I have been riding bikes for over 15 years now and I have never had a professional bike fit until this month.
I thought that would be a great way to start this experience just to give you guys a baseline. I have always done my own fits based off of feel on the bike. Over the years, I have grown to know my body, my riding style and where I am most comfortable. It was not until my recent back issues (not biking related…just hurts while on the bike) that I considered getting a bike fit done to make sure I was not further agitating the condition.
I will say…my “just on feel” theory was wrong after having a real fit done, so here is the story.
The Professional Bike Fit
I called up a friend of mine that owns Reality Bikes in Cumming, GA. We have been talking a lot over the past couple of months about my back issues and what do to on the bike that could help that out. With the help of doctors and his first hand knowledge, I had gotten to the point that I was comfortable on the bike again.
When the Specialized Venge came in for review (first look article coming soon), I knew there was going to be a lot of saddle time involved. It was time to throw away my old way of doing things and make sure that everything was perfect. I told Todd what was going on and he scheduled me in that week to see where the current fit stood and what we could tweak to make sure I was getting everything I could out of the bike with the least amount of body error that might agitate my back or any other parts of my body. I fit the measurements of the Venge directly to what I had been riding on the previous Tarmac. This is also what I had been riding on for the shakedown rides.
Pedal Right Fit Studio with Retul
Todd uses the Pedal Right Fit Studio with the Retul fit system. What is really cool about this whole process is that he essentially traces your bike to find your baseline measurements. Then…once the fit process is complete…we retraces it to give you your measurements. This allows you to have the data to transfer the fit to other bikes. It also satisfies the data geek within me.
Using a scanner and several key points on the bike, Todd was able to draw my current setup virtually. It really reminded me of the Xbox Kinect as he went from point to point. It is really cool how far technology has come over the years.
After all of the baseline measurements were taken, Todd had me get on the bike and warm up a bit. After I had gotten comfortable and into my stride, he started to have me stop the pedals at 6 o’clock and 3 o’clock to check alignments and measurements as I sat on the bike. As many of you already know, bike fit is essentially a science. There are certain geometrical solutions that create the most power at a healthy angle for your body.
So what was the outcome of my “feel fit”?
Well…I ended up having the most common problem in bike fits…my saddle height was too low. Ironically, most of my other measurements were pretty dead on, but that doesn’t mean a thing if the saddle height is not correct as that is probably the biggest factor in a correct bike fit.
Todd got to work on the saddle height and then started tailoring the rest of the measurements around that. As we continued working on the fit, we noticed another glaring problem. I had been telling him how I feel like my heals want to point out on the bike. As it turns out, my pedals were so far inward that the laser was not even showing up on my foot when lined up with my kneecap.
A couple of washers later…and I had a straight line heading from my leg to my foot. As you might have heard before, your leg is like a piston in producing power. You want the straightest line possible to the ground to insure there is no power loss in side to side torquing motion (as a gear head I love that analogy). I was losing power due to not striking the pedal straight on. That can also be a source of knee pain over time as I was essentially torquing it to the side.
We got done with the rest of the measurements and Todd gave me the final data. These sheets aren’t of any real value to you unless you are my exact same proportions and measurements, but I thought they would be cool to post here so you can see how things changed.
The Proof in the Pudding: The Rides After the Fit
It is amazing how much little changes can make a big difference. The bike feels great right now and it is the most comfortable I have ever been on a road bike. Obviously, the biggest changes I can feel is the pedal placement and saddle height. I really don’t feel like I am fighting anything on the bike anymore during my pedal strokes. Fellow riding friends have even said that it looks more comfortable as we are riding in a paceline.
So…long story short…I was wrong.
This is something I should have done a long time ago regardless of the issues with my back. I started thinking about how much power I have left on the trail or the road due to not being lined up correctly on the bike. How many more miles could I have ridden? How much faster could I have been with that extra energy and by getting the energy I did have straight to the ground?
I’ll never really know the answers to those questions…but I do know that I am sold. If you are in the local area, Reality Bikes is a great place to get a fit done and I have always highly recommended their shop for a lot of things…so check them out. Otherwise, get a fit done at your local shop as it will help your riding.