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View Full Version : Is this normal? Numb feet, hands, etc.



KLizotte
04-30-2012, 01:30 PM
Three weeks ago I bought my first modern road bike (Trek Lexa SLX (http://www.trekbikes.com/us/en/bikes/road/sport/lexa/lexa_slx/#)). I'd been riding a Trek hybrid for a little over a year and averaging 80-90 miles per week. I grew up riding a steel road bike with shifters on the downtube and foam on the handlebars and don't recall ever having the problems I'm going to describe below.

Yesterday I went for my first longish ride (50 miles) on the new bike after a series of 12-20 mile rides. Around mile 35 my feet started falling asleep (entire foot), my hand and wrists were getting sore, and my butt also started getting quite uncomfortable (I was wearing chamois) and I could feel a little bit of sciatica pain (I'd replaced the original saddle since it caused massive sciatica pain with a Selle Royal Respiro (http://www.selleroyal.com/Saddle_Detail.aspx?c=5130DRT)). With the exception of hand numbness, I don't have any of these problems on my comfort hybrid for the same distance. Not surprisingly, I was riding a lot faster than I usually do on my hybrid.

Up until mile 35 I was quite comfortable; when things became too uncomfortable I did a quickie stop to shake everything loose and that helped a little bit. During the entire ride, I made two 15 minute rest stops and made a point of changing my riding position often (riding in the drops, hoods, standing on the pedals, etc).

So, are these problems indicative of bad fit (in which case why don't they show up right away?) or is it simply a matter of building up my muscles/flexibility via more time in the saddle? I've done a fair amount of tinkering with saddle height/position, handlebar position and think I'm in the correct ballpark. I use pedal straps (PowerGrips) for both bikes and the same shoes. I'm most confused by the foot numbness; that really took me by surprise.

It truly was a gorgeous day for a ride though :D Bumped into a co-worker on the WO&D.

Tim Kelley
04-30-2012, 01:46 PM
It does get better with time. The first couple long rides of the year always make me feel it in my neck, and on yesterday's ride around mile 120 (of 140 in the Shenandoah Mountains!) my wrists were definitely feeling fatigued.

If it doesn't get better with time as your support muscles get stronger, or if the discomfort is sharp rather than a dull fatigue, then it's time to start thinking about fit changes!

eminva
04-30-2012, 01:58 PM
It sounds like you are doing everything right; moving hand positions, taking breaks, adjusting the saddle, etc. Since the bike is new, I'd say it is still a matter of adjusting to the new equipment and riding position. Also, some of the most difficult advice to give and to receive: add mileage gradually, to avoid injury.

I have noticed that there are certain foot issues that only show up when I am doing a rare long ride but that don't seem to bother me doing 28 miles a day. But I use clipless pedals so it usually means the cleat has shifted or something.

Good luck.

Liz

Dirt
04-30-2012, 01:58 PM
Interesting. I don't consider numbness normal at all. If it happens, it is something that you should seek a remedy to. That said, I don't necessarily have an answer for you. Take what I say here as possible things to consider as you search for a solution. I look forward to peoples' discussion and ideas on this.

I do experience hand numbness when I get tired and use poor form on the handlebars (arms straight and all the bend at the wrist). When I get hand numbness, changing my hand position. The key for me is to make sure that I'm not bending my wrist back to grab the bars, thus using my wrist as a shock absorber. That job is best left to the elbows. I found it more difficult to get my hands comfortable if the handlebars are too fat or thin (I'm talking about how thick the bar tape is, more than how thick the handlebar actually is.). Padding is good, but if I have to reach around a very thick handlebar or good to hold on, it makes it so I have to hold on with more strength than usual to feel secure. That causes issues.

I had foot numbness problems last weekend for the first time in ages, but that was really a result of my calves cramping on a long ride in the rain. I also had rain shoe covers that were tighter than I'm used to... They squeezed my feet quite a bit and pressed the shoe straps in.

The feet and saddle issues could be related. Different positioning could be causing a nerve to be pinched or something.

