Bike fitting in Boulder

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I’ve rented a bike probably a half-dozen times while traveling. When I pick up the bike, I pull out my tape measure to set the saddle height, then ask if I can put on my 120mm, -17 degree stem. I tell them it just won’t feel right otherwise. Then they look at me as if I’m straight out of The Princess and the Pea.

For the last year my bike hasn’t felt right. I’ve told people that I felt “crooked” on the bike. It didn’t used to be like that.

The person who did my last bike fit (Andy Applegate) suggested that I visit the Boulder Center for Sports Medicine (BCSM), as they could do a real ‘medical fit’. I filed it away as an interesting idea — maybe, some day. The thought of getting 2 bikes to and from Boulder seemed like a hassle. But then everyone I mentioned it to said, “wow, that sounds cool. You should do it.”

I exchanged a few emails with a guy who works at BCSM, and when he told me that I would be seeing Andy Pruitt were I to come, I said “ok, let’s do it”. How could I turn down the chance to be fit by a rock-star bike fitter? Andy Pruitt has literally written the book (well, “a” book) on bike fitting and has worked with many Pro Tour cyclists.

As an added incentive, there are like 1000 microbreweries in Boulder. “Beer is everywhere”, Shawn Adams told me.

Arrangements were made, the bikes arrived, and I showed up first thing Tuesday morning at BCSM.  I showed Dr. Pruitt a picture of my x-ray.  He had a similar break, years ago.  I felt like I’d hit the jackpot — not only someone who knew about cycling fit and problems, but who know about my specific problem, first hand.

He poked and prodded, noted the still-apparent muscle atrophy (18 months later!), noticed that I still limp a bit, have leg-length imbalance, and reiterated what I’d been told previously: the anatomy of my right leg is just different now.

We got a baseline with my current fit, with Dr. Pruitt watching me ride.  The motion capture confirmed what I had been saying: I was crooked on the bike.

First step was switching pedal systems (to Speedplay, since they are so adjustable). Next was putting a wedge and shim under my left cleat. Then moving the right a bit on my shoe.  Lowering the saddle a bit.  Raising the bars a bit.  Another capture, and I was indeed straighter, but  still a bit off.

Next step was putting a pressure-sensor pad over the saddle to get a ‘heat map’ of the pressure points.  Before doing it, I said that I felt like most of the pressure was on my left side.  The pressure map confirmed it — bright red on the left side. We tried a different style / shape of saddle — one where I would be sitting more on top, and that would encourage me to rotate my pelvis forward more.

Another look at the pressure map, and wow, it was amazing how it had evened out.  This got me pretty close to straight on the bike.  It felt good.  I liked the pedals.  The saddle would take some getting used to.

We moved to the TT bike, which went much quicker.  A few minor adjustments, but nothing major.

By the time I got dressed and got my bikes back in the car, it was after 3pm.  I’d been there most of the day.

It’s been over a month now, so I’ve had time to adjust to the changes.  The new setup is most definitely better.  I love being on the new pedal system.  It took a while to get used to the saddle, but I like that too.  It’s clear to me that I am sitting straighter on the bike, with more even pressure on the saddle.

It still doesn’t quite feel like the “old me” on the bike, but the gap is closing.

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3 Comments

Filed under accident, cycling, recovery, travel

3 responses to “Bike fitting in Boulder

  1. Interesting read. I’ve been considering a bike fit for a while now. I feel comfortable on both my road and my time trial bike, but more so on the TT machine! I have fitted myself over the years with minor adjustments and changes through trial and error, so have a niggling thought in the back of my mind that I could be more comfortable/efficient with a proper fit. Like you, I’d really like to be able to take BOTH bikes to a fitting session and have everything sorted professionally!

    • Brian

      On my first ‘serious’ bike, I did my own fit based on reading Greg LeMond’s book — so we’re talking circa 1988 or so. I think that probably got me 95% of the way there, which then like you I tweaked and made minor adjustments.

      I then had a couple of professional fits on the road bike, locally (Jim Baldesare, who is very good and whom I would recommend). He made a few changes but really they were more like minor adjustments.

      2009 or so I got a Retul fit on my TT bike, which made a few more significant changes. Then in 2012 I drove down to NC to have Andy Applegate fit me on both road and TT bikes. He is very good also, and I would recommend him. All things considered the adjustments again were pretty small. But when you’re talking thousands of miles and millions(?) of pedal rotations 1cm can feel a lot different. I think we shortened my stem from 120 to 110 on that bike, and raised the saddle about .7cm as I recall.

      I looked at it as trying to squeeze out that last little bit from what I’d likely optimized already, over the years. Not necessary, and I wasn’t looking for any huge gains from it, but it was still useful. I’m an advocate of getting a professional fit — if you can find someone who’s good.

      Had I not broken my femur I would not have been doing it yet again.

  2. Pingback: What is it about my bike saddle? | SomethingElse Active

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