Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Difference A Fit Makes

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.

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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).

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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.

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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.

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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.

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  • 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.

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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.

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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 :-)

16 comments:

Erin said...

wow I never realized a bike fit did so many things, such as test flexibility. Not an expert, but it looks more comfortable after the changes! You are ready to fly

Elizabeth A. Rich said...

That is awesome Molly!! And I know you'll be getting a new frame :) hehe

I have a second fit on my new steed tomorrow as well - had them change a bunch on it so it's time for another fit sess.

And I know if I ride a SMALL frame at 5'7" then you must have to ride a SUPER small frame - xxs perhaps? :)

Michelle Simmons said...

Nice! I bet that will make a huge difference for you! :)

Jennifer Harrison said...

Awesome Molly! You will love your KEO pedals, that is all I ride with and I LOVE LOVE THEM. And, I wish more triathletes would get their bike fit like this - AWESOME! Enjoy! :)

D said...

So being that I've hung out with you before so I know better and there are many more pictures of you (even just on this post) to prove otherwise, the first picture of you looking at Elliott fiddling with your bike has given you quite the bum. Kind of like that picture of your huge boobs last year :D

Molly said...

Bike shorts!! Padding!

Lora Abernathy said...

Ya look great on that thing! Fit is sooo critical. Sounds like the right decision.

Jess @ THIR said...

I had my bike fit with a physio when I first started.... $400 and 4 hours later, I am so comfortable on my bike, and SO grateful that I did it!

LittleRachet said...

Soooo happy you got to do this! It's amazing what a difference a good bike fit can do. And the BGFit process is great. I use the Keos and loooove them! Can't wait to hear if you feel a difference (fatigue, power, soreness) after a few rides. FUN!

SSB said...

I'm doing the bike fit before buy this time... hopefully I'll fit one of the bikes I want :-)

TriGirl Kate O said...

I'm getting my fit tweaked in late Feb. My bike was custom made, so I'm hoping there isn't much to tweak. But like you, I'm a different athlete now than when I bought the bike, so hopefully it will only help!

Wes said...

I redid my fit a bit. I found that being lower in the aero bars up front moved my center of gravity forward. On the other hand, having a more open chest is a good thing as well. There's definitely a trade off there! Having someone fit you who knows their stuff is priceless!

Marci said...

This was an informative post, thanks!

SHERRY said...

What a difference in your arms/wrists! Sweet relief, girl! Glad you are more comfy and I hope it keeps getting better for you.

I'm with Elizabeth-- I see a new frame in your future too! Go smaaallll... with 650s Molly!!

ironfor40 said...

Very cool!!!

Maria said...

I'm glad you got stuff worked out, hopefully it's paid off for you!