There's been talk on the forum in a few places about getting a professional fit. I've had great results when I've had a fit done. A good fit takes into account your flexibility and adjusts the handlebar reach and height based upon how flexible you are. How different is your positioning between the 2 bikes? Is the saddle height comparable? Are the handlebars lower on the new bike?

I hope this is at least of some help.

Pete

dasgeh
04-30-2012, 01:58 PM
This sounds really familiar from when I started riding seriously, training for my first tri (years ago...). For me it was a combination of newness and bad fit/wrong equipment. The numbness especially sounds like a fit/equipment issue.

When I got fit at cyclelife, they not only adjusted my bike, but suggested insoles for my shoes, which made a TON of difference for long rides.

americancyclo
04-30-2012, 02:18 PM
When I got fit at cyclelife, they not only adjusted my bike, but suggested insoles for my shoes, which made a TON of difference for long rides.

When I got my fit at Cyclelife, I had Dr. Scholl's gel inserts in my ratty old Shimano MTB shoes. They tore them out, told me, "Never do this again!" and immediately inserted Specialized footbeds. they felt completely different and weird for the first week, but now I wouldn't use a cycling shoe without them. MY feet always feel great, even after the 107 miles yesterday, and another 12 this morning.

I'd have someone look at your wrist position. I've heard people say it should be like shaking hands with the grips on your bars. if they bend too far up or down, that could be causing the wrist issues. Do you use gloves?

Rootchopper
04-30-2012, 02:25 PM
Sorry to hear about your pain. I road over 60 miles yesterday and I had the expected soreness from the increased distance. i even had some numbness in my hands.

I think your problems could be related to the gel saddle. Gel saddles are okay for short rides. Very cushy, in fact. Over long rides, howvere, the gel gets compressed and so do the nerves it i ssupposed to be protecting.

I am a big advocate of leather saddles. They may feel uncomfortable for the first 200 miles or so, but after that you'll forget you are sitting on one. I've used both sprung - Brooks Champion and B67 - and unsprung - Brooks B17 - saddles. I do not much like the B67. It's cushy but too wide for my posterior.

Last fall a bike commuting friend of mine decided to ride from Vancouver to San Francisco. She asked me for equipment recommendations. I told her to get a B17. She bought one off Craigslist and loved it.

I know a couple who ride brevets. These rides are well over 100 miles in length (they did 188 on Saturday). They ride on B17s too.

You can try one out risk free. Go to WallBike.com. They have a money-back guarantee.

KLizotte
04-30-2012, 02:36 PM
When I got my fit at Cyclelife, I had Dr. Scholl's gel inserts in my ratty old Shimano MTB shoes. They tore them out, told me, "Never do this again!" and immediately inserted Specialized footbeds. they felt completely different and weird for the first week, but now I wouldn't use a cycling shoe without them. MY feet always feel great, even after the 107 miles yesterday, and another 12 this morning.

I'd have someone look at your wrist position. I've heard people say it should be like shaking hands with the grips on your bars. if they bend too far up or down, that could be causing the wrist issues. Do you use gloves?

I have Spenco running insoles in my shoes and I do wear gloves. Wrist issues have been an on-going issue and will probably result in another trip to the LBS to try to resolve.

KLizotte
04-30-2012, 02:51 PM
I think your problems could be related to the gel saddle. Gel saddles are okay for short rides. Very cushy, in fact. Over long rides, howvere, the gel gets compressed and so do the nerves it i ssupposed to be protecting.

You can try one out risk free. Go to WallBike.com. They have a money-back guarantee.

Wow, that's amazing they offer the money back guarantee. I will definitely have to consider that since I've heard very good things about Brooks and I suspect the exact right shape for me will solve a lot of problems.

I decided to go with a wider gel saddle after the more traditional hard skinny ones caused sciatica pain on my left side (it was like riding on a knife); I tried the saddle that came with the bike, a Terry Liberator, a Specialized Lithia, and another whose name I've forgotten. I think my sciatica is closer to the surface than it should be because heavens knows I've got enough padding down there! Grrrrrr.

