Friday Group Ride #486

Friday Group Ride #486

Your butt does not look like my butt. I’m not going to describe mine (it’s real nice), because really, there’s no margin in that. The fact is, whatever the vagaries of shape, composition, and contour, the saddle that you find comfortable will likely not work for me. Like my shoes won’t work for you. You wear a different size, and your feet are wider than mine, with more arch. You put your cleats in a different place, too.

Today’s cycling industry can solve a lot of your problems. A good fitting can straighten out your pedaling inefficiencies, identify weak muscles, asymmetries, poor posture. They can shoot you with lasers and motion capture. They can grow your top tube and raise your saddle without you even getting of the fit bike. You can get foot beds that give you a better platform to push off of, have your cleats moved and rotated to accommodate that hip injury. And yes, you can have your ass mapped.

Somebody 3D print me a drink.

Bike fitting really is approaching its endgame when we’re talking about customized touch points, i.e. butt, feet, hands. Hands, actually, are the only part of this equation I haven’t seen meaningfully addressed. Sure there are ergo shapes and you can find your favorite tape in multiple thicknesses, but I haven’t seen anyone offering customized hoods yet. Have you?

Really, in the hands/butts/feet hierarchy, I would have expected the hands to come first.

There is an argument to be made, I suppose, that if you get the fitting right, that takes some of the stress off the touch points, but almost everyone I know who spends significant time on the bike also spends significant time adjusting their saddle and shoes. It’s the sort of “last mile” of bike fit, and I don’t think it’s meaningfully solved for most riders yet.

This week’s Group Ride asks, how much of this have you explored? Have you had footbeds made? Have you had your ass mapped? How many saddles have you tried, or having found “the one,” how many of them do you own now? Am I the only one who thinks that more ergo-adjustable hoods are an attractive option, customizable at least for size, if not for hand shape?


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  1. Doug MacDonald

    My last fit was maybe 10 years ago. What I got then still works pretty well for me now, but I don’t do the miles I did then. The birth of my triplets about 8 years ago put a real dent in the riding (but I now run much more than I did then). If I was going to get back to 2500+ mile years on a regular basis I’d get a refit. That said the same cleat position, saddle and footbeds I had back then seem OK now, so I probably wouldn’t change much of that. So, either he did a great job way back when, or maybe I’m easy to fit, or maybe I just don’t care enough.

  2. Brian Ogilvie

    I’ve never had a professional fitting. I read about fit in a few cycling books and on Peter J. White’s website, and through trial and error I’ve found a handlebar shape (Nitto Randonneur), saddle (Berthoud Aspin), and pedals (BMX pinned pedals, coupled with Keen shoes or sandals) that work well for the long, mostly moderate effort rides in the hills and valleys of New England that I enjoy.

    As long as my rides were under 50 miles, the stock saddles that came with my bikes were generally OK. I seem to have a tolerant butt. When I started longer rides, though, I had more discomfort. The Brooks B17 did well, and I might have gotten another one of those if Brooks had bothered to respond to a question I had about replacing broken rails. Instead, I got the Aspin and am quite happy with that for rides up to 110 miles. The Nitto bars I lucked into early, and I now have them on both of the bikes I ride most often. As for pedals, I have oddly shaped feet and I never found cycling shoes that I could wear for more than 15-20 miles without something going numb, so I’ve stuck with platform pedals. They work for me.

  3. scottg

    I switched to self adjusting saddles a long time ago, Brooks B-17s, Pros and a Berthoud.
    Nitto 2 bolt posts, allow for nano tilt adjustments, the Hatori Hanso of seat posts.

  4. Michael

    I guess I am pretty tolerant. I had a fitting probably 15 years ago and he had very little to say – he thought I’d found a pretty good position already. He ended up lowering my seat a wee bit, which gave me knee pain after a week so i raised it and have been happy since. Once, on my travel bike a few years ago, i tried raising the seat from my usual position and got the behind-the-knee pain that I know means too high, so back down it went. So no, I spend very little time messing with things. After 45 years of “serious” riding, I guess I know almost instantly what the feel should be on the bike and I adjust it to get there. Early season, I know I need to work on my flexibility, so don’t mess with the fitting but instead do yoga. I use two different seats – one type (WTB Rocket) for the bikes where I am a bit more upright, and another (FIzik Arione) for the racers. I do have some stock arch-support insoles that I like. All that said – it is my wrists that sometimes hurt, and I wonder if you are on to something, Robot.

  5. Neil Winkelmann

    I’ve always just done my own position. In 40+ years of riding I’ve never had an injury so I guess it is working. I am pretty tolerant of adjustments in reach and bar height, but sensitive to seat height and angle. I’ve ridden SLRs so long that Selle now take a casting of my ass to make new molds. Nothing custom, but some after-market footbeds in some shoes.

    1. Jeff vdD

      First and only fit in early 2018 as part of a custom gravel bike purchase. I trial-and-errored 5-6 saddles before finding the right one … it’s now on all my distance bikes.

  6. Jay Fromkin

    I’ve been fussing with this stuff for years. Got a bike fit in the early ’90s from Todd Carver, when he was with the Boulder Center for Sports Medicine. A couple of years ago, with a new bike, got a fit locally in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho by a LBS owner who uses Carver’s Retul system. When I crashed (dog) and screwed up my thumbs, I switched from Campy to Shimano. With really narrow feet, I’ve tried lots of shoes during the past few decades, and have settled on Specialized Torch3. Saddles have been a mess. Rode a San Marco Regal for years, but as I grew older (I’m 69), I’ve needed a cutout. Now using Selle Italia Gel Max. Still not quite right, but, what is?

  7. Parker

    Regarding hand and wrist pains, what’s seriously wrong about using aero bars as a solution for most rides? Of course, many groups disallow them. Plus, they can involve neck pain unless mounted higher than time trialists do. But if one typically rides alone or with a friend or two, they solve both hand and wrist problems entirely. Not to mention adding a little power to the pedals.

  8. Steven Down

    I’m on my second fit in 10 years. The first was to take lower limb pain away, which the fit plus Pilates sorted.

    The second was because my feet never feel “right”. I’ve ended up with expensive shoes (wide fit) plus custom insoles. They still don’t feel “right”, but better. I think I need my feet refastening to my body and to be matching size to get this any better.

    I have a growing collection of Fizik Antares (4) that fit my behind. If you have any in your bike shed…

    As for hoods, I know my preference runs SRAM, Shimano and then Campy. Surely gloves can help to sort out that particular contact point, however. Specialized Grail work so much better than most for me.

  9. Peter Burghardt

    I’ve had a professional fit. I had been trying to go lower and longer for better aerodynamics — the racer’s “flat back” — and having a lot of back and neck pain. The fitter pointed out that I didn’t have the flexibility or strength to do that and I was just hurting myself. He put be more upright and I immediately felt stronger and more comfortable.
    Saddle pressure mapping was part of the fit. I seem to be ok on several similar but different saddles. I found that tiny adjustments in saddle angle(2-bolt seatposts rule for this) make a big difference
    You’re right — the hoods and the area where the hoods meet the bars — where the heels of your hands hit — seem ripe for customization. Might be interesting to experiment with something like silicone putty.

  10. Shawn

    My collection of unopened San Marco Concors from the 90s is down to 1. The new ones just aren’t the same. I wish every seat in my life, from office to dining table to airline, fit my caboose as well as that saddle.

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