Bike Fit: Are you Riding Across the US?…Do you Have a Defibrillator in There?

Knee, ankle, and toe sensors

Today I had my performance bike fitting by Russell Cree at Upper Echelon Fitness in Portland (no longer in business). I admit, I felt a little like a Tour de France racer in my tri suit, bike on a trainer, having my movement analyzed by a computer. The whole process took about 2-1/2 hours, and at one time, I had three people surrounding my bike working on it! It was a great experience.

Russell had asked that I bring/wear what I carry and wear on my rides, including tri suit, shoes, etc. I made sure all of my normal accessories were attached: water bottles, tire pump, bag on front and under my seat. As he was taking my bike upstairs to the fitting area he teased, “Geez, you have a lot of bags on here, are you planning to ride across the United States or something”? So I told him that I was a firefighter paramedic and that the front pack was my first aid kit, that I never ride without it. His reply, “That’s a big bag…do you have a defibrillator in there?!?” He appreciated that I carried it, saying that they usually have physicians and emergency responders in the rides and races who do the same thing. “You will lose the race, you know, when you stop and help someone…but I’m sure they’d comp your next race.” It cracked me up!

Retül sensor bar

Russell uses the Retül dynamic fitting system, which measures biomechanical motion in 3D (up, down, toward, and away from the bike) using infrared LED markers. Little LED markers are attached at the wrist, elbow, shoulder, hip, knee, ankle, heel, and toe and a sensor bar out eight or so feet from the side of the rider reads the sensors and gathers the information in real time. During the ride, I could see a little stick figure on the screen showing my movement—very cool! The computer then analyzed the minute or so of my riding, determining joint angles and any lateral movement. Russell went over all the numbers with me, explaining what they were looking at and what the optimal numbers would be and how to adjust my bike to get that.

Retül analysis

I was a little concerned that I might not be able to get adjusted into optimal numbers do to my congenital hip deformity that makes me pigeon-toed. Russell wasn’t sure how that was going to affect my responsiveness to the bike adjustments, but it turned out not to be an issue at all. The analysis showed that I was pretty close to fitting my bike, but that I wasn’t bent over low enough, my reach was too short, and that my right leg tracked a little out from the bike.

Seat adjustment

Russell lengthened my reach by moving my seat and installed a new handlebar stem that pushed my handlebars a little bit forward. After evaluating my handlebars, we determined that the drop of my handlebars (the lower handle) was so large that it was inefficient for me and led me not to ever use them—so I got new handlebars as well. Anyway, the old ones needed to be re-taped (ha!). Molly Cameron of Portland Bicycle Studio, which shares the space with Upper Echelon Fitness, taped my new handlebars for me, “Because he’s a perfectionist and does the best job of that,” according to Russell. After adjusting my bike, Russell checked my shoes and adjusted the clips to change my thigh/tibia angle and give me more power and better tracking.

New stem and handlebars

The sensors stayed on because I was reanalyzed after changes to make sure they had the desired effect. I could actually feel a difference with the changes. My body is much lower now and I love the new handlebars; I can easily move to the lower grip and reach the integrated gear shift/brake levers now and will use that more often.

My Bike Stats (OJ)

Cannondale Synapse Road Bike, 53cm
170 Cranks
Shimano SPD Pedals
Terry Butterfly Saddle
Specialized Shoes, mountain bike clips
Saddle Height (center of BB to top of saddle in line with seat tube): 71cm
Saddle Fore/aft (tip of saddle relative to center of BB): -5cm
Reach (tip of saddle to center of handlebars): 50.5cm
Drop (top of saddle to top of bars): -4cm

Russell recommended refitting when you feel you have changed as a rider. What does he mean? Well, as your body changes, as your performance changes. Perhaps you lose weight or notice that you have improved in that once hard hills are easy. For some, that is the start of every season.

So my bike is custom-fit to me now! It needs a little tune-up for the start of the season, so I’ll get it to the bike shop for that. If it doesn’t snow tomorrow, I’ll get a ride in and check out the changes and hopefully, performance enhancement!

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