Bike fit

Something Jeremy said around October last year has stuck around in my mind, percolating. He was wondering why I am so much slower going home than I am going to work. He felt that the difference in speed was more than what you would expect with a bit of fatigue at the end of the day, or a headwind. It seemed excessive.

At the time we were riding south down the Freeway bike path, so I pointed out that most of my energy was being spent trying to stay upright and pedalling against a gusting south-westerly, but the idea settled in my brain.

Perhaps I could ride a bit easier? A bit faster?

I remember the first time I rode into work on my heavy old hybrid, and I was so excited and pleased. It wasn’t until I got to the top of the Narrows Bridge for the ride home that I realised the effort involved in riding into a south-westerly. (And for those of you outside of Perth, it’s always an afternoon south-westerly).  I was scraping 12km/h and my immediate thought was “OK, so that’s what it’ll be like. I can deal with that.”

As I rode more, I got faster, better. I could scrape 20km/h instead. I got home. When I got my road bike, it was much the same. I got home. That was my only goal in the afternoons – to get home.

I am used to being slow into a headwind, so much that it is what I expect. Which was why I think Jeremy’s question was such a surprise, and why it stuck in my head.

After I crashed in June 2009 it took a couple of months before I could get on the bike – I couldn’t easily (or at all) bend my leg for a month, that sort of thing. I started going up Welshpool Road, and I noticed that I was getting back pain for the first time ever on my bike. It wasn’t until one day when I was sitting on the floor and idly looking at my bike that I realised that my brake hoods were tilted further down than they used to be – they’d moved in the crash.

My bike had survived the crash relatively unscathed – my seat was moved, but there had been tape put on the seat post, so it was returned to where it should have been. My gear shifters and brake hoods had been pushed inwards, but that’s easy to rectify. What I hadn’t realised was that the handlebars had been tilted downwards a touch as well.

We adjusted the handlebars back to where I’d roughly remembered them, and my back pain vanished. Time moved on and I started to take more notice of how I felt on the bike. I was also getting a bit of a squeak in the bike, not all the time, but it was getting to be a constant noise. I couldn’t pinpoint it, so we tightened every screw that we could find, greased pedal threads, moved lights and adjusted the seat bag so that they were sure not to rub.

My lack of riding after the crash seemed to also affect my saddle comfort. Numbness, or general uncomfortableness. It wasn’t that I didn’t have support, but I thought: “It’s like there is no padding”. To be honest, I can’t be sure that it isn’t the lack of riding, but I’ve been riding more consistently and I’m still sometimes uncomfortable, which I never was before. Perhaps the age of the saddle?

I noticed recently that when I head into the wind, I move back on the saddle. I’ve also been getting numbness in my right last three toes which I pinpointed happens only when I’m putting in an effort, after I move back on the saddle.

All these things meant that I’d been contemplating having a bike fit done for a while, just to see whether things had moved in the crash and not been moved back.

So I had a slight revelation the other week: yes, I need to have a bike fit done, but I need to be fitted to the bike while I’m making an effort – every time the mechanics had to adjust something I would just perch on the bike like I was ready to ride it round the carpark. What I need to do is not have ‘perched’ as my default position – sure it’s a good idea to have an easy day of it, but better that you are comfortable making an effort when most of the time effort is required!

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