New year, new bike fit

I first had a comprehensive bike fit when I bought my current bike (a 2015 Giant Defy Advanced Pro 1) from the shop where I bought it (Pure Ride Cycles in Lake Forest, CA) at the end of 2015. The owner does a thorough fit as part of bike sales, which was a great bonus for me because to that point I hadn’t had one on my previous bike — a 2013 Fuji Sportif 1.1c. On that Fuji, I was winging my measurements using YouTube videos and web articles to self-assess my positioning after having a very rudimentary fitting (i.e., just the seat height) from that bike shop.

Since the purchase of the Giant, I hadn’t revisited my bike fit in the four-plus years after the purchase-day fitting. After thousands of miles of cycling, my body has certainly changed (losing a little weight, and then loss of some flexibility in some muscles because I don’t stretch enough), and I wasn’t certain that I had replaced worn bike shoe cleats in the precise positions that the shop did when I was fit initially. In addition to those potential sources of misalignment, my cycling shoes (Giro Apeckx HV that I purchased in 2014) had started to feel stretched out and loose, so much so that last summer I purchased a pair of Lake CX237 shoes — in wide width of course — because I felt like my feet were shifting around a little in the Giros. But, I never did end up swapping out the shoes and hadn’t even opened the new Lakes yet (more on my very wide feet and my cycling shoes in another post). The Lake shoes were still in their original packaging — I hadn’t tried them on and they still hadn’t yet seen the light of day. They remained in their unopened packaging and were untried since I purchased them last August.

In the past year, I also had started to encounter knee pain while riding. It was becoming a growing concern particularly on the trainer this past winter, as after about an hour, I would start feeling pain in my knees. I had in mind to visit a bike fitter in LA when I lived there but never got to it. So, having settled in after my move back to Sacramento and before I started training for AMBBR this year, it was probably a good time now to revisit my bike fit.

I spoke about this with the head coach of Sacramento’s Team-in-Training cycling team (with whom I’m training for AMBBR) about a month ago, and he recommended a bike fitter named Rich Burns at Roseville Cyclery in Roseville, CA, saying that Rich was one of the best in the area. That endorsement was good enough for me, so I contacted the shop and made an appointment, requesting a session with Rich. The appointment came up yesterday, and I visited the shop yesterday afternoon for my fitting after our first Team-in-Training practice.

Shortly after I got to the bike shop, we proceeded with the fitting in the back of the store, where Rich put my bike on a trainer and took some measurements of various lengths on the bike. He then started to make some assessments and measurements on aspects of my positioning (and using tools I hadn’t seen before). The following were the adjustments he made:

  • Saddle/sit bone width: Taking measurements of my seat height and measuring my knee bend, he determined that my saddle was set at the right height, so we kept that consistent. He used an electronic device to measure my sit bone width (which is 111 mm, as it turns out) to assess what saddle width would be right for me. This was was also informative because I’d been finding my rear becoming quite sore on long rides and I wondered if saddle width was an issue. Though my current saddle seems to be the right width he discovered, however, that my saddle was angled slightly downward, (which might explain why I never found a “home” on the saddle and would slide forward over time). I don’t recall whether it was angled this way when I was originally fit on the bike, and don’t know if perhaps the saddle had shifted over time. Regardless, he brought the saddle back to neutral and we’ll see how that works going forward, but I did feel like I was sitting more stable on the saddle once he adjusted its pitch.
  • Shoes/cleats: I rode in the Giro shoes that day and intended to be re-fit in those, but just in case, I did bring along the Lake ones. It turned out that bringing the Lake shoes was a good thing. Rich noticed two issues right away with my Giro shoes: first, the Giro soles were no longer firm and as a result were flexing quite a bit, and second, the soles were so worn that there were holes emerging through them. I recalled then that on my more recent long rides that I was starting to feel numbness in my big toes and I theorized that it might have been due to the lack of stabilization and support of my foot. The cleats were also really worn out and so I decided to go ahead and try out the Lake shoes (which were noticeably wider in design than the Giro shoes). I put on the Lake shoes in the store and was amazed at how comfortable they were. I didn’t have to cram my feet into them, for one, and the carbon sole felt really supportive. Rich measured and installed a new set of cleats into the Lake shoes and we officially and unceremoniously retired the Giros that I’d been riding in for about 6 years. He also thought I’d probably be able to generate more power through these new shoes given their carbon sole versus how worn and flexible the Giro shoes became. More comfort and more power? Can’t complain about that at all.
  • Leg alignment: with the cleats installed appropriately, Rich then assessed the tracking of my legs while pedaling along the vertical axis and along the pedal stroke. I noticed right away that my legs were flowing better through the pedal stroke and felt much more dialed in to my bike — something I didn’t even realize was an issue, other than the knee pain. It was a tangible improvement, to be sure, and a bit of a revelation. It occurred to me then that perhaps I’ve been cycling with some internal resistance due to sub-optimal alignment through my legs (as a result of cleat/shoe/saddle misalignment). Rich also recommended that I work on my pedal stroke so that I’m generating power on the full turn rather than only on the down-stroke, and he suggested some drills that I can work into my current training to help improve in this regard.

The whole appointment took about 90 minutes, but, as any good fitter should say, this was only the start. Rich wanted me to let him know how this fitting works for me on longer rides on the road and to get back to him with any issues, for which I can come back to get addressed. He covers this as part of the fitting and it wouldn’t require additional fees, as opposed to other fitters in town who apparently  charge for return visits after the initial fitting. The price was definitely reasonable for the service and I felt I got full value for the price.

I’ll also say that Rich is very personable, grounded and clearly passionate not just about cycling but about cyclists. The time went by quickly and it was a great experience. I’m looking forward to getting on the road to try out the new shoes and adjusted set up, but feel that I’ve been put in a great position to have a great year on the road.

Definitely, get yourself a periodic bike fit. Things can change so incrementally in our bodies and on our bikes over time that we don’t notice them in the moment. It’s also one of the best “upgrades” you can get on your bike to maximize your efficiency, comfort and ability on your bike. Ask around and find yourself a good bike fitter, and if you’re in the Sacramento area, visit Rich Burns at Roseville Cyclery. You’ll be in good hands.

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