KLizotte
04-30-2012, 03:00 PM
.
How different is your positioning between the 2 bikes? Is the saddle height comparable? Are the handlebars lower on the new bike? Pete

There is a big difference in positioning between the two bikes. My hybrid is a "comfort" hybrid so it has a rather upright posture, fork and seat suspension, a big cushy saddle, and high riser bars. Very easy to ride but all the power comes from the legs, mostly quads (I have very good quads now as a result). Moving to a road bike was a huge transition but I'm getting quite used to it and the death grip is almost all gone. Moving between the two bikes is an odd transition (I still use the hybrid for commuting). I still feel like I have too much weight on my hands on the road bike but am unsure if this is a fit issue or if my back muscles are undeveloped (probably both). Strangely I find riding in the drops to be very comfortable though my hand positions on the bars feel unergonomic in that position.

Dirt
04-30-2012, 03:23 PM
There is a big difference in positioning between the two bikes. My hybrid is a "comfort" hybrid so it has a rather upright posture, fork and seat suspension, a big cushy saddle, and high riser bars. Very easy to ride but all the power comes from the legs, mostly quads (I have very good quads now as a result). Moving to a road bike was a huge transition but I'm getting quite used to it and the death grip is almost all gone. Moving between the two bikes is an odd transition (I still use the hybrid for commuting). I still feel like I have too much weight on my hands on the road bike but am unsure if this is a fit issue or if my back muscles are undeveloped (probably both). Strangely I find riding in the drops to be very comfortable though my hand positions on the bars feel unergonomic in that position.
A big change in position will elicit a pretty big reaction from your body. Perhaps there's a way to lessen the differences? Can the bars be raised a little, then lowered as your back, arms, neck get used to the new positioning?

I've always been more comfy in the drops or on the brake hoods because grabbing there matches the natural reach of my arms. When I ride a mountain bike I use bars that get me a little closer to that same feeling.

PotomacCyclist
05-01-2012, 09:44 PM
Build up to longer rides gradually. Moving from 20 miles to 50 miles is a huge jump. It's better to bump up the long rides in smaller jumps over a number of weeks.

A bike fit can help, as mentioned.

You may also want to switch to clipless pedals. It sounds like you are using running shoes and shoe cages. Running shoes can be a problem for longer bike rides. The softer sole does not transfer power from your legs to the pedals efficiently. The soles also allow too much flex, which can cause plantar fasciitis (bottom of foot) in some people. Clipless pedals will let you get rid of the toe cage, which might be wrapped too tightly around your shoes and feet.

When I did my first century ride back in 2010, my hands and wrists became numb. They stayed numb for nearly a week. I was really scared that I had done permanent damage. (Fortunately, the numb sensation went away and never returned.) That was on the tri bike. This year I've done all of my riding on the mtn bike (or CaBi). On the long rides (MTB only), my hands felt a little sore on the first long ride or two. But after I got used to the long rides again, I haven't had any issues at all, for long rides in the 3 to 5-hr. range.

KLizotte
05-01-2012, 10:13 PM
A big change in position will elicit a pretty big reaction from your body. Perhaps there's a way to lessen the differences? Can the bars be raised a little, then lowered as your back, arms, neck get used to the new positioning?


Oh I'm sure there is a way to raise the bars a bit but my big ego is getting in the way at the moment (though I suspect my extremities will probably have the last say on the matter).

acc
05-01-2012, 11:33 PM
First, YOU ROCK!! My God, you are seriously out there riding. Congratulations.

Second, I've been heartbroken for the last day and feel bad about not getting back here faster.

Please get a professional fit. Last night I discovered that Spartacus, the only man I get along with, is three sizes too big for me. All the issues I've been ignoring weren't because of my ineptitude. The numbness, the twitching in my hands, the unbearable saddle, my neck killing me, a lot of my problems are due to riding on a bike that is far too big for me.

I've been riding on a 50 cm frame. I need a 44 cm frame. The other dimensions are just as bad. Spartacus is so far out of alignment there is nothing that can be done to adjust him.

