OPINION

A fitting tribute

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Is it worth shelling out a couple of hundred quid to find out what you might already know?

I would hazard a guess that most of the road.cc massive have, at one time or another, considered a professional bike fit. I’d also wager that quite a few of you have not yet taken the plunge.

Shelling out Rapha Softshell money for information that might turn out to be redundant or even counterproductive certainly felt wrong to me until a few months ago and I know many cyclists who still hold that view.

But then it struck me that balking at paying a couple of hundred quid for something that might just transform my experience of cycling – making me simultaneously quicker, more efficient and more comfortable – is worth questioning. After all, some of us are perfectly happy to hand over that much for a pair of shorts, or three or four times that for a pair of wheels – and these are things that will need replacing. It’s not like we’re short of a few quid or shy of spending it, is it? And I could always ignore the advice if it proved to be duff.

For me, the trigger was the prospect of a heavier than usual year of cycling in 2015 - the focal point of which is a ride over the Pyrenees in June - together with a few fresh aches and pains. I’d started to feel pinched nerve pains down my left leg and my neck was stiffening up on longer rides. My spring chicken days are long gone so I figured I should take what steps I could to minimize the risk of these issues escalating.

So it was that I approached the fine fellows at Bespoke Cycling in London. They use Retül fitting technology, which involves sticking Velcro pads onto your feet, ankles, knees, hips, hands, elbows and shoulders, connecting them all up with wires and then capturing a 3D image of your cycling motion as you pedal away – either on your own bike or, as in my case, on a jig.

I won’t bore you with the finer details; it’s all out there online and most of you will know the drill. Suffice it to say I emerged with a gratifyingly large pile of data about the way I sit on a bike and move those pedals round, together with a set of measurements for each of my two main bikes. These measurements take into account my flexibility and fitness levels as well as the kind of riding I do so they will hopefully change over the months as I get fitter and more flexible (perhaps that should be ‘if I get fitter...’)

The changes I had to make to accommodate the new measurements weren’t very big. Elliott at Bespoke recommended shorter stems and moved my cleats back a fraction, both saddles down a touch and one of them forward a few millimetres and tilted ever-so-slightly down.

His colleague Ben also recommended a series of exercises designed to improve my stability, strength and flexibility, and offered some suggestions about my pedaling technique (my ankles were flexing a bit too much at the top of the stroke).

So, not a lot of change for a relatively large amount of cash then. But I’ve now been using those measurements and doing those exercises for a couple of months and I’m definitely feeling more comfortable on the bike. I get those nerve pains in my leg much less often and my neck and shoulders are more relaxed. I’m no faster but then I’ve only been doing endurance rides since the fitting so no surprise there (and, truth be told, I’ve been a bit slack on the strengthening exercises lately anyway).

And so to the bottom line: was it money well spent? Well I wouldn’t describe the improvements as transformational exactly but those leg and neck pains were beginning to worry me and they’re not any more. It’s hard to put a price on that kind of reassurance but it’s certainly worth a couple of hundred quid to me.

I think it’s the knowledge about me rather than my bikes that I’ll benefit from the most. I’ve learned a fair bit about my position on the bike and my technique and I’ve emerged with a tailor-made - if fairly rudimentary - series of exercises geared towards getting my wonky body in better shape.

I don’t know about the relative merits of the different fitting systems but based on my limited experience I’d certainly recommend finding somewhere that offers a service covering both body and bike. Adjusting the bike is the easy bit really.

At the very least, a bike fit gives you the chance to sit down with someone who loves cycling as much as you do and talk about yourself for a couple of hours - and it doesn’t get much better than that does it?

Lifelong lover of most things cycling-related, from Moulton Mini adventures in the 70s to London bike messengering in the 80s, commuting in the 90s, mountain biking in the noughties and road cycling throughout. Editor of Simpson Magazine (www.simpsonmagazine.cc). 

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