I’ve done quite a lot of cycling over the last few years, but I still consider myself to be a novice in certain areas like my bike fit and what geometry/frame design suits me best. When I bought my road bike at the beginning of 2005, I had about a 10 minute bike fit; where some measurements were taken, fed into a computer programme and hey presto out came the results of what I needed.
A couple of things have stuck with me since then; firstly it showed I had long legs and a short torso compared to the average of people my size, as a result of this I would be problematic to fit onto other road bikes (the shop recommended I look at a custom frame, which I didn’t). Now over 5 years later, I’m fitter and stronger but still didn’t know whether or not my bike fits me properly. It’s been good enough to clock up the miles in my blog – but I wanted to know if I could improve the position to get more out of myself and my bike and understand how difficult it would be to find a new bike that fits me well in time.
This particular journey really started when one of my best friends (who lives in Melbourne) went to see bike fitting guru Steve Hogg in Sydney (http://www.cyclefitcentre.com/) last year to find the best frame to suit his body proportions. After hearing about his positive experience I started researching British based bike fitters and came up with a shortlist of about half a dozen contenders. I then started following topics on various bike forums around who people were recommending and having good experiences with.
For me, there were three key criteria for choosing someone: 1) Reputation/background/skill, 2) Price (if you’re in London you can easily pay over £300 for a bike fit) and 3) Ease of getting to.
I also wanted to choose someone I thought it would be interesting to go and see.
Even though I live in Kent, I considered bike fitting options from London to Lancashire and in between and prices from £50 – £350.
After my research one company/person stood out from the others: Adrian Timmis of Cadence Sport (http://www.cadencesport.co.uk/). Adrian is a former pro-cyclist who rode in the 1987 Tour de France in the last British team to compete before Sky arrived this year. Adrian also competed in the 1984 Olympics but these days whilst still riding and building a business, he takes an active role in his family’s day to day and we spent the first part of our time together talking about our kids and schools etc.
Adrian now does coaching and bike fitting and has recently fitted a number of pro-cyclists including members of the Raleigh team and Dean Downing of Rapha Condor Sharp.
Adrian ticked all of my criteria, so I placed my booking online. We then swapped a few emails about dates and I filled in a short questionnaire about my current bike dimensions. July 15th was my big day.
Once we’d had a coffee and a chat we started by making the footbeds that make up part of Adrian’s offer at present. As someone who scrunches their toes in my left foot I thought this might help and give my feet a more stable pedalling platform.
Once the footbeds were done and a pair of new cleats I’d brought attached, Adrian put my bike on a turbo trainer and I started pedalling away in a relatively easy gear. My bike was positioned in Adrian’s office with a large mirror to the side and the front of the bike allowing us both to observe and discuss my position.
In simple terms Adrian started with the legs and feet (cleats) and soon started working on my shoes. I’ve had the same pair of Specialized shoes since I started riding and I’m still happy with them. I was surprised to learn that they are designed to angle the rider’s knees outwards as most cyclist ride with their knees angling inwards – helping straighten the legs. In my case my legs angled out anyway – so the shoes were exacerbating this. This combined with working out that my left leg is longer than my right cued some work to resolve these issues.
Adrian was also observing my knee angles (from side on) as well as the movement from side to side on the pedal stroke (from the front/rear) – so monitoring both planes of movement.
The logic is relatively simple – get the legs right first then move onto the front of the bike once an efficient pedalling stroke has been found.
Every few minutes or so, I was stopped from pedalling and either a measurement taken for Adrian’s clipboard or an adjustment was made.
In terms of leg issues that were discovered; I was sat too far back on my bike, so my seat needed to be brought forward. The seat height was too low and needed to be raised. I was pedalling “bow legged” so my legs needed to be straightened. My imbalance in leg length also needed to be corrected.
Once all of these were addressed, I could see my legs were moving a lot more efficiently and the focus moved to the front of my bike.
