Over 19 million bikes were sold in 2010 alone. Many of those bikes went to cyclists like me who log hundreds of miles every month without knowing if my bike is properly fit. You go out of your way to get the proper fitting apparel, use the proper form in sports or fitness exercises, so why not ensure you receive a proper bike fit that is going to lessen your chance of injury and improve your performance at the same time.
Many of the aches and pains of cycling or even lack in performance improvement can be attributed to an ill fitting bike. Studio Velo, a premier bike shop based in Mill Valley, invited me down for a bike fit with resident fit expert Colin Beardsley.
Studio Velo uses the latest and greatest Retul 3D bike fitting system. Retul's cycling specific system utilizes motion-capture technology with immediate report capability to produce data about your bike fit down to the millimeter.
In addition to the detailed data capture, the benefit of the Retul system is that it allows for some variation based on the idiosyncrasies of the individual rider such as flexibility, skill level, and ultimately what feels comfortable. Paired together with Colin's intimate knowledge of both cycling and physical riding mechanics, the end goal of the Studio Velo bike fit is to get you to a place where you and your bike are working together in the best way possible.
The first thing Colin did was take my standard body measurements such as height, torso, inseam, shoulder width, arm length, and those of my bike, including saddle height, extension, and handlebar width, among many others. Most bike fitters would stop here and adjust your bike according to your body measurement, then eyeball how you look riding the bike at these new coordinates, making a few tweaks here and there until you "appear" properly fit.
Before making any adjustments to my bike, Colin hooked me up to a slew of motion capture sensors on my wrist, elbow, shoulder, hip, knee, ankle, and foot. The Retul motion capture system works by measuring the various angles created by your body when you are pedaling to asses the dynamic interaction between you and your bike in motion.
After looking at my readings, Colin made quite a few small adjustments to not only my bike, but one of the largest adjustments to my cleat position. He moved the cleats back significantly on my shoes so I would be able to ride more over my pedals instead pushing them from behind, almost like in a recumbent position. Colin also adjusted my saddle height, saddle fore-aft position, changed to a shorter stem, and adjusted the angle of my handlebars and brake levers.
After the adjustments, I jumped back on the bike to retake my measurements and see how my readings had improved. I could instantly feel the difference, much of it attributed to the new cleat position and shorter stem.
I have been riding on the same saddle for way too many years and have never been comfortable. Colin suggested I might want to try a new one, as mine had seen better days. I ended up buying the WTB Deva Saddle, which so far has made a vast improvement to my overall comfort when riding (review to follow).
Because of my shoulder measurement, Colin suggested I might want to try a narrower handlebar. The current handlebars that came with my bike are too wide, causing me to ride with my arms in a slight open "V" position instead of straight forward. This may explain some of my neck pain and fatigue during long rides.
Since the bike fit, I have ridden a dozen or so of my local rides and noticed that I am not only more comfortable, but have way more power on the bike. Some of the pedaling exercises that Colin showed me have helped me to learn to power through my entire stroke instead of just up and down.
I shaved over 10 minutes off of one of my usual rides, even on the windiest day of the year, passing people on climbs, something that rarely happens for me. The new bike fit appears to have done away with my right hand numbness problem and I now have less knee and hamstring pain during and after my ride.
If you are a cyclist or bike commute regularly and have not been in for a bike fit, I highly recommend you do so. Your body will thank you. If you live in the San Francisco area, head on over to see Colin at Studio Velo. They have fit centers in both the city as well as in Marin, with a variety of different fit options.