“I’m here to have a fit,” I explained to the guy at the door to the bike shop.
And he let me in.
Because I had an appointment to have this fit, after all. An appointment for a professional bike fitting, through Fitmi in Ann Arbor on the second floor of the Sic Transit bike shop. Fittings are private, and by appointment only, both to minimize distractions and for obvious safety reasons these days.
I’d found Fitmi by accident while trying to find a collection box for wine corks, of which I had a quantity from last year’s races to recycle. Fitmi had one, so I took them over. While there I observed Jessica, the owner, fitting someone to his triathlon bike, and I was intrigued enough to schedule the same service for my cross bike, which I use for long rides.
I hadn’t been fitted to the bike since I bought it in 2011, so a refit was overdue. Turns out Jessica used to work at Two Wheel Tango, where I bought the bike for my 600-mile “turning 50 celebration” ride to our campground and back in 2012. So we actually may have met before.
The fitting is not cheap – close to $300.00 – but as I wanted to get back doing long rides again, including “centuries” (100 mile rides) I believed it was worth it. I duly showed up with bike, helmet, and shoes. She set the bike on the stand and I mounted it.
**** Readers, you may insert your own joke here about her saying, “Yes, you fit. That will be $300, please.” ****
After observing me pedal for a bit, she asked me a few questions. “Your form looks good,” she said, “but I wonder if you feel pressure on your hands.” I agreed that on long rides my hands sometimes go numb. She believed that was because my shoulders were too far forward. And my groin sometimes does, too. She said the saddle looked fine, so the height or angle was likely the problem. Then she got out her calipers, measuring tape, and laser, and began the fitting.
During the two-plus hours I was there, she measured and adjusted a lot of stuff, making incremental improvements until we found the ideal settings. Here are the basics:
- The saddle height was raised and the angle was adjusted. With this done I was once again properly resting on my “sit bones” and my legs extended more fully, giving me more power in the stroke.
- The front stem was replaced with one that puts my hands higher on the handlebars, reducing the load on my hands and wrists.
- My shoe cleats were moved slightly to reduce “knee tracking” and keep them more in alignment over the feet throughout the stroke. We could see the improvement using the laser.
At the end she said things looked much better, and I said they felt better, too. “You now look like you’re in the bike rather than on it,” she said. The idea of the bike and me being a single unit on the ride.
Since the fitting I have ridden over one hundred miles on the bike, including a 50-miler the weekend after. The difference in ride quality was immediately noticeable. My butt got sore, due to lack of time in the saddle, but it hurt in the right places. And my hands and groin didn’t go numb even once. Pretty awesome! Makes me want to be on the bike even more.
You have probably figured out that I recommend a professional fitting to anyone who rides long distances. And if you’re in the Ann Arbor area, or within shouting distance, I’d say give Fitmi a try.