I recently had the opportunity to be fitted by one of the premiere expert bike fitters in the nation, Jim Manton of FinalFit (FinalFit.com)
Jim and I have a history going back 5 years or so. I met him when he was seeing me for a consultation to evaluate his vision ( I am an ophthalmologist). I had just started riding occasionally with a 20 year old heavy steel Miyata hybrid. One thing led to another and I ended up with my first real serious bike, a white Colnago CLX. It is still my main and preferred ride and it still looks and rides like new. It’s nimble, fits like a glove, and rides smooth like buttah.
More recently, Jim sold the bike shop he had owned, and pursued his real niche talent, bike fitting.
With my new interest in triathlons, and rather than test the triathlon waters with my more-than-adequate Colnago, I felt I had to get a triathlon bike. I found a used but like-new BLUE COMPETITION T14 triathlon bike.
It’s a nice bike, but I rarely rode it because it never fit very well. I felt cramped and squeezed in. My shoulders hurt. I couldn’t get adequate power out of it. I tried adjusting it myself. I consulted Slowtwitch.com and their advice and guidelines. I watch YouTube videos. I took high speed videos of me on the trainer and measured hip, knees, and shoulder angles. Nothing seemed right and I couldn’t get it right.
I really was considering just selling it and staying with my Colnago with the bolt-on Profile Design aero bars. No shame in that. I mean it is not like I am going to be an elite professional. I already have a career.
I thought it was only fair to “Bluey” that I give her one more chance. I made an appointment with Jim at FinalFit in Long Beach, California.
Jim has a work studio above a small boutique triathlon shop on 2nd Street. He has no financial interest in the shop and although it is convenient if you need a component change like a different headset, there is no obligation or pressure from him to purchase from the shop.
The appointment was scheduled for three hour block of time and so we never felt rushed or hurried the entire time. The consultation began with a casual conversation about my goals and desires for the bike and cycling in general as well as an opportunity to describe any problems, pains or numbness when riding. For me, I would like to be competitive in my age group and participate in some longer triathlons. At this point I have only completed one Olympic distance triathlon and did pretty well for a newbie. I’m 49 years old right now and with more time and training, I think I will be even more competitive in the 50-55 year age group category. Jim then did some basic measurements checking for leg length discrepancy (there was a 5 mm difference between the two). He also measured some relatively high arches on my feet and a Varus angle when my feet are not under load and in a neutral position.
Jim’s main measurement and diagnostic tool is the retool system with 3-D image capture. For the technological geek in me this is a pretty awesome device. It has infinitely variable position movement and adjustability. The adjustments can be done while you’re spinning the pedals. There is also a power meter attached so Jim can monitor the power output while he makes relatively small adjustments to seat height or handlebar positioning.
Once you are warmed up and fairly well dialed in, Jim attaches the measurement pods that are attached to critical locations of your body such as your ankle, knee, hip, shoulder and elbow. The Retul 3-D capture device will measure these locations with amazing accuracy. There is also another measurement tool that is used to locate and reference the upper and lower aspects of the headset and bottom bracket and other parts of the “bike”. Once everything is set up you do a 20 to 30 second spin while the device measures your dynamic movement and power output. Small changes are been made to seat height and position and/or armrest and handlebar position. The process is repeated two or three or four times until you find the most comfortable position with the best power output. The ideal measurements are then printed out and Jim transfers those to your bike.
I took the bike out on the road for a short spin and found that in this position my bicycle seat was putting pressure on my perineum uncomfortably. We tried another bicycle seat made by Cobb which has a flatter and stubbier front and overall a flatter top profile which seems to distribute the weight a bit better.
Although I was not obligated to pressured to purchase from the triathlon shop downstairs, I am in support of the small businessman and chose to purchase this Cobb seat and install it right there. The only other change that I will make to this fit is a switchover from the profile design T2 + aero bars to the T3+ or similarly angled hand attachment area. I’ve decided that the front straight (well, slight ski-pole bend) aero bar on the T2+ is a bit of a strain on the wrists and does not put them in a more comfortable, neutral position. That is probably why profile design switched the design in the newer T3+ bar.
There were some significant changes in shifting my seat back and the bars forward for a total of 6 cm change. The seat was raised and the bars lowered a total shift of 5.5cm. This will hopefully stretch me out and uncramp me.
Jim also made an important observation. He noted that my back had a significant arch to it in the original position. This was in part due to the shorter seat to bar length and probably also due to the narrow seat front. With the changes made AND and awareness of my position I can flatten my back and take the pressure off my shoulders. It was instantly more comfortable. In addition, because of the arch in my feet, there may be an advantage of arch support orthotic inserts in both my cycling shoes as well as running shoes.
With the forward shift of the handlebars, my brake and shifting cables are now too short to allow the fork to turn to its full potential. Since I’m going to replace theT2 aero bars with the Carbon Strike Aero bars, I’ll have to have new cables installed. I’m anxious to get out and ride on a time trial to see how this new positioning will work out for me.
I very strongly recommend Jim Manton of FinalFit for your bike fitting. The Retul system is incredibly accurate and with extensive knowledge Jim has, it is a great combination. It seems much more accurate than measuring tapes and goniometers. If you are anywhere in the Southern California area or beyond, it will be well worth your while and money to get the right fit.