Before you do anything else, go have a professional fit your bike.

And more congratulations for being a tough broad. You should not be riding in pain.

ann

KLizotte
05-02-2012, 01:14 AM
Oh no Ann :( :mad: Not Spartacus! I'm so sorry for you.

I must say though that you might want to get a second opinion on the 44 cm frame. I think you are taller than me (I'm 5'2") and the 44 I tried (Specialized Dolce) felt like I was going to go flying over the handlebars the entire time and I couldn't ride in the drops (too squished). According to the Trek website, this is what they recommend for sizes:

Height Road Size
<5’2” 43/47
5’3” 47/50
5’6” 50/52/54
5’9” 52/54/56
5’11” 54/56/58

You'll note that Trek doesn't make a 44 in their current lineup. I know Specialized does and I believe Felt does too. Terry makes some very small bikes. Even though I'm having some fit problems I think if I went down a size (from 47) that I'd be putting too much weight on my hands/wrists and would have a hard time riding comfortably in the drops. I've already got the seat pushed as far back as it will go; I feel more balanced that way and it helps with the hand issues.

I have also discovered the hard way that the saddle makes a huge difference in balance and having better control of the bike (who knew?!). One saddle was kind to my posterior but I couldn't ride without both hands on the bars else I'd start wobbling; trying to get a drink of from my water bottle was a somewhat dicey exercise (I'm sure I scared the bejesus out of a few cyclists nearby). I thought this was normal till I tried a different saddle and voila - half of my problems disappeared (probably because it has a longer nose). Personally, I think the saddles that are sold with the bikes are junk; they know you're gonna change it out anyway so why put any money into it?

I presume you asked about a shorter (and/or adjustable) stem, moving the seat forward, raising the handlebars, etc. I hope you don't have to buy a new bike but at least you should be able to get a good price for Spartacus if necessary. I'd still get a second opinion; I discovered when shopping around that everyone has their own "philosophy" as to what constitutes a proper fit.

You may wish to check this article out: http://www.ebicycles.com/article/bike-fitting-common-misconceptions.html

Keeping my fingers crossed for you.

Kathy

KLizotte
05-02-2012, 01:44 AM
Build up to longer rides gradually. Moving from 20 miles to 50 miles is a huge jump. It's better to bump up the long rides in smaller jumps over a number of weeks.

A bike fit can help, as mentioned.

You may also want to switch to clipless pedals. It sounds like you are using running shoes and shoe cages. Running shoes can be a problem for longer bike rides. The softer sole does not transfer power from your legs to the pedals efficiently. The soles also allow too much flex, which can cause plantar fasciitis (bottom of foot) in some people. Clipless pedals will let you get rid of the toe cage, which might be wrapped too tightly around your shoes and feet.

When I did my first century ride back in 2010, my hands and wrists became numb. They stayed numb for nearly a week. I was really scared that I had done permanent damage. (Fortunately, the numb sensation went away and never returned.) That was on the tri bike. This year I've done all of my riding on the mtn bike (or CaBi). On the long rides (MTB only), my hands felt a little sore on the first long ride or two. But after I got used to the long rides again, I haven't had any issues at all, for long rides in the 3 to 5-hr. range.

I think you are right on all counts. Too far/fast on an unfamiliar bike. I'm sure I need help on final fit tweaks. I felt like I was putting a lot of weight on the ball of my foot; I can see how a stiffer sole would help as is the case with clipless.

I must learn patience....

P.S. Damn, that's a long time to live with numb hands. Glad it all worked out for you. Insane.

PotomacCyclist
05-02-2012, 08:47 AM
Torso size/leg length also helps to determine the proper bike size. Some people have proportionally longer torsos than others, which means that the saddle-to-handlebar length (I think it's called "reach") would be a little longer, and so on.

