requirements. If riding within the city, riders should know whether they need a bell or lights, Parish noted.
A saddlebag can hold materials needed to repair a flat tire. "You'd want to be able to fix that right away, so tire levers or tubes or CO2 or some sort of air pump," said Parish.
The right clothing is key for comfort, including padded shorts and gloves, she added.
And, of course, there's protection for the head.
Suleman said many parents buy helmets that are a size too big — which doesn't make sense.
"If you fall, the helmet doesn't do what it's supposed to do if it's moving around on your head."
Individuals should feel contact over their entire head while wearing a helmet and shouldn't have any major gaps in the front or around the sides, Suleman noted.
"You want to have typically the front of the helmet to be two fingers above your eyebrows, so it sits fairly low."
The helmet should fit snugly enough so that when the chinstrap is in place, there is the equivalent of one or two fingers space between it and the bottom of the chin, Suleman added.
Another mistake people make is underbuying the quality of helmet, he noted.
"As you go up in helmets, you save a lot of weight on the helmet and you save a lot of ventilation," said Suleman.
"Very often, someone will come into the store and say, 'I just want a very basic helmet,' but then they don't wear it because it gets hot and they get sweaty and the helmet moves around a lot. We really want to make sure they get the right fit and something that's not too heavy on their head."
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