i may be guilty of oversimplification, and no doubt the chapters of phil burt's book will confirm that apprehension, but it's very likely that the stunningly obvious bit of bike fitting for most of us is that of saddle height. not long back from one of my rare trips to londonshire, where the bicycle, if not king, is certainly a large part of the royal family of transport, it is very hard to walk even a few metres without viewing a small peloton of cyclists passing by, with almost certainly one or two riding with the saddles too low. and simply to negate the law of averages in its infancy, riding too close to the ground seems far more common than doing so with your backside in the air.
the latter, however, is precisely the situation i found myself in for more years than i care to admit. this state of affairs is entirely the fault of chris boardman, though if i ever meet the gentleman i will deny ever having said so. many of the olympic medallist's bicycles were identifiable by the large amount of seatpost visible above the seatpin bolt, a look that looked undeniably cool. so, within the parameters of amenable discomfort, i had raised the seatpost on my colnago to the point where i attained a small portion of that coolness, yet still able to not only climb aboard, but actually ride the darned thing.
the antidote for such narcissistic behaviour came in the shape of an obscured doorway in london's macklin street: cyclefit. phil and jules measured every aspect of my position of the bike over a number of remarkably interesting hours, handing me a folder of initially inscrutable dimensions as i smilingly departed the premises. since the bike fit was for the purposes of a review in these very pixels, it was incumbent on yours truly to attempt replication on the bicycles occupying space in the bike shed, number one being the saddle height.
which is where it all went right, when i thought it had to be all wrong.
a variation of a few millimetres either way would have been not only acceptable but entirely expected, but the news that i'd been riding for almost fifteen years with my saddle three centimetres too high seemed an altitude too far. however, there seemed little point in having undergone the adjustment adventure in macklin street to simply ignore it because it didn't seem right. so i dropped the boardman lookalike saddle position those three centimetres and achieved seated nirvana. it seems inconceivable that i could have endured such iniquity for all those years, but that apparently was the case.
the gist of that defined by cyclefit was largely echoed by another more recent fit at alpine bikes' fitting room in their trek bicycle centre. both trek and alpine strongly encourage having undergoing at least the basic bike-fit prior to taking delivery of their nice new madone or domane.
however, no matter how big a deal it might be to have a professional check out your bike position and make the very adjustments that would have you moving faster and more comfortably over the rapidly detriorating roads, it's something that is not always within the financial grasp of every member of the pelotonese. for those in this position, you should perhaps fork out the £18.99 required to acquire a copy of phil burt's latest publication, bike fit. perhaps i should not have been surprised, in the light of my own original guide to a high saddle, that the foreword has been composed by chris boardman.
and as if one foreword were not sufficient, there's a second from the chris who has just allied himself with nick hussey's vulpine clothing to bring a new range of badged clothing next year; sir hoy. plaudits before you've even reached chapter one are enhanced even further with a laudatory quote from sir brailsford on the cover. thus, before getting to the nitty gritty, there is confidence that those pounds have been well spent.
as boardman alludes to in his introduction, successful bicycle-fit "will always be a blend of good science and good judgement." an observation that ought to be kept uppermost when devouring the remainder of the book. certain numbers will always predict excellent results, but if you can't hold the position suggested, speed would be the last of your worries.
the author is currently chief physiotherapist at british cycling, as well as having been with team sky since day one, perhaps in part explaining the positioning of a quote from his boss on the front cover. but the depth of information and research contained within are definitely not to be sneezed at, even if some of it is a tad inscrutable to the less than biomechanically inclined. happily, he manages to head off the naysayers at the pass, by informing us that "...there isn't a magic formula."
not unnaturally, the opening chapters deal with human anatomy and physiology, an important part of the book not to avoid if the following chapters are to make any sense. there seems little point in mr burt explaining just how the wrong stem length might impact upon the quadratus lumborum if you've no earthly idea of what he speaks. it also strikes me, having read through the process of creating a pertinent bike fit, that the very least you're going to need to make the most of mr burt's advice is a turbo trainer and a movie camera. however, though i have neither, i'm reassured that i'm almost unique in this respect; many colleagues own the former, and everyone else i know possesses a smartphone.
bike-fit also addresses many of the common misapprehensions that pass for sage advice during the sunday morning ride. setting your cleats as far forward as possible, spinning at more than 100rpm embodies total efficiency, and oval chainrings are better than round, join several other myths of the peloton. burt also adds a necessary touch of realism to his words by incorporating a few real-life case studies, and also includes a chapter concerning off-the-bike work to help with both cycling and position on the bicycle. for no matter the millimetres of changes advised, almost as much has to come from the hapless rider to strengthen parts of the body and help deal with the physicality of hard pedalling.
though the subtitle of this book is 'optimise your bike position for high performance and injury avoidance.', there is information in 'bike fit' that pertains to even the leisure cyclist. let's face it, being comfortable while pedalling slowly is every bit as desirable as for the fast guys. as evidenced by sir chris hoy "...it is so much more comfortable, efficient and fun to be running in your own shoes."
if there's any criticism to be levelled at the book it's that of over-illustration. full page photos of chris hoy on the shoulders of team coaches, a double page spread of an elderly gent on a brompton and several photos of professional riders (predominantly of sky, given burt's professional association with the team) seem largely unnecessary and add little to the party. however, a comprehensive index is something of a boon, for on occasion, trying to follow the technicalities was made easier by being able to find previous instances of discussion.
if you seem to have hit a metaphorical brick wall in the performance stakes or every bike ride results in aches and pains, other than a trip to the nearest qualified practitioner, phil burt's bike fit would seem a practical and economical first step.
tuesday 15 july 2014..........................................................................................................................................................................................................