At VeloVixen, we specialise in what you wear on your bike. So when it comes to bike specific matters, we defer to greater brains than our own. Like Dr Bryan Roberts, our friend and neighbour at VeloVixen HQ.
Bryan runs Sports Tech Lab and is one of the finest bike fitters in the country. He's been fitting bikes for over 5 years, and has been acting as a biomechanist to big sporting brands for twice as long.
He knows his stuff. In fact, I was fitted by Bryan as preparation for my debut season with Team WNT. I've been purring about the effects ever since.
So, bike fitting? What's it all about, then? We spoke to Bryan to get the low down on why it's worth getting your bike properly set up:
VeloVixen: What’s the point in having my bike fitted for me?
Dr Bryan Roberts: Bike fitting is the science of making someone more, comfortable, efficient, powerful and happier on the bike. If you're finding cycling a struggle or feel little niggles then a bike fit is right for you. It's one of the quickest ways of making cycling pleasurable
VV: Will a well fitting bike make me faster or more comfortable?
BR: Faster, comfortable, more efficient, happier, and potentially completely pain free. It's like having your own personal physio session on the bike.
VV: What are the most common mistakes people come to you with?
BR: By far, it's simply saddle height. We all have individual limits governed by inflexibility, strength and anatomy. Simply getting the right saddle height will make things much easier. Once saddle height is sorted, the next most common problem is handlebar rach. In 90% of my fits we alter saddle and handlebar position, typically to relieve lower back and neck pain. There are simple solutions if you know what your looking for and in the majority we increase saddle height by 1cm and move to a 90mm stem.
VV: Are there specific requirements for female cyclists?
BR: Saddle choice is most appropriate for females. The bike industry is governed by large hairy males designing saddles. They don't consider the anatomy of women. Thankfully female specific designs are creaping into the market. Width, shape, cut-outs and gel padding are all important for women, but at the minute the only way to be sure is to have a saddle fitting with your local bike fitter
VV: What proportion of your customers are female?
BR: Women often seem more open to the idea of optimising their riding position - men often feel they know what works best for them (which - sometimes - they do!). I fit nearly as many women as men.
VV: Do all kinds of bikes benefit from proper fitting?
BR: Step-throughs, hybrids, road and time trial bikes are all candidates for fitting. It's a much simplier process for commuter bikes, but the gains are still the same. I find that the perfect time for a bike fit is when people move to cleated shoes. This big step needs a trained eye to position them right and a good bike fitter will give you confidence using them.
VV: Are there basic differences between fitting a road bike vs. other kinds?
BR: The position of the body is more aggressive the faster the bike. We are typically upright (like on our sofas) on step-through bikes, and are typically bent over on TT bikes. A road bike is somewhere in between. The challenge is then to make the back comfortable. We were born upright, so we are comfortable upright, but when bending over we begin to curve the back. Most of us have experienced back pain and its a bike fit that will aim to alleviate this.
VV: Do older riders need a different kind of setup?
BR: If I was to generalise, the older the rider the stiffer then legs/ back. This means a lower saddle height, more curved saddle and a higher handlebar/ shorter reach. If you are at all unsure, get the handlebar as high as possible and close without feeling cramped. Of course, if you are a regular older rider, then these changes may not apply.
VV: Can I do it myself, or do I need a pro?
BR: My advice would be always to go for a bike fit if you are feeling pain. The reason is that you will only have to spend money once, rather than buying many saddles, looking through a lot of webpages and doing many changes. Really in one session, a good bike fitter can get to the root of the problem quickly, suggest changes and get you riding again the same day. So why not save time and money seeking a professional and enjoy riding the rest of the year? Take the worry of the bike out of your mind, and concentrate on enjoying the scenery and getting fit!
VV: Thanks, Bryan - now, where's that coffee you promised us?
To contact Bryan and arrange a consultation at Sports Tech Lab, located just outside Oxford, click here. Clearly there are other fitters around, but Bryan is one of the most experienced you'll find. And his fittings start at just £30. Plus there's the bonus of being able to drop into our showroom for some post-fitting shopping just 25m away!
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Unit 28, Wheatley Business Park, Old London Road, Wheatley, Oxford OX33 1XW // firstname.lastname@example.org // +44 (0) 1302 249 323