You buy your first road bike, get all the gear the bike shop says you need – cleats, helmet, clothing, gloves, the whole nine yards – and begin training for your first century ride. All is well until you head out for your first “long” ride of 2-3 hours, then everything begins to hurt: neck pain, tight shoulders, numb hands, sore knees, lower back pain, and a tension headache. You think maybe it’s something you just have to “get used to” and “deal with” as a long distance cyclist. Sound familiar?
This is exactly what I had been thinking for the past year and a half since I purchased my road bike and got involved in cycling. Pain must be part of the training. Long rides were becoming torture and it made me wonder why I was even considering training for another century ride this spring. Then, I did some research on bike fitting. I thought this was something that only professional cyclists could benefit from and not your average weekend warrior like myself. I wasn’t sure it was worth the time or expense or perhaps the person doing the fit wouldn’t take me seriously. I was wrong on all accounts.
I scheduled an appointment for a Specialized BG FIT about a month ago. This fit is only offered at authorized Specialized dealers such as LoweRiders, but is not brand specific. It was designed by Dr. Andy Pruitt Ed.D., PA of the Boulder Center for Sports Medicine to help cyclists “ride faster, longer, and in complete comfort, while reducing their chances of injury”. I went into the shop with an open mind, but was not convinced my next ride would be all rainbows and unicorns.
The fit involved a personal history – injuries, pain points during and after riding, experience level, upcoming rides and what I was looking to get out of the bike fit. The technician took “before” measurements of my bike and then took a series of body measurements including leg length, flexibility, height of arches, and even the shape of my bottom using a fancy gel seat to see if my saddle was the correct width. Then I got on my bike (which is secured on a trainer) and more measurements were taken to determine the correct height of my saddle, the proper positioning of the cleats on my cycling shoes relative to my pedals, and the orientation of my handlebars. The entire process took about an hour.
The technician made several recommendations for what changes he would suggest based on what information he gathered from my fit analysis. He suggested three main changes: a seat height adjustment, a shorter stem on my handlebars, and custom insoles for my shoes due to very high arches. I was very skeptical that any of these changes would have any impact on my comfort. Really? A few millimeter change in seat height would solve all my issues? My technician encouraged me to work up to some longer rides and report back to him after a few rides to see how things were going.
After three rides of 40, 45 and then 50 miles, I can say that it has been a (bike) life changer! I have yet to have my usual tension headache, neck and shoulder pain, virtually no numbness in my hands, and my knees and feet no longer ache the day after my ride. Very small changes made a huge impact on my comfort. After all, riding is supposed to be fun, not a cruel form of medieval torture. Now, rather than dreading that Sunday long ride, I’m asking my cycling friends when are we going to ride LONGER!?!