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Bike Fit

29 Mar

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I mentioned in my post Bliss on a Bike that I recently had a fit done on Rocket, my refurbed Scott CR1 Pro. Part of the refurbishing happened during the fit which I’ll discuss later. 

Why a new fit?

Good question, because on the surface I didn’t seem to need one. While not a perfect measure of whether or not a fit is needed, I consider two overall factors: when I’m riding do I feel like the bike is just an extension of me – i.e., just one machine going down the road, and two, how do I feel during and after a ride.

The problem with me and maybe all of us – is we can adjust to most anything – regardless of how uncomfortable or painful it may be when we’re riding. We figure part of cycling is suffering and although that’s true at times you shouldn’t suffer from just being on the bike. Good suffering comes in with hard effort and long hours in the saddle, if you’re in pain or uncomfortable on a short and easy ride, something is most likely wrong with your position.

My position has been comfortable overall for a 3-4 hour ride – not like – “gee, maybe I should keep my bike in the living room to sit on because it’s just so damn comfortable!” – but comfortable in the sense that nothing hurt during or was sore after a ride. Given some of my physical  “quirks” that in and of itself is quite a feat, but things can always be improved, right? Plus, Mark had a fit done on his new bike and after seeing the attention to detail and fine tuning done to his position I wanted one too. Fit isn’t just about comfort, but also power, and it seemed Mark’s power  had definitely improved.

Here’s how the fit went:

I had my fit done at Schlegel Bicycles. Schlegel’s offers three levels of fits: Bronze ($100), Silver ($170) and Gold ($280).

A fit is only as good as the person doing it and that’s where Schlegel’s excels – Aaron Smathers. Before I ever walked into Schlegel’s, with Mark for his fit or for my own, I was sold on the process just from watching this video. This isn’t your basic fit, it’s a custom fit based on your needs, biomechanics – including any little (or not so little) quirks or anomalies you might have.

Check out a typical Bronze fit.

Aaron tweaked every aspect of my position: seat height and fore/aft position, switched me to a longer stem and we changed to a more ergonomic handlebar with a shallower drop. Both the bar and stem are carbon fiber and are from 3T Cycling. I love the new bar/stem combination. The shock dampening is significant as is the ease and comfort of riding in the drops. In fact the drops are now more comfortable than the brake hoods. For the coolness factor, the bar/stem match my frame perfectly and look way better than the stock Ritchey Pro I had.

From watching me pedal (including using a laser beam to track rotation in my knee) Aaron changed the position of cleats in both shoes. Turns out I had them in the opposite position I should have. I pedaled, he tweaked, I pedaled some more, changing from the hoods to the drops and back, more tweaks.

At some point your position gets dialed in to the extent it can be and then you have to take it on the road and ride. On an actual ride you move around on the bike, you scoot up on the saddle, you scoot back. Your position while riding is dynamic, on a trainer, not so much.

Aaron spent about 2 hours on my fit. As I said earlier, he’s knowledgeable about the science of bike fitting and he’s raced and ridden for years so he has a practical knowledge as well. He’s careful and thoughtful in his assessments and adjustments which is just what you want when you’re getting a fit. Schlegel’s has a nice set up for fits and a good selection of bikes, gear and clothing.

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The price of my Silver level fit (and all the custom fits) includes future tweaks and adjustments necessary to get my position dialed in. Overall I’m quite happy with the results so far. Riding in the drops is so much more comfortable, that alone is worth the cost of the fit and the bar/stem. I do have some pain in my neck and shoulders that may or may not be related. Mostly what I notice as far as things that possibly need adjusting is when on the hoods my shoulders feel scrunched. My new bar is a 42 but the bar is narrower on top then flares at the drops giving an effective width at the top somewhere around 40cm I would guess. I don’t feel it at all in the drops, just when I’m on the brake hoods and resting my hands on the bar. It may be something I will adjust to or it could even be something else causing it. Too soon to tell I think.

Since the fit I’ve ridden a little over 100 miles, but I want to maybe do another 100 to give my new position a chance to gel. Using my rule of thumb about position, I definitely feel "one with the bike", even more so than before. I feel that I have more power but much of that has to do with the improved performance not of me, but of my upgraded drivetrain. What a difference Chorus makes! Chorus is one step up from what I had (Centaur), but also compact replacing a triple. Also 2005 Centaur, 2011 Chorus, so big improvements in that one step jump. Bottom line is I love, love, LOVE my Chorus groupset.

I highly recommend Aaron Smathers and Schlegel’s for a fit if you’re in need and you’re in this area. You’ll need to get it scheduled fairly soon because Aaron is leaving this summer to start medical school in the fall.  

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For the Love of Bikes Blog by Susan Lash (2009 - 2014) is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
Based on a work at www.loveofbikes.com.