No, the topic if today’s turf blog is not fat biking in the snow, that will come in due course, fingers crossed. No, the topic of discussion today is bicycle fit. Is your bicycle adjusted for optimal fit? I spent much of the other day, a bloody awful day that rained all day long, watching videos on YouTube about how to adjust your bicycle for the perfect fit.
What I did learn is that it’s a very complicated business and as much as art as a science. Firstly, there are so many variables involved that it’s mind boggling. Let’s see. Frames size and type, type of cycling involved, type of bicycle, saddle height, saddle fore and aft, saddle tilt, saddle type, handlebar height, width, rise and back sweep, stem length and angle of rise, and even type of handlebar grip. That’s just for starters. Then you have the ever-variable human aspect. Is the rider male, female, alien or other? Then you’ve got height, weight, arm length, leg length, torso length, shoulder width, footwear type and size, even hand size and how large your beer belly is. All these factors, and many others as well, are important in obtaining the correct fit to your bicycle. Interestingly, one of the most common issues seems to be that people start with a bike either too large or too small for them.
The videos I watched were all very interesting and informative, some by cycling professionals who support some of the top cyclists in the world. Others are ordinary back garden blokes just like myself who built their own bikes from scratch in the shed. And it would be fair to say that there’s a lot of contradictory information out here. One guy says one method is the correct way to adjust something, another chap, who did seem something of a smart smug git, said that method was rubbish. One important point to bear in mind. Whatever method you use, it’s just a starting point for the you individually. What works for one person might not be right for another.
I ended up adjusting two items on my Surly Ogre. One was the fore and aft adjustment of the saddle. Why they refer to a nautical term like fore and aft, I don’t know, but that’s back and forewords in normal speak. The guideline I used here was to sit on the bike with the pedal at the three o’clock position and drop a plumb line from the front of my knee to the pedal. Ideally there should be a vertical line between the front of your knee and the pedal spindle centreline. I found I needed to adjust my saddle forwards about 10 mm. I also used a spirit level to set my saddle perfectly level. It had been pointing down a few degrees.
I also checked my saddle height by sitting on the bike with my heel resting comfortably on the pedal. This is generally reckoned to be a good starting point. It’s important that you keep your hips level and don’t stretch your leg in any way, and also wear the footwear you use for cycling. No adjustments required there. Of all the other possible adjustments there wasn’t really anything I wanted to change, at least for the time being. I don’t see the point of making dozens of adjustments at the same time as you will never know what one made things better, or made things worse!
So, what difference did all this make? Well, I was out turfing Bonnyrigg and had clean forgot that I’d made any adjustments. What I did notice while cycling, however, was that I was ascending hills using one gear higher than previously. Then I recalled my adjustments. In fact, when I starting thinking about it, the bike felt more responsive, somehow lighter. It felt like my leg muscles were working more efficiently, that I was now part of the bike, part of the machine, whereas before I was fighting the bike all the time. I was now a Borg, man and bicycle fused together into one cohesive piece of glorious two wheeled machine.
Overall, it looks like I’ve made some improvements for the better, however, one ride on the bike isn’t really enough. I’ll save final judgement for once I’ve done a few hours in the saddle, as well as some longer sessions. Suffice to say it might be a good idea to have a look at your bicycle fit and see if you can improve things. If you are getting any aches and pains, knee strains, wobbly hips, numbness in the hands, tingling toes or lower back fatigue after cycling, some little adjustment here and there might just be what the bicycle doctor ordered. YouTube can be quite useful sometimes. Bye for now, I’m off out turfing on the bike again.
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