Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The Bike Fit

For those that have been following my posts, you know that I have been dealing with injuries for the past year.  It has essentially been low back pain, though the origin of it is more complicated.  I have come a long way, but not healed yet.  One part of my recovery was to make sure that I was sized properly on my bike.  I wanted to be sure that my bike was not adding to my problem.

In mid-December I went to East Coast Bikes in Ocean View to have Iesha Shipp size me.  Iesha is a certified bike fitter, plus with her extensive knowledge of anatomy (yoga instructor), she was perfect to be able to get me set up properly.  After an extensive interview she took notes and measurements on my body, including my flexibility ranges.  Aaron assisted Iesha by taking all of my current measurements I had set up on my bike.  After all of this I got on the bike for rest of the evaluation.  With no changes to my set up at this point, this is what I looked like (take a minute and look at these photos before scrolling down, can you tell what needs to be changed?  Leave your guess or opinions in the comments):

Seat height?  GOOD
Plumb line?  GOOD, slightly back but within a good range.
Stem height/angle?  That needs to be discussed.

The best picture to see my problem is probably the first one.  It is not an issue with my bike, but its an issue with how I ride my bike.  You always hear that you should keep a flat back.  Do you know what is meant by that?  Where does the flatness of your back originate?  What should have caught your eye is the angle in relation to my saddle that is made with my sacral.  It is essentially straight up and down.  The back bends at the lumbar, thus not creating a flat back.  Not only is it non-aerodynamic, but it has put a lot of pressure on my back.

If everything on my bike is good, how then should we fix this problem?  The answer is to learn how to ride differently.  When I told my teammates about this issue, Tim Shockley told me that his former coach, Peter Teeuwen used to always tell them to roll their hips to put their sacral at a 45 degree angle.  Its funny, been riding for decades, no one ever told me that before.  Its hard to evaluate yourself so most of the time, things like this go unnoticed.

Ieasha thought that a different stem my make it easier for me to transition.  Using the stem adjuster, we tried it out:

Better, but quite awkward.  In reality, it was not going to be easy to change riding position, because any change would feel strange.  I just had to bite the bullet though and make a conscious effort.  We put back my original stem and I tried it out:

Here is a side by side:

I would like to report that prior to getting this fit done, my back would hurt and my left foot would go numb within 30 minutes of my ride.  After consciously changing my riding position, I have not had any foot numbness on the bike.  My back pain is not gone completely, but it actually feels like a tiredness not a pain.  Because of the change in position, I need to strengthen and stretch certain muscles before this because really comfortable.  It gives me a lot of hope that my issues are going away.

The bike fit that only dropped the nose of my saddle down a hair, seems like it could change me as a racer.  Thank you Iesha, Aaron and East Coast Bikes.

Please feel free to leave opinions and comments, I would love to hear what you think.