No pain, no gain — right? Not when it comes to bike set-up. All those little niggles you experience in the saddle, then forget about after your coffee or dismiss as ‘part of riding’, creep up and, not only have the potential to cause lasting injury in the long-term, but can also have a significant impact on your day-to-day performance, efficiency and enjoyment.
I started road riding in late January. I did what many people do — bought a second-hand bike, had a basic bike sizing where the shop adjusts the seat height and handlebars and got me set-up with cleats, shoes and pedals; and away I went. Wooohoo! The first few rides were OK as I didn’t really go that far, but after 20km plus I was so uncomfortable in the saddle that no amount of repositioning was helping.
But I persisted, thinking I just needed to ‘harden up’. Then came my first 90km ride to Herveys Range — it resulted in me very nearly calling a maxi taxi from the Rupertswood Service Station due to the saddle-related pain (if I hadn’t been with other people I seriously would have!). An unrelated (or was it?) side effect of that ride was now a new niggle in my right knee.
So then I tried a new saddle — a lot better, but the seat bones were still sore. Although things were a lot more bearable, it still posed a problem on longer rides and my constant tilting in the saddle was starting to hurt my lower back. Even at this point, I thought, ‘Maybe I’m not riding enough and it will get better if I do more than three rides a week’. Meanwhile, my feet would go numb on every ride; but it was a problem that many fellow riders were complaining about, so I dismissed that too as me needing to get used to it.
But then I got chatting to the team at Top Brand Cycles — they were very quick to tell me that the pain was not normal at all. In fact, you should have no pain in the saddle. NONE. (Unless you are doing a Castle Hill time trial and your legs are on fire, but that — of course — is self-inflicted).
So I had a Body Geometry Bike Fit in June — this is a three-hour one-on-one process where you are rigorously measured and tested to ensure that the bike is set up exactly according to your body dimensions to help you get the best experience from your ride.
I was pretty surprised at the level of detail to be honest — especially all the assessment that happens before you even get on the bike.
Check out this video below of Top Brand Cycles’ Jake Salmon and Zac Ryan demonstrating some of the components covered in a pre-fit interview and flexibility assessment.
So here is the whole process:
PRE-FIT INTERVIEW AND FLEXIBILITY ASSESSMENT
The Body Geometry Fit specialist (you need to be properly trained to do it) talks with you about your riding experience and goals, and evaluates your strength and flexibility through a range of tests. There’s even a tool to measure the distance between your seat bones.
Your fitter visually assesses your position on the bike while you ride, and adjusts it accordingly in order to determine the best and most efficient ride position for you. This can take a while as measurements are recorded and you are examined and corrected from all angles.
After that’s done, you are sent a copy of the report so you can use the details in the future. Your fitter will schedule a follow-up session — although you have a new set-up, you won’t know what it feels like until you’ve done a proper ride. If further tweaks need to be made to your riding position, seat etc, then you come back and it’s tweaked until it’s spot on.
So what happened to me?
I now have a different saddle (one that the seat-bone-measurer determined was more appropriate); orthotics in my shoes to correct issues with my arches, which was affecting my pedalling (and making me bob); adjustments to the positioning of the pedals and cleats to correct my pronated foot (that I didn’t know I had); plus the seat and handlebar heights were changed.
How do I feel now?
Pretty excited actually. I have my first Townsville to Cairns Bike Ride coming up on July 23 and I’m confident that I’m going to have minimal pain and will be a lot more efficient. I haven’t experienced any pain in my right knee since (which interestingly returns if I hop onto another bike), foot numbness is minimal, but — most satisfyingly — my butt is a lot happier and feels like it could comfortably sit in that saddle for hours. I’ve even had comments about my riding improving, which I think has a lot to do with being set-up properly.
You’ll need to book in to have a Body Geometry Bike Fit. Find out more by calling Top Brand Cycles on 4725 4269 or emailing [email protected].
Pssst: All riders who are doing/did the Paluma Push and Townsville to Cairns Bike Ride get $50 off their BG Bike Fit. Look for the vouchers in your event packs.
Editor’s disclosure: The BG Bike Fit was something I bid on and won as part of an athlete fundraising dinner last year. Top Brand is a sponsor of the current Triathlon and Multisport Series.