If you’re anything like me, you’ll spend ages choosing the perfect bike.
The colour, the wheels and the running gear all have to be perfect! You finally choose it, and get it from the shop. Then you put the seat to the ‘right’ height, make sure you can reach your brake levers and off you go!
I will admit it. I have never done a ‘technical’ set up for my bikes.
I make sure I buy the right frame size for my height, and then put the seat roughly to the right spot (based on putting my heal on the pedal, and straighten my leg, then set the seat height based on that). Then I might tweak it up or down depending on how it feels.
I never could justify getting a professional bike fit. I am far from a ‘professional’!.
So what exactly is a bike fit?
Put simply, a specialised bike fitter will measure you up and fit you to your bike.
A proper bike fit will reduce pain you might have in your back, feet, arms, neck while on and off the bike.
A bike fit also aims to get your technique right so you can get the most power out of your legs while riding.
Although I am far from being a ‘professional’ bike rider, I am keen to get the most out of my bike and my body. Perhaps my back problems are part baby-related and part bike-related? Maybe I can increase my power output and improve my race starts?
Fix a sore back
I do get a sore back. But they are not related to my bike…
It’s the kids!
People told me that having a baby ruins your back. But it's not the pregnancy that wreaks it. It's the slumping while breastfeeding. It's the rocking the baby to sleep and awkwardly and carefully placing them into bed. It's the leaning over the cot or through the cot rails patting or rubbing baby’s back at all hours of the night. It's the laying down sideways breastfeeding and trying to catch some zzzzzz. With a crook in your neck. Because you can’t move. Because then you’ll wake up the baby.
Anyway, I digress.
If you are sitting on your bike wrong and your pelvis/knees/ankles/feet are not working right, then you will do more damage to your body. You will get sore and probably won’t want to ride your bike as much. A bike fit can fix these problems.
Get more power
A bike fit can ensure your body is aligned and you are getting optimum power from each pedal stroke.
If you are set up properly you can be sure you are using those big muscles in your glutes.
Professional bike fitting
A friend I used to race with recommended I visit Gary Land from PRO Bike Fit. http://www.probikefit.com.au
He is located in Brisbane’s leafy suburb of The Gap, which is not far from me, so it seemed like a perfect idea to catch up and see what he does.
I met with Gary to discuss his professional bike fitting service, PRO Bike Fit. He is a Master certified Retul bicycle fitter who has been in the bike industry for 14 years.
His workshop has a lovely view of the rolling hills and is surrounded by bushland. Over a coffee we talk about the types of problems people have and how Gary fixes them. He legitimately wants to help people solve bike fit problems.
I know nothing about muscles
While listening to Gary explaining how the human body works, I realised I know nothing about muscles. He used all the technical terms for muscles which I can’t even attempt to spell, so I have no chance Googling them.
What happens at a bike fit?
Gary’s previous clients included high level road cyclists and World Champions. But surprisingly I didn’t feel ‘un-worthy’ being there. Gary also fits clients who are just getting into the sport.
PRO Bike Fit uses a Retul 3D motion capture system. The Retul motion capture bike fit assessment is about 90 minutes long. You get hooked up to a set of LED lights (on all your ankle, knee, hip, elbow, wrists etc), which is tracked by the motion capture system when you pedal your bike on a stationary trainer. I felt a bit like a super hero.Photo: Part of the Retul system
The objective is to analyse your movement on the bike. Are you moving in the most efficient way possible? Are you flexing or rotating too far in one direction in your ankles, knees or hips?
The bike fit also includes bike measurement set up report of bicycle after setup, so you can use the measurements to replicate the bike fit on your other bikes (yes, I know you have more than one).
Making contact with the bike
It may sound obvious but there are three points of contact with the bike:
So, each of these needs to be assessed to see where problems may lie.
The PRO Bike Fit service will include an assessment of your bike shoes and cleat position in relation to your feet and toes.
I have always set my cleats up with the premise that they should be placed on the ball of my foot. I thought I had that part of my set up right…. But I guess I never really knew where the ball of my foot was!
Although I’ve been riding bikes for 15 years, I have never really thought too much about the type of saddle I’ve used. I just buy one that looks good and is light. I was never too fussed on the style of seat. I figured the women’s specific saddles were a marketing gimmick.
The PRO Bike Fit using the fancy Retul 3D system will determine if my saddle is right for me.
The sensors on my wrists will detect if I move my hands around while riding on the stationary trainer and it will also show the angle of my wrists on my bars.
Measurements and analysis
Once I was hooked up to the LED lights, all I had to do was pedal on the stationary trainer while the Retul motion capture system did it’s thing.Photo: The bike fit process
Key findings from the bike fit
The analysis provided really detailed numbers for the various movements that your body makes when cycling. It showed where my right or left side were unevenly moving. It also showed that my pedalling technique needed work.
Bike set up
With the results showing where I had uneven movements, or where my body was moving in an inefficient way, the PRO Bike Fit assessment recommended changes to my bike set up and to my technique.
The big thing that I took away from the results was that apparently my trusty saddle was not the right size for me. It is too narrow for my sit bones. I needed a slightly wider seat because my sit bones were sliding off the saddle with each pedal stroke.
It occurred to me that I have no idea if I sit on a seat correctly. And what the ramifications are of it. Thankfully Gary lent me a women’s specific saddle to test out (that reminds me, I must give that back…).
Gary explained that some of the simplest bike set up errors can result in a lack of power. Your body may be using different muscles, and not using the strong glute muscles (in your bum).
When I got home, I found myself Googling sit bones and pelvic bones on saddles. I might follow up on a future blog about saddles when I’ve done my research.Photo: The bike fit process
I was quite excited to test out my bike with the new PRO Bike Fit!
I did my normal loop in on my mountain bike. The cleats felt a bit weird, but I soon got used to them in the new position.
The women’s specific saddle felt really good. I could actually notice that I wasn’t sliding sideways with each pedal stroke.
It’s strange that I never thought I had an issue prior to the bike fit. But with the changes in place I could notice the difference. I ended up getting a few Personal Best records during climbs on my mountain bike ride! Amazing!
I am totally sold that the bike fit will result in more efficient pedalling and more power for me. I’m not sure if it will fix my back pain as I am sure that is related to carrying my kids in awkward positions. But being more stable on my bike will probably help reduce potential future pain.
If you are interested in getting a bike fit, check out the PRO Bike Fit website (http://www.probikefit.com.au
) and contact Gary for more information.