Monday, 29 July 2013

Is a bike fitting worth it?

When I bought my bike many years ago, I spent a few hours in the shop getting it properly fitted. The blokes doing the fitting took into account my size, flexibility etc etc. They did a pretty good job - once my arse had adjusted to the seat, I was comfortable and able to deliver power through the pedals.

All that changed a few weeks ago when I bought a new saddle. Although I got it fitted in a bike shop, it was simply screwed on rather than "fitted". Within 10 minutes of leaving the shop, I was in serious discomfort. By the time I got home, the discomfort had turned into a lot of pain. I immediately sought out some tools, and dropped the saddle. After a short test ride, I dropped it some more (the new saddle was significantly taller than the old one).

A week later, I hurt all over. I had achilles problems in one ankle, burning pain in my opposite knee, terrible hamstring pains and I couldn't ride for more than 5 minutes without having to stand up on the pedals and stretch. It was so bad, I had to take a week off to recover.

After the week off, I had another go. Things were still bad, so I booked myself in for a new bike fitting. By the end of the week, the pain had travelled further up and I was getting killer, knockout headaches.

The fitting took 3 hours and ended up setting me back over $400 (once some new parts were included).

Ouch.

However, the fitter made quite a few adjustments, and they all worked. I've done another week on the bike, and all the pain has disappeared. During the fitting, it was clear that the positioning of the new saddle had bent me seriously out of shape. It was way too far forward, and I had dropped it too much to compensate for the poor shop fitting. I was unable to develop power because my legs weren't pushing in the right direction. One leg was able to bend nearly 15 degrees further than the other - a sign of hamstring lock up. Being tight on one side was twisting everything around, which produced the headaches. 

Because my saddle was too far forward, me knees were too far forward, and that led to knee pain. Orthotics were fitted into my shoes, allowing more power to be transferred to the pedals. Because I was too low, my legs weren't extending far enough at the bottom of each stroke, leading to a huge loss of power.

So yes, it was expensive. But bloody hell - it was worth it. I reckon  the way I was going, I would have spent more on physio fees if I hadn't gotten the bike setup properly.

I wonder how many people buy a bike, go for a ride, find that it hurts a lot due to a bad setup and then park in the garage and never ride it again? I wouldn't think of driving a car without adjusting the seat settings into the most comfortable and ergonomic position - but lots of people buy cheap bikes from shops that have no idea of how to use a plumb bob to check your knee position, or to use caliper thingys to check the angle of your knee extension at the bottom of your pedal stroke.

As they say - you gets what you pays for.

4 comments:

Shannon Baker said...

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Richard said...

Definitely worth it. I made a 1cm adjustment to my saddle height after I saw a photo of me riding. "That's too low. Must put it up a bit." Big mistake. Huge! Saddle was now too high and it over-stretched the IT band in my right leg in about 15 minutes of riding. After a few months of physio and not being able to ride and a lot of pain, it came good again.

kae said...

That's possibly why my pushie is in the shed with perished tyres.