Bike Fit

Thanks to the pandemic, I have had a few good years of cycling – on my trainer in the winter and outdoors the rest of the time – and I logged thousands of kilometres.  I have evolved from someone who was timid to ride alone to one who loved the challenge of 100 solo kilometres before noon.  I have become faster, stronger and more confident.

This January, I realized that as my mental and physical game had changed, it was likely time to have my bike fit again.   “Why?” Dave asked.  “You’re not complaining about anything feeling off.”  I argued that since getting my bike, my cycling style and position must have changed and that my bike might need some minor adjustments; maybe the seat needed to be raised a bit, or perhaps my handlebars should be moved.   With the amount of time that I am on my bike, I felt it was worth the investment of a bike fit to become more efficient and comfortable while in the saddle.

On a cold Saturday afternoon, Dave, my bike and I visited Peter Lejwowski in Burlington.  I brought my husband with me for two reasons.  He is my mechanic so I wanted him to hear first hand what needed to be changed and why.  I also knew that he would appreciate the anatomical reasoning behind decisions like “your seat needs to be raised a few millimetres.”  Lastly, and most satisfying, I wanted to able to say “I told you so” without saying “I told you so.”

I was glad that Dave tagged along as a physical and digital assessment led to a number of recommendations and changes:

  • The seat was raised 5 mm and moved forward 2 cm to better align my knee position.
  • The handlebar stem was shorted 3 cm to take pressure off my shoulders and have a more natural elbow bend.
  • Both cleats were moved up 5 mm to move the balls of the feet for a more efficient pedal stroke.
  • A 1 degree wedge was added to both shoes to change the pressure distribution during the power phase.
  • A 2 mm shim was added to my right shoe to account for difference in leg length.

Of these, it was the statistical difference in leg lengths that shocked me the most.  I always knew that my right leg was slightly longer than my left; it has been pointed out by numerous medical professionals but I never knew that there was a 2 cm difference.  To me, that seemed to be significant and my hip woes suddenly made sense.  The natural tendency for my right hip to rotate anteriorally must be caused by the difference in leg lengths.  I started to realize the root of my hamstring tear and why my right hip and ITB would ache after a long ride.  After years of not really knowing why my right hip was such an issue for me, I had my “aha!” moment.

I left feeling more knowledgeable but also overwhelmed.  While the adjustments made to my bike and shoes were minor, together they seemed like a lot and I was worried that the sudden changes could do more harm than good.  So I resigned myself to spending another month on my trainer but decided to finish each ride with 20 – 30 minutes on my road bike so that my body could get used to the differences.  By the beginning of June, I felt ready to take cycling back outdoors.

This past week is the first since my bike fit that I am exclusively outdoors.  This week is my test – to feel my bike and see how the modifications have impacted my ride.  I have ridden 120 km since Monday, including a 55 km ride yesterday, and my body feels good.  Do I think the bike fit was worth it?   Other than the unexpected need to delay my outdoor cycling season, I think yes.  A few more weeks, and the jury will have enough evidence to make its final decision.


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