Would you (could you?) pick up a pedal wrench… for $1000?

The Altar of the Fit Guru

All Hail the Altar of the Bike Fit Guru! For $1000, could yours truly pick a pedal wrench off the floor? Without bending knees? Or would overly-tight hamstrings be my doom? Answer- I didn’t get the $1000. All I had to do was pick up a tool. Obviously, there’s much more to this story, but the short version is that I appear to be a bumblebee, with a body that shouldn’t be comfortable on a 120 mile bike ride, and yet I am. Amazingly so.

Yes, this is my first tale from the land of ultimate bicycle fitting, where Steve and I are learning all manner of things about human phsiology and how to bend, twist & contort customers in order to find the limits of their flexibility. “Contort” isn’t really the right word, unless you’re constructed like I am, with a back that demonstrates excessive “Kyphosis”, Hamstrings that could be used to support the new Bay Bridge, and a general lack of “core strength.” Those would be the reasons why I cannot, and never have, been able to come even close to touching my toes. And why, in theory, I would be predicted to (but don’t) have issues when riding a bike. But clearly our teacher, Michael Sylvester, knows his stuff, and his teachings will add to our expertise at fitting people properly to bikes. –Mike–

4 thoughts on “Would you (could you?) pick up a pedal wrench… for $1000?

  1. It will be interesting to hear if a formal flexibility assessment changes the resulting fit, or if you would have gotten it dialed in through your existing process. Maybe the result comes more directly when you start with flexibility in the mix? I had a flexibility (not!) assessment as part of the fit process for a full-custom frame, with wonderful results. I am screwed up enough that I have trouble getting on and off of the bike, but this bike feels absolutely natural, has snappy handling, and fit is not a factor in fatigue. Wow. Took the measurements and built a commute bike on a closely-matching stock frame, also with excellent results. Not exactly the same “perfect” fit, but still wow. I am a Clydesdale with a long torso and short legs, stiff as can be and with a bunch of old injuries. If I can be this comfortable on a bike, I think that most anyone whole enough to pedal has every hope of the benefits of a proper fit.

    1. Jeff: Doing flexibility assessments is going to help understand why we see what we see when we’re looking at someone actually riding a bike. For me, it’s not going to change things all that much; after the measurements, I’m watching someone actually ride the bike and it’s pretty easy to spot the various visual cues that all is not happy in rider-land. But I’ve been doing this for ages, and there’s not enough of me to go around. This is going to allow me to spread fit knowledge among the staff. Ah, right, I’m forgetting one of the most-important aspects of a formal training and analysis. Credibility. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve done a fit for someone but they thought they needed to do the $300 “pro” fitting elsewhere afterward, which they do, and they come back with a bunch of notes and figures and recommendations for fitting that don’t always make sense but when you see where they’re actually put on the bike… it is often/usually exactly where they started. If we have a formal process then customers are going to be more inclined to believe they’re in a good place on the bike, and the mind is a very powerful tool.

      I’m going to be paying a lot of attention to my own body in the near future, because, as I’d mentioned, my hamstrings are like steel cables cut a bit too short, and I’m beginning to have a few issues on the left side of my body that the flexibility assessment would have predicted. These issues are really minor; after a long stint pulling into a headwind, I get a very slight pain at the back of my left knee (where the hamstring connects) and about 30 miles into a ride I’ll get a dull ache at the upper part of where both hamstrings connect. Both of these go away during the ride, but what’s interesting is that it’s my left side that’s a bit less flexible. Common wisdom is to move the seat lower with hamstring issues, higher with tendon & ligament problems, so I’ll try just a tiny bit lower and see what happens.

  2. Absolutely – no substitute for a keen eye watching someone on a bike. There is so much to fit and comfort that does not show up in static measurements – where the knees go, how someone habitually holds their shoulders, etc., etc. Several of my friends have bought bikes and been fitted at both of your shops, and the results have been exemplary.

    But I think the credibility factor is interesting, as you say. There is that sort of buyer who will have the nagging feeling that something more technical/exhaustive (or elitist?) could be done. Do you see video and/or motion capture becoming a standard approach? It seems to be big in the credibility department since the fittee can see it.

    1. Video capture definitely increases credibility with the customer, since you can show them exactly what it is that you’ve changed. But video capture by itself cannot replace a trained eye for fit; it’s more helpful for the person being fit (to see what they’re paying for). Currently, the Retul system defines high-end video capture, but at $10k+ a shop is paying an awful lot of $$$ to achieve credibility, not better fit (in my opinion). Having said that, improved credibility can in fact lead to better fit, because the customer is more likely to go along with the recommendations.

      I expect we’ll see some competition for Retul in the near future, since the X-Box Kinnect hardware, for a whopping $300, accomplishes just about everything Retul does. Pretty amazing how prices fall when you go from custom-manufacturing things by the dozens vs a few million at a time.

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