“The bike should fit you instead of you trying to adjust to the bike.”
— Dr. Jeanne Williams, Quest Therapy Consultants
I have had two bike fits in the last several months. Each had its purpose. I got my “new to me” bike in November. It is a Blue Triad SL.
Event 1: Bike Fix by Chris at Biketopia
Chris is my bike guy. I ask a lot of questions and I try to buy things there regularly to support Chris for his generous sharing of bike knowledge. When I decided to upgrade from an aluminum frame to a carbon frame, it was Chris’ advice that I followed.
When I finally committed to making the change, I bought a fixer-upper. It was really
My “new to me” Blue Triad SL.
inexpensive. I knew, however, that things were not totally right. It did not shift right, the brakes did not work well with my carbon wheels, and I was not going riding until Chris fixed it up. This turned out to be a wise choice. On of my shift cables had broken out out its lining inside the bike. This caused bad shifting and damage to the inside of the frame. Chris wasn’t too worried. He replaced my shifter cable with a self-contained system that would seal it off. Better shifting and no more rubbing the frame. He also replaced the brake pads and made a few other minor adjustments. It was ready to ride. Thanks, Chris!
Outcome of Event 1: The bike was safe to ride!
Event 2: Standard Bike Fit by Chris at Biketopia
Chris at Biketopia (www.biketopia.com)
It was the off season when I got my bike. I rode periodically and tried to save money by tweaking my own bike fit. I moved the seat, moved my cleats, and several other things. Unfortunately, I was getting sore knees. This is not normal or healthy. If riding your bike is hurting your joints, get help! I buried my pride for the moment and went to Chris for help. Chris got out his measuring tools and did a basic bike fit. It took a while, but he figured out that most of the issue was with my bike seat: it was too high. I have a long torso and shorter legs for my height. Chris actually had to cut off about 1 inch of my carbon bike frame atop the seat post. It sounded scary to me, but Chris has done good things for me in the past. When I mounted the shortened bike, my knees were tracking properly. No more knee pain. Thanks, Chris!
Outcome of Event 2: No more knee pain from riding my bike.
Event 3: High Performance Bike Fit by Dr. Jeanne and Brent Williams at Quest Therapy Consultants
The bike was healthy, my knees were healthy, why do I need more than that? Goals. Big goals. I want to perform well in a 140.6 mile race known by most as Ironman. This requires a 2.4 mile swim, and 122 mile bike ride, and a 26.2 mile run. Hours and hours of non-stop fun.
Here is where the next level bike fit comes in: speed and comfort = performance. Whether it is a sprint triathlon or a full distance 140.6, folks who want to compete at their absolute best need more than the standard bike fit. To get the most out of the effort on the bike and to be as fresh as possible, you must have everything tweaked to optimize power and comfort.
I knew I wanted more. I contacted Dr. Jeanne Williams to schedule a bit fit with her and her husband Brent. Both are highly qualified in different ways. Jeanne is a medical professional with a doctoral degree in physical therapy. She knows the human body. Brent is a master bike mechanic with multiple certifications. They both have a plethora of experience and training that make them a perfect dynamic-duo to do a bike fit that is precise in terms of both the body and the bike. In addition to all of this, they have spent some time with the legendary John Cobb.
Measuring the angles in my aero position
In a 3 hour session, I rode several times while Dr. Jeanne used her fancy analysis gizmos and gadgets. There were dots on my shoes and joints. There were low-powered lasers on my knees. There was a fancy tablet with a specialized set of apps to video and analyze the geometry of my ride after each adjustment. As a data nerd, I have to say it was pretty darn cool. Both Brent and Jeanne would use tools to make adjustments. They also both asked a lot of questions and explained what they were doing and why.
Dr. Jeanne and Brent Williams adjusting my handlebars.
Here is a list of some of the adjustments made on my bike and shoes:
- Bike Seat: They checked the bike seat height. Chris had adjusted it in my first bike fit. Jeanne and Brent were happy with the height. 🙂 They did move the seat back a bit to accomodate my long torso.
- Stem: They adjusted the stem 20mm. The stem holds the handlebars. This was also to account for my long torso. These first two changes allowed me a straight torso for improved breathing AND allowed my arms to rest properly in aero position.
- Aero Bars: The aero bars were straight out, but that did not match my natural hand position. They rotated them both inward a bit and this felt much more comfortable. Jeanne explained that this reduction in tension means I expend less energy in the forearms. I am training for an Ironman, so this would be very important.
- Shoes/Cleats: The cleats on the shoes can be moved forward or backward. They can also be turned at different angles. They did some minor adjustments and even added some tiny wedges/shims to fix my pronation problem. In the end, these adjustments ensured that my knees stay directly over the pedals and provide the maximum power for the efforts. Healthy and strong is the result.
Dr. Jeanne Williams explaining the angles and the effect. (the angles are marked visibly on the screen)
The most important tool they used was their brains. Jeanne is a PhD in physical therapy. Brent is Vice President of the Professional Bicycle Mechanics Association (http://www.probma.org). That is a lot of brain power being applied. They collected data from the bike, from the shoes, and from the rider. They did this each time anything was adjusted. They conferred with each other until they agreed and they explained things to me as they went. This medical/mechanical duo makes for a top notch bike high performance bike fit. This high performance bike fit meant more comfort and more power for me.
Thanks, Jeanne and Brent!
Outcome of Event 3: Increased power and comfort to help m maintain my Ironman training.
A Philosophy of Bike Fit
I interviewed Dr. Jeanne and Brent to understand their goals and philosophy underlying the bike fit process:
The main goals of the bike fit process include:
- relaxed breathing
- more power
In the broader picture, this dynamic duo has more grandiose goals: more cyclists and triathletes as well as more satisfaction for those that ride.
They told me the story of one of their bike fit customers who had been happily riding his bike on perfectly flat terrain in the plains of North Dakota, but recently moved to East Tennessee. The man told them, “I do great on the flats, but every time I reach a hill I have to stop and walk! This fellow would have stopped cycling altogether if not for the changes made in a bike fit. He did not need the high performance bike fit. He did not have knee pain. He did need more power to get up those hills. A little time with these bike fit professionals and he was putting out more power with the same effort. It only took a few minor adjustments. This man entered the bike fit with frustration and walked out a happy cyclist.
In the end, it comes down to this: “The bike should fit you instead of you trying to adjust to the bike.”
“Anyone can get on a bike and start riding.
To be healthy and optimize your power, you need a bike fit.”
— Dr. Jeanne Williams, Quest Therapy Consultants
Bike Fit: One Size Does Not Fit All
If you are a professional triathlete and you have at least $2,500 and 3 days to spend, feel free to make an appointment with John Cobb. For the rest of us, the best we can do is going to someone trained by Cobb or some other bicycle legend. At the level of detail that I was seeking in a bike fit, I spent 3 hours. Like me, you can start talking with Jeanne and Brent (or your local bike fit team) and find out how much of the bike fit protocol you actually need. You may need the full $350 bike fit session, but you may only need parts of it. That would save both time and money. As with any good bike fit professional, these experts will talk with you long enough so that you will know what services you actually need. From there, they can give you customized bike fit options to fit both your goals and your budget.
To get fit on the bike, get the bike fit that fits your goals.