Why I like what I do (bicycle retail)

I’ll be the first to admit that there are things about owning a business that aren’t always enjoyable. Paperwork, attention to all the little details that make the difference between whether you’re around for the next five years or not (many shops go down the “not” path so it’s always at the back of your mind), and wondering what it would be like to work 5 days a week and have more than two weeks of vacation/year after 30 years at the same job.

But yesterday I was reminded why I’m in this business. A woman came in who’d bought a road bike from us a few months ago, and wasn’t quite comfortable riding. I approach such things with a bit of fear & trepidation, wondering if it’s going to be something that I can’t really help with, which is almost always incorrect. 30+ years of setting people up on bikes, watching them ride, knowing a thing or two about what happens as you get older (which of course is both good and bad, since it’s from personal experience!)… I can often work small miracles. Yesterday was one of those days.

She’d come in saying she just wasn’t comfortable on the bike. Kind of vague, but it’s not reasonable to expect someone relatively-new to road biking to understand what they’re feeling, what might be normal (something that you’d get used to) vs something set up incorrectly on her bike.

I put her on the bike and checked the obvious things- seat height, saddle setback, seat tilt (if you’re not already aware, 99.372% of the time your seat should be 100% level from front to back, not tilted down at the front!). Nothing too unusual although I did move her seat back a little bit, which may be counter-intuitive for someone who feels like she’s stretching out a bit too much, but often puts the hips in a more-relaxed position.

Then I looked at her shoes. Bingo! Someone (thankfully not us) had set up her cleats so they were moved as far forward on the shoe as they could go. And yes, she had been having some knee pains.

Left cleat=knee killer!

Just moving her cleats back to a more conservative position made a huge difference in her comfort on the bike, even on a ride through our parking lot. I’ve created a graphic to the left which illustrates good (safe) fore/aft cleat positioning. If your cleats are mounted in the forward-half of the slot, move ‘em back, unless you’re 16 and have indestructible knees (but, cynic that I am, I doubt many 16 year old are reading this… more likely they’re reading the “killer squirrel” web pages).

A short test ride in the back seemed to confirm my instincts; she said it was a lot more comfortable than before. I’ll follow up with her in a few days and see how she’s doing. Hopefully her bike will become that reliably-wonderful thing in her life that it is in mine.

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