Finding the Solution: Contact Points
Certified Bike Fit Specialist Tom Petty talks bike fitting, comfort and Pilates
Clip-in, saddle up and grip the bars, three things that can dramatically change the way we ride, from aggravation and injury to stability and strength. Unfortunately for many of my clients one or more of these contact points is negatively impacting the way they ride and the enjoyment they experience.
My journey to becoming a bike fitter started with a knee injury due to poor cleat and pedal set-up. The lack of stability caused too much lateral strain on my knee, forcing me miss the biggest race of my season. It was a heartbreaking experience and one I did not want to share again or have someone else go through. I set my sights on learning more and getting all the accreditation with Retül to become an advanced fit specialist. Fast-forward seven years and BT Cycle Solutions was born, fulfilling my own ambitions in providing the best level of service and knowledge for my clients.
Like any great house, for a great bike fit you need a stable foundation. On the bike, that’s the feet, it is paramount for creating the right support to remove excess pressure elsewhere. Regardless of how much you ride, correct support is vital to performance and comfort. How many of you, like me, just put the cleats on in the middle setting and hoped it was OK? Or how many people run the stock foot bed their shoes came with? If your cleats are set up incorrectly or you have insufficient foot bed support, you may experience foot or knee pain. Custom supportive innersoles from manufacturers like Solestar or Shimano, renewing your cleats every 3-6months and having a professional check your set-up, are quick easy ways to reduce the risk of injury.
Hand pressure is the most overlooked, yet can cause lasting issues it is not addressed. Cyclists can often develop something called ‘Cyclists Palsy’; this is where the nerve in the hand is damaged by pressure, caused by the interaction with the handlebar. This can often be felt as numbness that continues for a few days after riding or hand and thumb weakness. If you do feel you place too much weight on your hands, a way to counter act this is by dispersing the pressure. We can do this by making sure that the height of the hoods creates a neutral angle, keeping the wrist straight. By increasing the surface area in contact with the hand, we reduce the pressure on the nerve. Most cyclists are guilty of neglecting our core strength. The hands become the scaffolding used to support our bodies, and lack of core strength further increasing the pressure on the hands. A regular core or Pilates routine can be beneficial, as well guidance from a fitter on the right width bars and hood position. Bar gel from manufacturers like Fizik or padded cycling gloves can also help.
Unsurprisingly, the most common cause of discomfort is the seat. What is more surprising is that a lot of people put up with this, because it is assumed that it is just part of riding a bike. In my experience, seat discomfort can be fixed very quickly and in some cases by a minor tilt adjustment. Saddles, like shoes, are largely determined by personal preference. What works for a colleague, may not work for you. This said, the amount of clients that have persisted with the generic saddle the bike came with, despite the discomfort, never fails to amaze me. The short term cost and time required finding the right one is definitely worth the effort, especially with more and more manufacturers offering demo models. Look for a saddle that supports the sit bones of the pelvis, this helps to take the weight off the soft tissue. What is also interesting with saddles is the affect it has on the pelvic rotation. Pelvic rotation can often be the key to improving reach and reducing lower back issues with both road and TT bikes.
How we interact with our bikes has a massive effect on our ride experience, a consultation with a bike fit specialist can often set you on the path to better comfort and performance. Importantly for many of my clients, it enables them to fully enjoy the sport they love.
Tom Petty is a certified Retül Bike Fit Specialist and team manager for SUVELO Racing NRS Team. Tom can be contacted at www.pavetheway.cc
Photography: Zelda Green