Most important thing isn’t necessarily what looks or feels right


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We look back at the first video clip of me on my stationary bike and right away the problem seems to be this slight hunchback. Turns out that might be the least of my problems, maybe not a problem at all, as long as my overall driving position isn’t too far out.

Well, it turns out it does, and in more ways than one – which, even for the strictly fun, non-competitive rider like me, can add up to a bunch of more telling issues, including long-term injury, loss of power and efficiency. , and that often nagging feeling that riding the Wicklow Gap somehow gets longer and harder with each year.

It also turns out that the most important thing is not necessarily what looks or feels good when riding a bike, but rather what is well measured: this is why I am with Aidan. Hammond who over the past 20 years has built a reputation as one of Ireland’s most experienced bicycle assemblers.

It’s easy to see why professional riders go out of their way to make sure their bike is properly adjusted, from the height of the saddle to the exact angle of the handlebars, pedals and toe clips: just because you ride for fun or fun doesn’t. This does not mean that these measures are not as critical, the difference between right and wrong just as revealing. Even if he is not as visible as this slight hunchback.

On average, you make about 5,000 pedal strokes for every hour of cycling

Hammond short Bike fitting Ireland of the annex studio built next to his home at Kilmacanogue in Wicklow and measures all levels of riders, from aspiring professionals to near beginners (he makes around 1000 bike adjustments each year). “What all riders share is that you average about 5,000 pedal strokes for every hour of cycling,” Hammond tells me. “So whether it’s more than two hours, four hours or eight hours, it all adds up.

“There are also only three points of contact on a bike, the saddle, the stem and the handlebars, then the pedal and the shoes, and the three points are very adjustable. If one or two of these contact points are turned off, it can cause problems, injury, or overuse of certain muscles or tendons. It’s not just that there isn’t a single bike. Even with an appropriate frame size, longer legs and shorter arms and overall flexibility can also influence riding position.

“Knee and lower back pain would usually be the main problems, followed by neck and shoulder pain, but there can also be numbness in the hands, sore feet and saddle pain, all related to incorrect cycling positions. “

It also helps that Hammond has considerable practice in what he teaches: he was one of the best amateur racers of his time, winning multiple stage race titles and national time trial medals, coming from ‘an esteemed cycling family, and also getting married. He is also a qualified physiotherapist and Ireland level 3 cycling coach, so he doesn’t know much about good cycling positions.

I’m here for the standard bike fit, which takes an hour and a half (Hammond also offers an advanced bike fit, as well as a bike fit with bioracer aero analysis). Since I started road biking about 15 years ago, I have made various adjustments to these three contact points – saddle, handlebars and pedals – but never with the kind of expertise and computer software. and video available to Hammond.

Bike adjustment – a total nine-step process – actually begins on the treatment table, and a brisk run through any previous cycling injuries or whatever, before a full flexibility test; agree on this front. It also measures foot and gait analysis for correct cleat (pedal) setup and checks knee alignment and hip balance. It’s not always the bike that doesn’t measure correctly.

Hammond then positions my bike on the stationary turbo trainer (removing the rear wheel, etc.) where the closer scan begins but does not end. It marks my knees, hips and ankles with sensors that respond to cycling-specific software that tracks every movement and angle of every pedal stroke, including back, torso, knees, ankles, hips and arms , which are also recorded on video.

He slips a cover over the saddle, which will measure the exact “pressure points”, and especially their spread over the saddle. Turns out I’m in the saddle, a lot more pressure points in the front and sides than there should be. Everything is revealed in this first video clip.

Every movement and angle of every pedal stroke, including back, torso, knees, ankles, hips and arms, is also videotaped.

Every movement and angle of every pedal stroke, including back, torso, knees, ankles, hips and arms, is also videotaped.

“The saddle is definitely off, not just too high, but tilted too far forward. This has an impact on the pedal stroke, with 64 percent on the right, 36 percent on the left. There is 97 percent of the weight towards the back of the saddle, a recipe for saddle pain, really. And the leg is essentially too straight, an angle of 163 degrees, while something more like 153 degrees is ideal.

There, the adjustments begin: my saddle goes down 2.5 cm, which is not bad in fact. My handlebars are lowered too much, so Hammond lifts them up slightly, also lowering the brake levers a bit. The cleat positions and pedaling angles are all good, the problem was the measurements above them which will likely result in some kind of injury or strain on the knee from overuse.

We’re now watching the second video clip of me riding after the settings, and right away the hunchback isn’t that bad. Turns out it’s probably more of a habit too, in part due to leaning over the laptop for the better part of the day. “You shouldn’t really have to think about posture on the bike. If the bike is properly adjusted, you can sit however you want, rather than trying to force the posture.

Aidan Hammond has earned a reputation as one of Ireland's most experienced bicycle assemblers.

Aidan Hammond has earned a reputation as one of Ireland’s most experienced bicycle assemblers.

The added benefit is that being in a more comfortable and efficient riding position will invariably make a more secure position, especially those who are only just beginning to venture onto the more open roads. It normally takes three or four trips for the new adjustments to take effect. Only a week later, on the first smooth ride to Wicklow Gap, I feel them right away.

Do it yourself

For a basic home bike fit test: on a stationary bike (either on a home trainer or just lean against the wall), remove the cleat from the pedal, pedal back and you should be able to touch the top of the pedal. the pedal with the heel of the cycling shoe; if you can’t reach it, the saddle is probably too high.

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