Bike Fit


I’ve been riding my bicycle a fair bit in past months, and I’ve been having some comfort
problems. The first hour is fine, the second hour elbows hurt and my feet and hands
fall asleep (and my butt hurts). The third and fourth hours are more and the same.

I’m planning on doing a metric century (100 KM) in September, which will put me on
the bike for 6-7 hours, so I needed to address the comfort issue. I made an appointment
with Erik Moen, a physical therapist who works at Seattle’s Pro Sports Club (many
Microsoft people belong to the Bellevue Pro Sports
Club
). He came highly recommended as “the great guy” by a friend I have who rides
seriously.

So, Tuesday morning I drove into Seattle, and wheeled my bike in for the fit. The
nice thing about going to a physical therapist for a bike fit is that he can consider
modifications to either the bike or to the body. My expectation was that I would be
shopping for a new bike when I was done, or at least some new components. Another
big advantage is that it’s considered a physical therapy visit, so I didn’t have to
pay for the session. Ka-Ching!

The session starts with the usual medical history questions, and then a questionaire
about my bike-riding tendencies. Except for marking “spinner” instead of “cruiser”,
I’m pretty much on the lightweight side of all the questions. My session with Erik
then began.

Erik is a really nice guy, and he started by doing an evaluation of my body mechanics
and flexibility. That took about 15 minutes. We then went to one of the studios
and put my bike on a trainer for measurements. This starts with static measurements
of the bike (seat highet, difference between bar and saddle height, reach to brake
hoods, stem length, seat setback, and crank length). While he did this I watched and
generally got in the way.

Next are the rider on bike measurements, which include the trunk angle (37 degrees),
distance between elbows and knee, knee angles, and a few others I’ve forgot). My seat
was too far tipped forward (moved it back one notch), and my bars were too low (raised
them 1cm and tilted them back). Saddle height was good, as we my cleat placement.

We then worked on position, to see if I could get the handlebar inline with the stem.
He adjusted me on the bike to the position he thought I should be in, and found that
overall, things were set up pretty well for me.

The problem was that I wasn’t actually in that position, due to some inflexibility
in my hamstrings and back (there’s a note about a “probable ham challenge” on my fit
sheet, but I don’t think that’s about lunch).

His prescription:

1) New shoes to replace my very old Shimano ones

2) Stick with SPD cleats, as they’re more practical for my use

3) Insoles (superfeet or biosoft inserts) to make my feet happier

4) A number of trunk and hamstring stretching exercises to stretch my legs and cure
me of the “software slouch”.

5) A recheck in October

Overall, a very worthwhile hour. Interesting that the bike setup is fine, it’s the
rider setup that needs some work. I knew I had crappy hamstring flexibility (too much
soccer, not enough stretching), but the back part is a new one. I’m going to ask my
group to tell me to “sit up straight” if they see me slouching.

I was going to ride this morning but felt to sick, but I’m hoping to get in a few
miles tonight. I’ll post again with my impressions of the adjustments.

Comments (8)

  1. Jim Argeropoulos says:

    The stem up should help.

    Other things I have found useful are:
    *Gel gloves with the padding split both vertically and horizontally. This keeps from pinching nerves in your hands.
    *Making sure you keep your elbows bent a little. Often when people get tired the begin to lock out the arms. This is really hard on the upper body.
    *Stretch on the bike. Get out of the saddle, position your upper body over the bars and put one leg back stretching it, then put the other leg back and stretch it. For the upper body, do some arm circles and similar stretches while riding.

    My wife and kids are gone to visit my parents this week (about 250 miles away). I am playing with the idea of taking the afternoon off and making a go for it in two days. I have never ridden from here to my parents, so it is tempting, but it is also quite a ride through rolling hills. In all likelihood, I will chicken out.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Thanks, Jim

  3. Jim Argeropoulos says:

    While riding through Northern Wisconsin, I though of a few more things that might be of help.
    *Moving your hands to different positions on the bars somewhat frequently.
    *I find that when I am mashing the pedals and not pedaling circles, my feet go to sleep. If I am pedaling circles, then there is not always pressure on my feet and they do lots better.
    *As to the butt, well a seat can make a big difference, but after a few hours, it is just going a bit tender. Riding standing for even a few seconds seems to help a bit for temporary relief.