Expert advice from Condor's head of fitting, James Wakelin, on how to ride faster and in greater comfort.
James is trained in a variety of fit techniques, including Specialized's BG Fit method, as well as cleat fitting and footbed assessment. We get the lowdown on some of the myths and misconceptions he's encountered over the years.
1. The lower my position, the more aero and faster I'll be
It is true that body position can help you to become more aerodynamic on the bike, but James warns there is a trade-off. "At a certain point, the lower you go by either reducing your stem height or changing your stem angle, will compromise your efficiency. You might think you have less drag in the wind but your power output will drop."
James suggests riding on a turbo trainer and then setting your new 'lower position' compare how you long you can sustain the position and now how much power you're putting out over a 10 minute test. He warns: "don't make drastic changes to your position; make incremental changes over time to achieve a more aerodynamic posture."
2. Pain when cycling is part of the activity
"Cycling can be hard, especially when climbing up great mountains, but it's about separating the types of pain."
If you are uncomfortable and have to quit your cycle ride early because of discomfort, get a bike fit. A bike fit will look at things like flexibility, sit-bone width, back shape, and foot composition. "Remember, sharp pains or numbness in your shoulders, back, knees, hands or toes are not the same as tired muscles."
3. Worn cleats are a common cause of cycling pain and discomfort
James explains: "very often people come for a bike fit with specific knee or foot pain, which turns out to be worn or loose cleats."
Don't take your cleats for granted. Regularly check your cleats and shoes. "Your body gets gradually used to the altered position of your shoe when the cleat is overly worn. This will affect your knee, hip or ankle alignment."
Set up a calendar note in your phone to remind you to check your cleats every three months. Use an old tooth brush to clean the cleat bolts so they don't seize or get clogged.
Some cleats have wear markers to indicate when they are worn. Inspect the front and back of the cleat. If there is any sheared or ripped plastic, replace the cleats. If the centre of the cleat has worn thin or become scalloped, replace the cleats. If you use Speedplay, keep an eye on the springs; if the metal becomes polished or there are flat sections, they may need replacing.
4. Changing small parts won't affect my fit
Changing parts like the saddle or your shoes for another brand or model will affect your position. "Saddles can change your bike set up by a few centimetres. Different shoe brands have different height soles and in-soles. Seat posts have varying degrees of lay-back and different clamp heights."
If you feel your shoes, saddle or bars are uncomfortable, give yourself time to change the component and ride with it on a long ride, rather than fitting something new before a big cycling holiday or race.
5. There is one optimum position to achieve
"Everyone is different", says James. "It is important to realise that the body can adapt and change — along with position — as fitness levels come and go."
Bike fits are not just for serious road racers. As you change your activity or type of riding, your fit may need to change too. Many people invest in their first fitting and stick to it, and years later they are still riding that way, which has allowed little niggles to build up.
"I'd recommend getting a re-fit on your bike if you've had any significant time off the bike or you've upgraded several parts over the years."