I am a stickler when it comes to bike fit. Anyone who has read the posts on this blog knows this about me. I went through a 3 hour Specialized Body Geometry setup on my Venge then transferred those measurements, the best I could, to my 5200 (Trek). All of my bikes have gone through some form of fitting, from the rudimentary for my mountain bikes, to the extensive for my road bikes.
In fact, I even went so far as to take my 5200 in to make sure that I had it as close as possible to my Venge. I wanted to know if there was anything I could do to get it closer. The end result was that it was as close as could be when comparing a 56 cm compact frame race bike to a 58 cm standard frame race bike. I can’t get the Trek any closer to the Venge than it is… We’re talking within a few millimeters here and there.
My bikes have been set up this way because the setup is everything when it comes to cycling, speed and comfort.
I don’t care how plush the ride is, how wonderful the frame material is, how wonderful the saddle is… If the bike setup is off, it’s going to hurt the rider. The setup not set in stone, the nature of the setup is though. The idea is to get it close and then fine tune it over a bit of time. I was lucky enough that my Venge hasn’t changed much since that BG fitting (new parts, yes, but the replacement bits that went on the bike were the same size/angle as the parts they replaced – or very close to it). While the body can adapt to small differences, there are some things that don’t have a lot of room for error.
So far, none of what I’ve written should blow up any skirts.
Where this gets fun was my test ride of a new bike the other day. I’ve written a bit about the tandem my wife and I were looking at (we’ve gone from “looking at it” to “put a bow on it, please”). The test ride wasn’t supposed to be anything special, just get an idea as to whether or not we liked tandem riding enough to give the bike a try. We went for just 21 miles. To some 21 miles is a pretty big deal and I understand that. Two my wife and I, 21 miles is a nice, little jaunt around the block. We put in some miles – I average a little better than 150 miles a week during the early spring and more than 200 for the rest of the season into November. Those 21 miles on that ill set-up tandem hurt me more than a century on my Venge does.
I always find it interesting when people say that a hundred-mile bike ride must hurt.
I think this may be the root of all cycling evil: An ill-fitting bike.
Just based on the saddle being 1″ too far forward, 1″ too low and the stem about 1-1/2″ too short, I ended up with a sore ass, a saddle sore and numb hands – over just 21 miles, a little more than one hour on the bike. Once I raised the saddle, at least, we were able to get a little bit of speed, but I was still hurting when we pulled into the shop.
A bike is just a bike, but at the same time, it’s a bike.
We all remember as kids, we got a bike, we set the saddle on it so we could reach the pedals and that’s the last we thought of it for a decade (and one to two feet of growth). We rode just fine back then, no?
Well, not really. Almost every kid I knew was on an ill-fitted bike so we were all slow and it never mattered. As adults, it’s different. First, if you want to ride fast, you’ve gotta have the saddle in the right place so you’re actually comfortable placing your butt on it – and 1″ too far forward and 1″ too low definitely will not do. Add to that another 5 cm on the stem and it’s surprising my butt didn’t stage a revolt by the time I hit the 10 mile mark.
This, ladies and gentlemen, is why bikes hurt.
While there are other minor issues, saddle width for one, everything painful can usually be traced to a flaw in the setup. Feet hurt? It’s probably a cleat placement or angle issue. Arms go numb? Too much or too little reach. Hamstring hurts? Saddle is too wide. Front of the knee hurts? Saddle is too low. Back of the knee? Saddle is too high… Neck hurts? Too much drop from the saddle to the handlebar.
Now, there is a simpler explanation for all of these as well – especially if you’ve already had your bike fitted: Saddle time.
All things improve with saddle time. Please my friends, you can’t ride hard if you always feel as though you’re sitting on barbed wire. If you haven’t done so, get your bike(s) fitted and find out what you’ve been missing.