Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Fitting the Fuji

I'd already fitted the bike as well as I knew how, but somehow I knew something was wrong. On a recent climb up highway 9, I'd found that I had some lower back pain near the top. It went away but I knew more climbing would exacerbate it. One of the problems with fitting yourself is that you have a hard time watching yourself while riding, so I ended up going to Terry Shaw at Shaw's Lightweight Cycles. I wanted the job done right, and Terry Shaw is the most knowledgeable bike fitter I know. (Runner up is probably Grant Petersen of Rivendell Bicycle Works)

I showed up at Shaw's in the afternoon, and after changing into my riding gear he had me ride around the parking lot while he watched. After that, he had me pedal the bike while holding on to the wall and took a few measurements. Then he moved the seat backwards and down. (I always set the seat too high when getting a new bike, and then end up scooting the seat forward to compensate) He rotated the bars up a little, and that made the bike more comfortable. I still needed a taller stem (which he didn't have in stock), so we ordered a Salsa.

After that, he had me back at the parking lot, and asked me to do a few exercises. One was to set the bike at a fairly high gear, and then accelerate from a slow speed, but rather than push down on the pedal, to kick forward as much as possible, "like kicking a ball." I did that, and the bike almost jumped when I first started. "You bring onboard more muscles when you do this, and it's like firing on 8 cylinders instead of 2. The racing bike almost demands this style of riding, which is very different from the more upright touring position." He then had me do this a couple more times and then had me spin at an easy gear but still maintaining the kicking style. From this, he determined that my stem should be a 115 rise, 110mm stem. (i.e., I did not have the flexibility to go lower)

He also recommended handlebars that weren't as wide --- I had 42s, but I'd do better with a 40cm. He did say that according to traditionalists I'd need a 36cm handlebar, but if you need to stand a lot, wider bars were better. Given that 2cm wasn't that far off from ideal, he suggested that I rode around a bit first before making that adjustment, since that could be an expensive adjustment.

At the end of it all, Terry seemed impress by my performance in my position. "You're not just a tall skinny Chinese guy, you're a tall skinny Chinese guy who's a decent cyclist," he declaimed.

And that was it! $75. As they say, $5 to order a new stem, $5 to adjust the seat, and $65 to know which to order and how much to adjust the seat. If it makes a difference to my comfort on the bike, it's well worth the money. When I first started cycling 13 years ago, I had multiple fittings (one every 3-6 months) while I developed my cycling style. Now with the addition of a new bike to my stable, I'm having to adjust my cycling style yet again. We'll see how it goes!
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