In previous discussions with bike shops I have always been recommended to look at long head tube bikes, due to my short torso and long legs and the fact that I can’t touch my toes – or even get close to them. It was this thinking that had me buy some short drop, shallow reach handlebars earlier in the year and tilt them upwards for greater front end height. I also had 20mm of spacers on top of a tall headset top cap.
The first thing Adrian did to the front end was tilt the handlebars down again – quite a lot and I instantly felt more comfortable. Adrian then spent time moving the shifters down to get the bars much more comfortable for riding on the hoods and drops.
Then all of my spacers were removed and I felt surprisingly comfortable – more than I had ever been led to believe I ever would. In the end Adrian put one 5mm spacer back in and I feel more comfortable than I ever have before. The front end of my bike is now 3cm lower than it was.
By the end of the session even I could see by looking in the mirror that I look better on the bike thanks to a lot of changes to my position.
I’ve been moved forward so my weight is now more evenly distributed between the axles, giving the ride quality benefit I mentioned in my last post (http://girodilento.com/an-unexpected-benefit-of-a-bike-fit/). My seat has been raised and moved forward, my legs have been evened out and adjusted to pedal more efficiently. My handlebars have been lowered both in terms of their angle and their height.
Adrian has suggested that I take my next few rides a bit more gently to get used to the position and after one ride I can see why. Although I’m much more comfortable on the bike, my legs are working differently. Most of my effort (and pain up hills) used to come from the lower third of the thigh. On my first ride I could feel the effort all along my thigh, with most of the “burn” coming from the middle, so I think I’m engaging more of my thigh muscles. I am also feeling more in my lower leg too – again I think I’m engaging more of my lower leg in the pedalling. Even on the short first ride I could feel I was using my legs differently and more efficiently than before but I also felt that I need to give them some time to acclimatise.
Overall, I’m really pleased with the experience, my position has changed a lot but is dramatically better and once I get my legs used to working properly I think I’ll see demonstrable benefits in my riding. It was definitely money well spent and Adrian was an absolute pleasure to spend a few hours with. I had meant to take pictures, but once we got started I got so absorbed in the process I completely forgot until we were finished – so apologies for the lack of pictures.
Adrian is based in the Midlands between Birmingham and Derby and his website is: http://www.cadencesport.co.uk/ – if you do decide to book a bike fitting based on this review – please let Adrian know Giro di Lento sent you! Thanks for reading.
Update: October 24th – 2,000km later
I said in my original post above that after I’d got some more miles in, I’d write an update. After my ride today, I’ve done exactly 2,000km since my bike fit in July which I think is more than enough time to make some further observations.
Fundamentally I still believe that both the money and time with Adrian was extremely well spent and I whole heartedly re-iterate my previous recommendation.
I think it took me about 500km to properly adapt to the new position especially the change in the use of my thigh muscles – it hurt for quite a while but now all these months later I’m definitely riding faster than I ever have and I think a good proportion of this increased pace is a result of the bike fit. How much is impossible to say, I’m fitter than I was too – so that’s another factor. My bike is completely unchanged (sadly it still weighs 20lbs).
What I noticed (and still do) is that I feel more centred on the bike than before in terms of weight distribution, this has made my bike more comfortable and those big bumps that you hit in the road are no longer so challenging on my body.
Something that I wasn’t expecting was that as my legs adjusted to their new working position my climbing style changed. I’ve always been an up on the pedals climber, perhaps because I wasn’t using all of my legs muscles sitting down. For probably the first thousand kilometres after the bike fitting, I was a seated climber – I didn’t feel any need or inclination to get up on the pedals but sat and spun my way up hills. I then noticed that as my legs got stronger again (used to pedalling in their new position) I started getting up on the pedals again. Now I’m back up on the pedals but often climb a gear or two higher than I did previously, which is extremely satisfying.
Even though I also had the front end of my bike lowered, I now use the drops more than ever before. In fact I would say I use them every ride now when it was probably one out of fifteen rides before. Again this is something I wasn’t expecting.
I hope this helps anyone thinking about seeing Adrian – 2,000km later I still recommend his service without reservation.
Thanks for reading.