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Active Expert: Gale Bernhardt

2 Posts tagged with the bike_fit tag

Bike Fit

Posted by Gale Bernhardt Apr 8, 2008

I have at least as many excuses as you do for not getting into my favorite bike shop for a bike fit. I can't speak for you; but, all of my excuses are lousy ones if I'm honest.


My first bike fit was to get my custom TT frame built by legendary frame builder Lennard Zinn. That was in 1992.


My second bike fit was somewhere around 2000-2002 when fit guru Andy Pruitt fit my road bike and tweaked Lennard's fit on my TT frame. Actually, it wasn't Lennard's fit that needed tweaking, it was my fit that needed tweaking due to changes in my strength, fitness and flexibility.


The third fit was by Kevin Hansen of Peloton Cycles, fresh off of a course that certified him in the fit techniques of Pruitt. That fit was on a new mountain bike in 2005.


Happy to tweak my own fit and transfer measurements from bike to bike, I slowly crept out of fit. For the last two to three years, I've had trouble with my right fingers falling asleep on any ride over an hour. I just put up with it, because it didn't prevent me from riding.


There is the problem.


Why in the world would I wait until an issue became debilitating until I did something about it? Probably for the same reasons you do too: too busy right now, will do it next week/month/year?, it's not that bad, it doesn't bother me all the time, etc.


When Roy Gatesman of Peloton Cycles offered to do a complete Body Geometry Fit on the new bike for me, I said, "Yes, let's do it. You can probably fine tune the current fit, which works fine." (Achem! - "Fine"? Really?)


I am the first to admit that doing my own bike fit is like trying to give myself swimming stroke technique tips. I honestly don't have a clue what I looked like and what's going on with various moving parts when in motion.


Here's what Roy suggested that I change, and I agreed with his diagnosis:


  • - Shorter stem by 10 mm.

  • - Narrower handlebars than what came on the bike. (Back to what my current bike is equipped with, at 40.) Also, the new bar had a 20 mm shorter reach. (The distance from the centerline of the handlebar to the brake hoods was shorter so my hand didn't have to travel as far forward to reach the brake hoods.)

  • - SRAM Red has a built-in adjustment to bring the brake lever closer to the bar for my small hands. Much, much easier to reach the brakes.

  • - Removed the washer from between the pedals and the cranks and moved the cleats on my pedals to the outsides of my shoes. All of this brought my knees and ankles inline with my hips (measured with a nifty laser), which fall on the narrow side for a woman. This is a good fit biomechanically and reduces injury chances along with increasing my ability to generate power.

  • - Adjusted the seat fore and aft to get my knee correctly aligned over the crank arm. (Did I mention that off and on right knee pain I get on occasion? Oh, I guess it slipped my mind.)

  • - Removed a shim that was under my left shoe to get my knee to track in a straight line, rather than traveling side to side.

  • - Put my seat height back to what I thought was, rather than what it actually measured. (Travels with the bike and time lowered my seat. Ooops.)


There are probably other items slipping my mind, but this is the majority of issues. I took the bike for a long, hilly ride that had gusty winds (the worst aggravator for my sleeping fingers and occasionally cranky knee) last Sunday.


Guess what? No problems at all.


Roy Gatesman can be seen below making adjustments on the bike. Trent Schilousky, who helped with the shim troubleshooting, seemed to disappear when the camera came out. Todd Kornfield, who often cares for my bikes, is in the background contemplating, "Gale, now tell me again why you waited so long to get a proper bike fit?"


No good excuse.




2,424 Views 4 Comments Permalink Tags: bike_fit, kuota, peloton_cycles, sram

I am in the process of working on Bicycling for Women, which is a complete overhaul of all the information in my first book, The Female Cyclist: Gearing up a Level. We decided not to call the new work a second edition due to the large scale of updates and complete revisions in the book. While working on Bicycling for Women, it conjures up fine memories of the most difficult chapter in the first book. The chapter that took me the most time and was the most stressful, was the chapter on equipment and bike fit.


The early research included a few different methodologies for determining seat height. Including a handful of methods to estimate seat height seemed like a reasonable thing to do, no problem. While doing the work on the seat height section, every piece of information I found on bike fit for women said that "women have shorter torsos than men" and therefore bike fit needs to be different for a man than for a woman.


Having some experience in ergonomics (the science of obtaining a correct match between the metrics of the human body, work-related tasks, and work tools) I decided it would be really fun to include outline drawings of a male and female body and display the actual differences in average body measurements between the two.


This is where the trouble began.



Every piece of literature, and I mean everything, in the bike industry touted the women-and-short-torso thing. The trouble was, I could find nothing - no data - to prove that statement to be true.



My ergonomics data came from NASA studies. The data there did not support that women have short torsos.



I checked with the anthropology department at Colorado State University. They identify skeletal remains from years and years ago. Nope, no short torso support there.



I checked with a forensic pathologist. These people ID bodies all the time. How about it doc, any short-torso female evidence, some data? Humph, none here either.



I checked with bike fit guru Andy Pruitt. Did he see that women are typically short in the torso compared to men? No.



I went to legendary frame builder Lennard Zinn to see if he had data in all of his body measuring files. No. He did say that he sees more body dimension similarities of people with similar ethnic backgrounds; but as a rule, he could not support that women have short torsos compared to men.



Now I'm really nervous. I went ahead and wrote the chapter and disagreed with all published information about bike fit for women. I laid out all the data I could find, disproving the short torso claims. The book went to press and was published in 1999 (not that long ago). Then I waited.



Each time I saw another ad for a "women's specific bike" manufactured especially for women because of their short torsos, I dropped the manufacturer a note. I asked to please send me the data that proves women have short torsos, when compared to men.



Most of the time I did not get a response. On a few occasions, people did respond and said that's the information their engineers had given them. When they went to dig out the data...nothing.



I still see the short-torso claims printed from time to time. Each time, I send a note to ask for the data to support the short-torso statement. If you have any data proving women have short torsos, when compared to men, please send it my way.



This whole investigation brought up a string of issues. The domino affect. I'll get to those issues in future blogs.



I'll leave you with something to ponder. What other "common knowledge" is not factual, but some sort of misinformation passed on from person to person? I don't think the information on short torsos was intentionally bad, rather I suspect someone measured a very small sample size of women and men, then concluded all women have short torsos. Perhaps the sample size was one.



It never hurts to ask, "Where's the data?"



See where the question leads you ~

5,978 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: womens_bike_fit, bike_fit, women's_bike_fit