Bike fit. Many people think this is just fiddling around with the saddle when you buy it, and calling it good. Hell, I was one of those people. I was thrown out the door with my mountain bike without any sort of sizing / fitting and took to Google to learn that my saddle should be above the handlebars. My road bike was a different story, and I had a thorough sizing when I bought the bike, which I was impressed with. But still, I have struggled with severe knee pain, especially in my right knee, that actually has left me hampered in my daily activities, especially the stooping and bending that being a nurse requires. I knew my mountain bike was a mess and I knew Specialized had some sort of fitting service and that it cost a lot of money. Finally fed up and knowing I should start with my equipment before running off to a doctor about my knee and knowing the fact that I seriously want to pursue cycling and racing hardcore, I had a BG FIT (Body Geometry Fit Integration Technology) session today at Peloton Cycles in Fort Collins, CO (which is where I purchased my road bike).
Here is my description of my fitting and my experience! (There won’t be too many photos, so bear with all the text please)
First to get the boring details out of the way, a GOOD bike fitting does cost money. Mine was $150 for the first bike (normally $200 but I received a discount since I recently purchased a bike at Peloton) and $50 for a second bike. $200 may seem like a lot, but doctors, physical therapy, MRIs, etc, cost way more! I was told my session would take about 2-3 hours, depending on how many adjustments would have to be made. I was instructed to bring my bike shorts, a tight fitting top (such as a bike jersey), and my cycling shoes.
When I first arrived, I was greeted by Barry Schmidt, who is one of Peloton’s master certified BG FIT technicians. He helped me get the bikes in the store and set up. Right away I was instructed to sit on a memory foam cushion that would be used to measure the distance between my sit bones. Barry told me that it was better to get this done before I had the padded bike shorts on. I was then shown to a dressing room where I could change into my cycling clothing.
Barry started with my road bike, and got it hooked into a trainer and leveled up. He took measurements of how the bike currently sat while I filled out a form with my details (name, address, phone, email, yadda yadda), riding style (I put competitive, my leisure is gone!), years of cycling (woo hoo, I got to put 6 months which made him laugh!), and goals (mine were improve racing skills and get faster and verbally I said stop falling so much as well). Once measurements were taken Barry sat done and went through a list of body systems, starting at my head, asking about any issues with them, previous injuries, etc. I informed him of my knee trouble, past history of a broken growth plate in my ankle which may or may not have shortened my left leg length, back pain I get on 50+ mile rides, history of compressed spine and knee injury stemming from gymnastics, and occasional numb hands on longer rides. He was thorough and inquisitive, and did not shrug off any suggestions or thoughts I had about what my body was up to. I greatly appreciated this! It is always great to know you’re being listened to!
We then moved on the analysis of my body. First, I stood in front of Barry and was told to rock back and forth until I was in my natural stance width. Barry immediately noted that I have extreme varus on both of my feet, worse in the left. Varus is inward angulation of a bone or joint. I had never noticed this about myself, but when I looked down I could totally see how my ankles pretty much droop my feet inward. This leaves me pretty flat footed while barefoot. Barry noted that I actually have really high arches, but due to the varus it doesn’t appear that way. The varus would pose a problem later in the 1/3 Knee Bend Test (and would explain why I was always falling off that damn balance beam back in the day!).
We continued on with my body analysis. Barry had me lay/sit on an exam table and put me through different exercises and stretches to analyze my flexibility, strength, and body alignment. He noted that my left hip does sit lower than my right, but however, my legs are completely equal in length! (Out goes the shorter leg theory!). He told me my spine is pretty darn straight, but I’m slightly swaybacked (yeah, my mom’s been on me about that for years…). My core is pretty weak, so he suggested strengthening that, because core strength is oh so important in cycling. He analyzed my gluteus medius muscles, and discovered that they are insanely weak, so once again suggested strengthening exercises. Barry was very impressed with my flexibility everywhere in my body, and commented that I have nice and loose IT bands, which is a relief to me, but also bad, because I figured tight IT bands were the cause of my knee pain. So good that they’re loose, bad that they’re ruled out for my knee issue.
I then did the 1/3 Knee Bend Test, which is hard due to knee pain and also instability caused by the varus in my feet. Seriously, totally explains my horrible barefooted balance!!!
Finally, it was time to hop on the trainer! First to note, my saddle is the perfect width for my sit bones, so no need to replace that! Which I knew, because it is as comfortable as I feel a saddle can get 🙂 I got on the trainer, clipped in, and began pedaling while Barry examined me from every angle. Immediately he noticed how my right thigh rubs on my top tube while pedaling, and that my left thigh does the same occasionally. I already noticed this (mostly from photos taken of me while racing), but Barry pointed out that my left foot likes to point down as a pedal. He didn’t say this was a problem to fix, just something unique that I do and that we would work with. He stopped me and took measurements on each leg at the bottom of the pedal stroke, and also neutral.
