As I [mentioned recently](http://back2cycling.com/2011/04/27/experiencing-pain/) I’ve been experiencing some pain on 100km+ rides and I certainly don’t want to stop riding them. Knowing that my fit job was totally a personal endeavour and thus probably not nearly as nice as it could be I set out to get a professional bike fitting and was sent to [SpeedTHEORY](http://www.speedtheory.ca/van/) in Vancouver to get it. I figured that once I’ve got fit and used to the new position, if pain persists it’s time to look at bio-mechanical issues with a physiotherapist but a proper fit is the first step in getting efficient.
We started off by seeing how high my seat was in relation to my cranks. Ends up that I had it about an inch too high. Now I did just get a new seat before the fitting and have only put about 100km on it so I really hadn’t figured out exactly where I liked it but and inch is really really far off. The extra height in the seat was causing me to ‘ankle’ at the bottom of the stroke thus robbing me of some power. This bad position would also explain the behind knee pain issues I’ve had on my left leg but not the front of knee pain on the left (yeah that’s odd I know).
Once we got the seat positioned at the proper height we moved it way forward. Looking at it now I had it back about an inch which means I was sitting way to far behind the cranks, again robbing me of power.
Now we’re on to the shoes/cleats and we hit a snag, my cleats have been on the shoes for a few years and they’re rusted solid. Now I have a total replacement for the cleats, bolts and mounting plates so I tell them as long as the shoes survive and we can get a fit I couldn’t care less about the long term cleat and bolts. With about 20 minutes of rust breaking spray and a hammer we….didn’t get it at all. Forging ahead we made some approximate notes on the adjustments the cleats will need. Seems the right knee doesn’t have enough inside float so not only do both cleats need to be moved back but I need to turn the right one slightly to give the foot a bit more float on the inside. Moving them back should let me put a bit more torque on the cranks which should obviously give me a bit more ooomf. Fixing the cleats is something I’ll have to work on myself over the next few days. Obviously the shop didn’t want to strip the bolts then be on the hook for getting them off and replacing them. Working retail for a while I totally understand so once I’ve got them off I’ll use my spare set and remind myself to pull them every 6 months, use new teflon tape so that this doesn’t happen again. If I’m having issues getting the cleats right I’ll just head back in for a fitting again.
With 20 minutes wasted on a set of ‘welded’ cleats we moved on to adjusting my overall cockpit length. I’ve got a really strong core from all the [whitewater kayaking](http://fraservalleywhitewater.com) I do and I’m pretty flexible. We started off by just adjusting the pitch of the handle bars to test out how the brake hoods felt in different positions. One thing I had certainly noticed on my bike is that when sprinting in the drops my arms would hit the flats of my bars. Certainly not hard enough to stop me from doing it but enough for me to remember doing it. We also noticed that I’d lock out my elbows (not good) and I know I often hunch my shoulders during a ride. Some of this is bad posture and I need to unlearn it but some is also the cockpit length.
The easiest way to test out shortening/lengthening the reach to your bars is to replace the stem. My 2008 Trek 1.5 came with a 31.8mm stem so we swapped it out for a shorter 28mm (or something like that) stem. First impressions said it wasn’t a big deal though the fitter thought I looked more relaxed (didn’t bunch my shoulders at all). Swapping it back was the real test, right away I thought the other way (shorter reach) was way more comfortable than the way the bike came from the factory.
Accounting for the fact that I hit my arms on the bar flats when sprinting we went with a new handle bar that had a short top and longer drops. It’s also 41 at the flats and 42 at the drops so this slight ‘flare’ just provides more clearance and the shorter top pull the hoods in to reduce the overall reach. The only bad part about this swap is that they didn’t have the tape I like in red so I got stuck with black. Still looks okay but the red had a bit more sex appeal.
We also used the fact that I’ve got a flexible strong core to get my bar about an inch lower. While I did come from a MTB background I’m totally comfortable sitting solely in the drops for a 50km ride. Moving me down reduces my wind profile and shouldn’t decrease any of the power I can put to the pedals (yeah that means faster again).
The fact is that I’ve probably ridden in this terrible position for years, at least with the saddle position. Since you’re not sitting and spinning for such a long time on the MTB I just never noticed how terrible it was or suffered any pain from it. Thousands of pedal strokes built up over 4, 5, 6 hours certainly brought out the issues on the road. As an experienced cyclist I just figured over 15 years of riding I had my position down solid, but I was obviously sorely mistaken.
###Getting Used to It
Now that I’ve got a properly set up bike it’s time to get used to the shorter cockpit and lower seat. Tomorrow will be a 30km hill ride (I’m not getting home till at least midnight) and Saturday will be at least 60km so I’ve got two good rides before I start pushing it on Tuesday with my typical split 90km (40ish in followed by 50 home with a group most of the way) which will really help test out the long term suitability of the new setup.
###Sum of All Parts
While I obviously don’t have hard numbers yet the sum off all the changes should increase my comfort, decrease my wind profile and give me more power at the pedals. I’m super excited to spend some rides getting use to the new setup and then start pushing myself on some of my normal routes to see if we’re seeing improvements. Even if I don’t see more speed I’m totally happy with a 100km+ ride and no lingering pain (seriously it’s lasted a few days).
Big shout out and thanks to the guys at SpeedTHEORY for the awesome service and fit. Many enjoyable miles will be ridden because of you.
I’ll leave you with one last pick of a sweet BMC bike. I really love how BMC styles the bikes, that squarish top tube is pure awesome.