***
Re the numb hands, I guess it would be more accurate to say that my hands were semi-numb and tingling. But yeah, it was kind of bad for the first few days. I think I was sitting up on the bullhorns too much. Those are the regular handlebars on a tri bike. I was still getting used to aerobars back then, so I kept sitting up during the ride.

dasgeh
05-02-2012, 10:12 AM
Last night I discovered that Spartacus, the only man I get along with, is three sizes too big for me.

Oh, ann! How horrid! I can't even manage riding on a bike THREE sizes too big for so long. I was on a bike one size to big for about a year, and it was MISERABLE (in hindsight). Once I got my new bike, it was like night and day. All the sudden, long training rides were something to look forward to!

BTW, my new (well fitting) bike is a Felt ZW 35. I LOVE it. Of course, fit matters the most, but if Felt is on your list, I highly recommend it. I'm a bit taller than you, but I need a bike that's smaller than my height suggests (I think my legs are long and torso is short, or something like that).

And sorry about Spartacus. :-(

Tim Kelley
05-02-2012, 10:15 AM
BTW, my new (well fitting) bike is a Felt ZW 35. I LOVE it. Of course, fit matters the most, but if Felt is on your list, I highly recommend it. I'm a bit taller than you, but I need a bike that's smaller than my height suggests (I think my legs are long and torso is short, or something like that). (

+1 for Felt's size range. I'm on their XL size TT frame and friend has their XS TT frame with 650c baby wheels.

Greenbelt
05-02-2012, 11:17 AM
A good bike shop will do a thorough fitting for any bike, and an extensive fit (usually a couple hours at least) for more expensive bikes. Sometimes you really do have to swap out stems, change angles and saddles and pedals etc. and that takes time. Hanging around a bike shop (too much!), I've seen people come in with an idea to buy a particular bike setup, but then end up with a different bike and size than they thought because the fit was so much better once they got it up in the trainer and all set up, and then took it out for a good test ride.

acc
05-02-2012, 10:05 PM
Apparently I was made from scrap parts.

I am 5'3" but a 44 cm bike is the size that fits me the best.

When things slow down at work I will tell the whole ugly story but for now I just want to say that a good fitting session for me required two trips and almost five hours. Granted, I'm small and have weird proportions but that's how long it took to dial in a bike that honest to goodness fits. And I'll have to return after 100 miles for slight adjustments.

That being said, for the first year I rode having a precise fit didn't matter. I rode a century on Spartacus and did fine.

But now it matters. I'm going to race and I need to have control over the bike. I don't want to endanger anyone and I want to do as well as I can. Riding a bike that fits feels amazing. It is like the bike and I are one single entity.

ann

Mark Blacknell
05-03-2012, 08:35 AM
For those of you who can't wait for the full story from Ann, here's a preview (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2kneDHG0yc4).

~

Lots of good info in this discussion. I'll just add that getting out of the SlamThatStem (http://slamthatstem.com/) competition is almost always a big step in the right direction for anyone.

vvill
05-03-2012, 09:20 AM
I've never had a fit but just have to re-iterate that small changes make big differences! When I got a new saddle (my first day riding was the end of TJROW), it took weeks of adjustments and actually it's only been a few days since I last messed with it (put it about 1cm up). If you have more than one pair of shoes, the fit will feel different even in different shoes! I wore my MTB shoes yesterday for the first time in weeks and it was a bit strange feeling as the soles are much stiffer than my commuter shoes with laces (and I slipped over a few times walking to my office).

GuyContinental
05-03-2012, 12:49 PM
I had a fit done by Clovis who works out of Conte's/Freshbikes- it was pricey, especially since I needed to buy a new saddle and stem but the difference is huge.

On the small tweaks topic- even with the fit I was having upper back pain, a racer buddy noted my helmet visor and explained that I was probably craning my neck to see down the road under it, particularly when in the drops. I removed the visor and the pain pretty much went away.

There is also a big difference in the body's tolerance for a poor fit on a MTB/hybrid vs a road bike. MTBs can be fudged a bit because of the style of riding, relative more upright body position and general cushion that they provide. The strains are more amplified in a road position on 120psi and an AL frame- millimeters can make or break a fit over a long ride and cause real damage over time.

