On Wednesday I had my first real professional bike fit. I had asked Jeff for this for Christmas, as I knew it wasn’t cheap. One of our riding friends had gone to this particular bike shop and gotten a good fit, and I knew they handled a lot of triathletes so I figured I’d be in good hands.
I had no idea.
In about the first 5 minutes, Elliott (my bike fitter for the day and the general manager of the store) identified every single problem I have on the bike, before I’d even told him what was bugging me. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
First I walked in the door with Jeff. Elliott took one look at my bike and at me and immediately voiced a concern that my frame was too large for me (this has since been validated by others). So with that in mind, we’d see what we could do to improve things for me.
I began by just spinning on the trainer to warm up while Elliott videotaped me and pointed out some things I was doing to Jeff.
Among the things noted…you can see in the photo the angle (or lack thereof) in my knee at the bottom of my pedal stroke. My hips wobbled back and forth in the saddle, more to one side than another, which is probably why I get saddle sore predominantly on one side. My left heel angled in, and my right knee, as Elliott put it, was “doing the Saturday Night Fever thing” bouncing all over the place in my stroke. To compensate for a lot of this, I was doing a significant amount of my pedaling with my toes pointed down, which explains the calf tightness I’ve been getting. My aerobar positioning was such that I had to work to keep my arms so close together in position, my chest was compressed, and you can see the downward bend in my wrists needed to hold the bars (I also can’t shift while holding that position).
So essentially I’m starting out so fucked up on this bike that it’s a miracle I’ve done all the distance I’ve done.
Next Elliott adjusted the saddle height and position – there was juuuuuust enough seatpost left to saw off a few millimeters to get me dropped down. I already felt the difference with that change and my knee angle moved into the edge of acceptable space.
Then the fit really began.
Elliott spent a significant amount of time evaluating my flexibility and biomechanical limitations. He measured my hamstring and hip flexibility, did some tests to see if I had any sort of leg length discrepancy or hip imbalance, and checked out my feet to see what sort of support I might need.
Then we started making changes!
- New, larger cleats and pedals with less float. I’ve been on the Speedplay pedals since I started with my road bike but they have a very small surface area to support the foot and transfer power, and clearly my body was taking liberties with the many angles of float.
- Added inserts to my bike shoes to provide better arch support for my flat feet. (Before I’d even mentioned that my arches used to hurt on long rides last year)
- Added a shim to my left foot to even the knee angles out between the two legs.
- Added a different kind of shim to the right shoe to gain better knee alignment (this was the knee that I was flopping outward all over the place).
- And then finally, a new aerobar setup! Elliott suggested we take a break and hit the store’s coffee shop while he tried something and when I came back there it was. The new configuration and aerobars, by widening the elbows, open up my chest for easier breathing and drop my shoulders into a much more comfortable position. You can see from the photo I no longer have the bend in my wrists either.
The end result is a HUGE change in my bike configuration and about as optimal a position as I can get for a bike frame that it is becoming clear is not ideal for my body. We spent THREE HOURS working to this point – I never felt rushed or ignored, the amount of personal time and attention to detail we were given is staggering. The final work on my bike was done after I left and it was ready for pickup before the end of the day.
If you are in the Bay Area and looking for an honest assessment of your bike fit and skilled help in improving it, I’d say to run – or pedal very fast – to Concept Cyclery in Morgan Hill. OK, so maybe you should make an appointment first but really…they rock.
I’ve got a couple rides to test out this new fit and think I’ll be very happy with what I see. I’ve been encouraged to come back as much as possible to provide feedback and tweak the fit. And…there may still be a frame change in my future sooner rather than later if I get hooked on this whole instant improvement thing :-)