Fitting a bike

9 March 2014

_MG_0470The rationale for a bike fit is pretty simple. You spend £500–600 on even an entry-level road bike, and if you’re training for a sportive, even half-heartedly, you’ll be spending three hours a week or more on the machine. So whether you measure the close to £200 cost against the cost of the bike or average it across training time, you can justify it fairly easily. And if that wasn’t enough, I had some money I’d won as a prize so felt, of course, that I deserved some kind of a reward.

In other words, rationalisation is easy. And just to make it easier, since it’s not about the bike, the performance gains per pound of a bike fitting are going to be greater than spending the same money upgrading your bike.

Which is a long way round of explaining how I came to find myself recently at Pearson Cycles in south-west London with my road bike talking to Ronan about my cycling style.

Over the course of a few hours, I explained my cycling habits and ambitions, was filmed on my road bike (on a turbo), was tested on a machine that measured power output, had my cleats repositioned, and finally watched Ronan realign my saddle and handlebars to increase my comfort and my power. (I could feel the improvement even just cycling home.) One of the interesting things about how Ronan did this was that he read the technical data from the bike fit rig, but he also used a theodolite to line up the saddle. He told me later that one of the reasons he enjoyed bike fitting was that it was always a balance between science and art,

Along the way I learned that my power output between left and right legs was pretty even, and that my legs were pretty straight when cycling, which are both good things. And I also learnt that my hamstrings are very short – which explains why I’ve had such problems all my life touching my toes. (Note to primary school PE teacher: I was trying.)

And I learned one other thing as well. Part of the pleasure was in the sense that I was being taken care of, by someone who wanted me to be better on my bike. I’ve had the same sense in the past from time to time when I’ve been coached. And maybe that men aren’t very good at letting themselves be cared for because, compared with women, they do much less caring themselves.

The outcome: well, I don’t have power data, but it feels from my cycle computer as if I’m going 5–10% faster, acceleration is quicker and smoother, and it’s a bit less of a battle on the hills. And all for the cost of a long weekend away. There I go again.

The picture of a Serotta bike fit machine is from the Cycling WMD blog, and is used with thanks.

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