First adjustment was to move the saddle back ever so much, from 6.2 to 6.4. Then he placed Specialized High Performance BG Footbeds in size +++ (the green ones, the most extreme they offer for arch support) in both of my shoes and it was back on the bike and more pedaling. He noted better knee alignment but I still was rubbing on the top tube so Barry decided to try some shims, first one, then two. Two shims put my left leg/knee/foot in great alignment. He was worried that two shims in my right shoe put my knee too far outwards, which could cause new problems. With one shim, we noticed that the rubbing on the top tube was way less frequent and my knee was in good alignment. Barry got the idea to move my cleat outwards on my right shoe about 1/16th of an inch, and that seemed to make a ton of difference! Seriously, so nice to ride without rubbing on my pretty carbon fiber the whole time!
Barry also looked at my reach, shoulder width, and back. We agreed that my normal position of comfort on the hoods was not quite right, and Barry looked at my shoulder width and alignment, and recommended that when I am ready I should change to 40 bars (I currently have 42) to bring things closer to what my body is trying to do. I think that this is a great birthday gift idea (HINT HINT) and a great chance to maybe get some carbon bars! My stem length was good, which is a big thanks to Lindsey at Peloton who size fitted me when I purchased the bike.
I pedaled some more on the new set up and agreed that it felt very nice! The bike didn’t not need a ton of adjustments, as it is mostly all in my feet/ankles and therefore, shoes.
- Green BG Footbeds on both shoes
- 1.5 varus shim on the right shoe
- 3.0 varus shims in the left shoe.
- Cleat on right shoe moved slightly outboard
Road bike changes:
- Saddle height – 77.0 to 76.8
- Saddle (fore-aft) – 6.2 to 6.4
- Reach – 48.6 to 48.7
- Drop – stayed the same at 5.9
- Knee Angle – Left: Same at 27, Right: 33 to 32
Now it was on to my mountain bike. Once getting the big 29er on the trainer, Barry once again took initial measurements and did some adjusting based on my numbers from my road bike, like raising the saddle about an inch. Then the fun begin.
Oh goodness, if I didn’t have a women’s drop tube, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t be able to pedal the mountain bike due to my right thigh! It was even rubbing my seat post!! My left thigh was also very inward. It was pretty clear I was sitting far too forward, far too low, and needed my new fancy cycling foot orthotics. Barry transferred over the footbeds and shims from my road shoes, and raised the saddle and moved it back. Immediately the bike felt better! He also moved my cleats on my shoes back towards the heels, which made it harder to clip in because I wasn’t use to the position, but helped align my legs better.
Bar width and reach/stem length seemed good, but Barry suggesting flipping my stem so it would put my body into a lower, more aggressive position. I commented on how I often get low and lean over the bars to increase my power, and wished the mountain bike was more like the road bike in that position. So Barry flipped my stem, so I went from +8 degrees to -8 degrees, and also aligned my handlebars so when they are straight so is my wheel, instead of pointing somewhere off the left (LOL,whoops). Immediately the bike just felt more natural!
- Green BG Footbeds on both shoes
- 1.5 varus shim on the right shoe
- 3.0 varus shims in the left shoe.
- Cleats moved 0.7 aft
Mountain bike changes:
- Saddle height – 75.0 to 76.3
- Saddle (fore-aft) – 7.6 to 8.0
- Reach – 54.2 to 55
- Drop – +0.5 to -2.0
- Knee angle – Left 40 to 34, Right 42 to 32
Overall, I am very satisfied! I haven’t had a chance to go out riding, but plan on putting down some miles on the road bike tomorrow, and then the mountain bike this weekend. Barry said he would follow up in about two weeks and see how I feel, and told me definitely to get in touch if I run into any problems, pain, etc. I will update this as well with how things feel.
So I need to work on core strength and also on my gluteus medius muscles. Definitely something I should consider working on over this winter!! Barry asked why I wasn’t cyclocrossing, and I had to explain my disdain of running while carrying a heavy ass mountain bike. Haha. Justification for buying a cross bike, right?
I did some retail therapy as well. Picked up some winter gloves by Specialized, and Wedgie bags in black/pink (for me) and black/blue (for Matt). Special ordered in another pink one so both bikes can have one. Then I stopped by REI and picked up tire changing stuff like CO2 cartridges, levers, multitools. I don’t know how to change a tire or tube but at least I’ll have the supplies to do so, LOL. Got me some Big City Burrito before heading back to Cheyenne, where I stopped by the Bicycle Station. They had Specialized arm, leg, and knee warmers which I gathered up! (I wore Matt’s Spec arm warmers the other day and loved them, so I wanted my own!) Can you tell I’m getting ready for winter?!
My friend just gave me her old exercise ball and told me it works great on your core so I think Ima start sitting on that while watching TV… hmm..
Anywho, that was my day and BG FIT experience! I know I’m missing some details, so forgive me. It took about 2 hours to do my session. I didn’t have a lot of body issues and the road bike was already nicely set up so it went pretty fast. Now I’m just looking forward to riding and seeing how the changes work out for me!