as always, i’m pleased to see press coverage of something near and dear to my training / fitness priorities. today’s new york times features an article on adjusting a bicycle to best accommodate its rider’s peculiarities, namely physical characteristics and riding ambitions. as a triathlon coach, spinning® instructor, & serotta advanced bike fit technician i work with athletes of all levels, beginning to elite, in best tailoring their bicycle, their position on it, and their riding technique to suit their objectives, strengths and limitations. this is actually more important for a newbie or novice than it is for a more experienced cyclist.
pro athletes are paid to suffer. veteran riders often disregard discomfort or accept it as part of the experience, and tend to place their imperative — riding — above all else, for better or worse. the rider who complains of bicycle seats being hard and uncomfortable, the one who celebrates a 20 mile ride as an accomplishment, the one who doesn’t understand pedal stroke, that vision is affected by riding position, and that it usually takes a full two thousand dollars to buy an entry level bike is in the greatest need of a precise, say, $300 fit session. yet, almost without fail, new riders ignore the one thing that would ensure them the riding experience they desire. many times they stop riding because they aren’t comfortable.
comfort, of course, is relative and depends on context. for instance, riding fast hurts. but, the riding position isn’t what should be painful or awkward, it’s the effort. exertion is, um…easier when the rider’s position on the bike aligns with, rather than struggles against his or her biomechanics, including limb lengths, joint ranges, soft tissue, riding style and any number of other variables. the three points in space — bars, seat, pedals — determine comfort, control, efficiency, speed, and rider health.
health, by the way, includes sexual function. personally, the only sexual difficulties i’ve ever experienced were due to the lack of chemistry and trust within a relationship, not regular three to seven hour stints in the saddle. three of my last four girlfriends, over the past decade, will affirm my claim. (the fourth is now happily confounding someone else.) my saddle, by the way, is about as forgiving as an anvil, which, given the proper riding position provides favorable function, on and off the bike, as well as riding comfort!
bottom line is, and newbies, you will come to realize seeming paradox this the more you ride, that it is impossible to find precise fit, power, health and ultimately even comfort on a cushy saddle. but don’t take my word for it, when buying your next bike, or considering upgrades to an existing machine, make your first priority a proper fit and judge for yourself. while i’ve re-fit bikes to their riders following other fitters’ miscalculations, even these riders’ journeys through their previous, poor fittings have always proven enlightening and valuable to those athletes, clearly by way of contrast, and intuitively, by way of further immersion into their sport. no matter what, the money you spend on having your bike fitted to you will immediately enrich your cycling experience.