If you like me research things before buying them and came across this post while deciding whether to do a bike fit let me shortcut it for you. The answer is yes. Cycling is a repetitive non impact (except with tarmac, trees, other things and dirt) sport so even the smallest refinement can have a big gain, or head off a repetitive strain injury. After this fit I will do this every year in at a minimum.
When I first started cycling years ago I came off my bike quite hard and bent the rear left of my saddle. New and Naive i decided not to replace the saddle but rather just to ride with the bent saddle as i planned to upgrade the bike the next season. 2 years and 2 bikes later when I started getting more serious about my riding I started noticing a pain on the top of my knee after about an hour in the saddle. My wife (lucky man!) bought me a bike fit for my birthday and off I went. First alarm bell should have been finding out from the fitter that “in my 20 years of working with athletes i have never come across a shorter pair of hamstrings” – Great, my first claim to fame is having the flexibility of firewood. But the really interesting part came later. There was something he could not put his finger on – my style just was “wrong”. After an hour of him walking around me and checking every angle known to Pythagoras he stood behind me and explained “I’m going to put my finger on your arse, dont jump”. Umm, these are not the droids that I’m looking for… Picture it – bright eyed and busy tailed new cyclist decked out in form fitting lycra goes to see jaded jedi master of cycling who wants to touch his arse… So I did what any man would do – “ok go for it”. Wow that finger was right between the cheeks. But thankfully there was a higher purpose, and it wasn’t catholic in nature. He then left his finger on the saddle and I got off the bike. Long story short I was almost riding side saddle.
My tail bone which should be in the middle of the saddle was almost 1 inch to the right! The bike fit ended there and i started 6 months of chiro to realign my hips and spine. I never got back to the bike fit but the pain in my knee went away.
Fast forward a few years and Im racing on the Korean Amateur circuit. A friend (thanks Tim At Han River Riders) hooked me up with BJ at Awesome Bike for one of their precision fits.
Before we go further I would like to specify that there was no specific reason for me to do a fit – i was not sore or feeling any pains while riding – I just “felt” like I wasn’t in the groove so wanted to see what the numbers said.
It starts with a core questionnaire about riding style and expectations (MOAR POWER!!!) and then its onto the… couch?
Flexibility tests (i failed all of them – not giving up that firewood mantle without a fight!) and core challenges. Ha! 90 seconds of plank – easy. Buuuut, enter small print stage left – its not about muscling through the plank but rather the clock stops when you start to shake, even a little. Man my fitter (Min) was ruthless. 5 second he stopped the clock on me. The shame.
Right lets look at your arches. Apparently Im cold blooded as i has to warm my feet on a heater so that their arch tool can get a reading – Eventually we got a reading and I need some serious arch support. Then the saddle – My current saddle is a work of art – A Selle San Marco Aspide Superleggera open. This 103 gram (yup my one came in a whole 6 grams less than the advertised weight) razor blade is my go too saddle. It only likes Assos bids and I love it. its 130mm wide and apparently these child bearing hips need a 135mm – well fuck it. That is one piece of advice I’ll be deselecting – except for the up and coming 204 kms Grandfondo with >4500m of climbing… methinks a saddle swop will occur in advance of that race!
Right, onto the bike fit. Min measured my bike and replicated it exactly. This was the point of departure.
So I then processed to do 3 fits. After each fitting we stopped, watched the footage together, discussed how it felt and made adjustments accordingly. Here is a snippet of the three sessions next to each other. Take a look at the differences in body setup.
The magic: Ive tried to capture the progress for all the major changes below. Ill also try and explain what is ideal and why. There will be three shots, 1 is how my bike was pre fit. 2 is after the first adjustment, 3 is after the second adjustment.
145 – 155 for a road bike is considered optimal. I went from 134 degrees to 147.
This one I struggled with – for me the lower the more aero therefore the better. But as Min points out low requires with flexibility, otherwise the aero gains are more than offset by increased fatigue. Hence we went from 39.0 -> 34 -> 37 degrees. Now here is finally a reason for me to stretch!
Here are the guidelines – My goal is 30 degrees by next fit.
- Novice: 45-60 degrees
- intermediate: 40 – 40 degrees
- Advanced: 30 – 40 degrees
- Elite: 25 – 35 degrees!
In case the measurements are not clear: 1 – 144, 2 – 146.6, 3 – 163.
Arm angle for me is interesting. Guidance is that it should be around 165 degrees – so 180 – 15. We got me to 163 degrees with is good, but I felt like I could go lower – what was interesting is that my first measurement – 146 resulted in a less aero position as my third position with much straighter arms. This is the benefit of the fit – we moved the stem forward so for the same bend I will get much more aero.
In case the measurements are not clear: 1 – 71, 2 – 80, 3 – 86.
Ideal for elite riders is 90 degrees so we are close after the third iteration. This can exceed 90 degrees as flexibly improves (again watch this space!)
Nothing really to see here – ideal foot angle is between 15 and 30 degrees – More important here was that I didn’t exceed 30 degrees after my saddle was raised.
- Saddle raised by 2.5 cms (massive!) and stem extended from 90mm to 110mm.
- I went for a a ride on the new steed the other day and while its anecdotal I really felt much stronger on the bike. I was easily sitting at 37km/h and am super excited to see what this means on my next MCT race on the 25th of March!
- Super impressed with Min – it is a 30 minute drive to this shop and Im sold. Ill be doing this once a year at least and if the mechanics are like the fitters (which i hope) then ill be moving all my maintenance there too.
I will try and upload a side by side video of the three sessions for you to see what it looks like…. Watch this space. If you have made it this far then well done!
Feel free to post any questions below..