A poor fitting bike can severely impact the way you ride. If you aren’t comfortable, you won’t want to put in all the miles it takes to get as fast as you want to be. It can lead to low back pain, knee pain, hip pain, shoulder soreness, etc. In the past, I’ve had professional fitters use protractors, levels, cameras, plumb bobs, and their expert eye to dial in my fit to give me the most comfort and performance possible. About 4 years ago I really felt like I was dialed in, so I haven’t made any changes since. Every time I get a new bike, I carefully measure every angle and touch point to make sure my position is unchanged between both bikes.
Schlegel Bikes, in Oklahoma City, recently picked up one of the Guru/Dorel fit systems. At first, I wasn’t very interested in using it. In my mind, I was already in the perfect position, so why would I waste my time and the fitter’s time? I changed my mind once I started talking to cyclists with decades of experience who were raving about their experience. I decided to give it a try, and my mind was blown. It was an incredible experience.
They set the machine up to mimic my bike setup (same saddle, bars, shifters, and pedals) and fit coordinates. From there, they raised the bars until they were too high and dropped the seat until it was too low. They moved the seat too far back and brought the bars in until the reach was too short. While I was pedaling at about a perceived exertion of 3 of 10, they started moving the seat up a little bit at a time, asking how each setting felt. Once it felt like I was reaching, we moved it back down a little bit and micro-adjusted it until I felt the height was perfect. Then they did the same type of thing with saddle fore/aft, bar height, and reach.
At times it was a little difficult to tell what I liked and what I didn’t like, but the fitter, Aaron Smathers, was really patient. He would go back and forth between two settings a few times and let me pedal for a while to figure out what I liked and didn’t like. Since it is all computerized, the changes are instant, so they can swap back and forth with ease.
At this point in the fit, the bike setup felt okay, but it felt a lot like my normal bike fit.
Then we started playing with the effective seat tube angle. Meanwhile, the fitter gradually started to increase the resistance (the fit bike has a built in computrainer). He was putting me steeper and steeper until I felt like I was falling forward, and then backed it off a little. Then he used my feedback to make sure all the touch points felt okay. We went back and forth with all the points until I felt really dialed in. He would ask questions like “Does it feel easier or harder to pedal now?” or “Do the pedals feel lighter or heavier now?”
He gave me a cup of water and then increased the resistance more, until I was sitting somewhere at the high end of zone 4 or low end of zone 5; the kind of effort it would take to bridge a 30-45 second gap in a road race. The sweat started dripping and I was getting into about a 7 on a scale of 10. Then he pushed the “magic” button that immediately put the machine back to “my” bike.
As soon as the machine started to move I started yelling “No! No! I like the other one!” You could hear my pedal stroke change immediately. I was able to keep pedaling, but I didn’t want to. I was uncomfortable and it felt hard to pedal. It felt nothing like the bike I’ve ridden the last 4 or 5 years. He clicked another button and it went back to my new fit. You could hear my pedal stroke smooth back out and I felt like I could go another two minutes if I had to. Then to make sure, he switched back to the old fit again. Instead of two minutes, I probably could have gone 45 seconds at best.
All I could do was laugh. The difference was insane…and I thought I had a great fit before.
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