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Bike-Fitting. The Appliance of Science.

Bike-Fitting. The Appliance of Science.

As part of my on-going preparation for The Tour Divide I decided it was time to get correctly fitted to my bike for the ultra-endurance training & riding journey that I’m embarking on.
A quick search on the internet threw up a few local options and I booked in at (be)spoke Derby for one of their Bike-Science Retul precision bike fitting sessions.

It’s probably something I should have done a few years ago really. For anyone with racing or endurance aspirations it is an essential element. For most recreational riders it is less so, you can walk in to any decent bike shop these days and get sized and fitted reasonably well to any stock bike; and riding for 3-4 hours is unlikely to throw up any worrying underlying niggles. Back-to-back 80-100+ mile days, however, and you will start to notice little issues fairly quickly. That’s where a bike-fit comes in.

From their website:

“A bike fit is one of the most important things a cyclist can do to help get the best from their bike. Precision bike fitting will help your bike work as hard as you do, allowing you to ride longer and better.

Benefits of a bike fit

– improved comfort and efficiency

– help prevent injury 

– reduce or eliminate existing aches and injuries 

– prevent numbness at contact points 

– reduce fatigue”

I’ve always set up my bikes to suit my somewhat aggressive riding technique, with an emphasis on short stems and rearward position on the bike. For ultra-endurance that has had to change.
And that is where Andy Brooke comes in.
Andy is the head-honcho at (be)spoke Derby, and he has an impressive CV; he has a Master’s Degree in Sports Science, worked with British Cycling on their Sports Development Team, and is Founder & President of The International Bike Fitting Institute. So I looked like being in fairly safe hands.
We introduced ourselves and then got straight down to business.

Andy asked me a series of questions, like how often I ride, how many miles per week, what other sports I do, aspirations, what I’m looking to achieve, what I want from my bike fit? etc.
He took a look at my bike, and uploaded all the geometry stat’s on to his laptop.

Unfortunately they didn’t have the compatible bolt-thru adapter for my bike so they replicated the set-up on a jig.
Andy got me to jump aboard and spin away for a short while.

Setting up the jig to replicate my bikes geometry

He then asked me to perform a range of simple exercises to asses my flexibility and core strength; hip raises, heel raises, holding a plank, single leg squats, and a few other things.

Satisfied that I had reasonable core strength and flexibility we moved on to the motion sensing stuff, using a device that accurately tracked my knee alignment.
Andy then proceeded to make some adjustments to the cleat position on my shoes, before tracking again. There was a lot of emphasis placed on the ideal cleat position before continuing with anything else. (For endurance riding it necessary to have the cleats towards the rear of the shoe, this helps to protect from Achilles Tendonitis).
Tracking knee alignment.
Once Andy was satisfied with the progress it was time to cover me in little sticky-backed Velcro pads. These held the Retul sensors that accurately tracked the position of my ankles, knees, hips, wrist, elbows, and shoulders during the pedaling motion. I was then asked to maintain a pedaling cycle of around 70rpm for 15 second intervals.
After each interval Andy would make slight adjustments to the set-up in order to correct my terrible posture on the bike.
Seat height, seat fore and aft position, and stem length were all changed until he was satisfied that I was in a more efficient cycling position.
Andy attaching the Retul motion sensors.
Spinning away at 70rpm.
The angle of the dangle.
Andy Brooke making a minor adjustment to the seat position.

That’s me on the screen in stick-man form, but without a head!
I then was then spun through 180 degrees and the Retul measurements were taken again and cross referenced to ascertain equilibrium.

Andy also added a small tapered pad in to each of my shoes to raise the outside of my feet slightly, which should, in turn, even out the pressure across my feet and stop me getting numb toes. This has been a constant issue for me on long rides. (It worked too, on my first long ride after the bike-fit I didn’t experience any numbness whatsoever).

I came away with plenty to think about, some exercises to improve strength in my hip flexor’s, a recommendation to change the stem from 70mm to 100mm, and also to consider using a shorter crank – 165mm instead of 170mm.
And the reasons given for each of these changes were explained clearly.
Fortunately I had both a suitable stem and crankset at home that I could use (I actually removed a 100mm stem off the bike when I bought it!).
(They carry a good stock of various stem’s etc should you wish to buy one there and then)
He gave me some sound advice on the position of my Aerobars too, considering that they are compromised from the most efficient position due to the necessity of fitting various bags to the bike frame for endurance racing. During the Tour Divide they will be more beneficial for a change of hand position, or to stretch out my back, than for aerodynamic efficiency anyway.

Andy kept me informed and engaged throughout the whole process (approximately 2 1/2 hours) and we constantly discussed the various options available to me.

The whole procedure is followed up with an email containing the stat’s etc that have been used, and identified, during the fitting process. They also keep the door open, as it were, for follow-up advice should you have any issues or queries going in to the future.
I came away with a lot of confidence. 
Getting a bike-fit is a fairly expensive investment, I paid £174.99 for the session, but it felt like good value for money.
Before embarking on next years Tour Divide I am planning a return visit just to get checked out again, and to make sure that everything looks and feels right. Hopefully when I go back they will have the compatible bolt-thru axle for my bike and we can fine tune the set-up perfectly.

So, in conclusion; I had a very positive experience, I felt that I got good value for money, I will have no qualms about contacting Andy for some follow up advice should I need it, and I’ll be going back again.
I guess that’s as good a recommendation as any!

If you are suffering from repeated injuries or riding pains then you should probably give serious consideration to getting a professional bike-fit. In my personal experience Facebook and Internet Forums don’t provide accurate long-term solutions! 😀 Experts do.

Thank you for looking 🙂

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About The Author

Neil Cottam

Neil is the founder of Chase The Rainbow. He has spent a lifetime exploring the outdoors, from a childhood climbing trees and scrambling his bike around old pit heads to hiking in the Himalaya and backpacking around Europe and Asia.

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