KLizotte
05-03-2012, 03:21 PM
It seems to me that manufacturers might be better off if they focused a tad bit more on comfort instead of solely on performance. One shouldn't need a degree in biomechanics to set up a bike for oneself and ride comfortably. I'm just sayin'....

For the benefit of all, do folks have any advice/opinons on the various fitting services in the area? I see there are fitters that rely on "eyeballing" and a tape measure, others who use Rutul; some fit you with your bike on a trainer, others use an erector set style bike, etc.

How do you know if the fitter is any good before you get there? What questions should you ask ahead of time? I'm specifically thinking of sessions that cost in the $75-$250 range; not the 10 minute freebie services.

Any insights are much appreciated.

GuyContinental
05-03-2012, 03:41 PM
It seems to me that manufacturers might be better off if they focused a tad bit more on comfort instead of solely on performance. One shouldn't need a degree in biomechanics to set up a bike for oneself and ride comfortably. I'm just sayin'....


They do- they're called hybrids. You sacrifice aerodynamics and application of power for greater comfort. That said, a strong rider on a 700cc hybrid can absolutely fly.

A traditional drop bar road bike puts your body in a position where it's significantly more difficult to absorb shocks (vs an upright bike) AND spreads your weight balance between seat and bars giving you many more possible points of fit failure- it's your body that's at fault, not the bike designer. The more you alter the geometry towards upright, the less the impact of bad fit.

As far as fitters go- Clovis (at Freshbikes) usually gets extremely high marks- he patient, friendly and methodical. I think that my fit took 2 hours for around $200 (2 years ago). You'll want to make sure that you wear your actual riding gear including gloves, shorts and a jersey (it will help them see your form better)... also, bring your wallet- it sounds like a racket but a typical fitment often involves replacing (one or more of) seats, bars, grips and almost definitely a stem. The smaller your hands and the more freakish your form the more likely that you will need new parts.

americancyclo
05-03-2012, 03:43 PM
It's not a simple process, there are a lot of moving parts on both bike and person and none are ever the same, so every fit it going to be different.
Freshbikes and CycleLife both seem to get good reviews from people. I'd at least try to find a place that has:

1. Someone that knows physiology or sports medicine
2. Some kind of motion capture tools (video capture or retul)
3. Industry certification of some kind

The 'erector set' bike is made to be adjustable so you can figure out what types of reach and stack work best with your riding style.
after precise measurements are taken, someone is going to use a tape measure on your bike, either the fitter or the mechanic that makes the adjustments.
Then you should be back on your bike, in a trainer, to see how the measurements feel, and make any tweaks you need.

CycleLife and Freshbikes both have staff that are certified fit professionals by major bicycle manufacturers, such as Specialized and Serotta. There are courses and even a University where fit staff go to be educated.

I'd check out each shop, ask about their equipment, and then talk to the fit staff. You'll be spending a few hours with them, so you should enjoy the company of whoever is doing your fit.

txgoonie
05-03-2012, 04:36 PM
Fitting is a hot topic for me at the moment b/c I'm in the market for one, as well. What I've learned through some really robust discussion on the topic with friends who race: fitting is certainly a precision exercise, but it is part art. Different fitters will ask different questions and, sorta like doctors, make different recommendations than other fitters for the same problem. They each have their own philosophy and will fit individuals within a general framework. But in general, any fitter will almost certainly make you more comfortable and more efficient than you were when you went in.

These are the recommendations I've collected for myself so far, so this may be a good starting point from which to start asking more questions. FYI, none of them are cheap.

Clovis at Freshbikes and Tom at Plum Grove have high marks, especially for mountain bike fits

Josh Frick at CycleLife

Andy Cicero with Rise Above Cycles (This is probably who I'm going to see for my road fit as a handful of experienced roadies I know have been fitted recently and were blown away by how much more power they were getting after seeing him.)

To echo what others have said, don't be surprised by having to buy a few new components on top of the +/-$200 you'll spend on the fitting itself.

mstone
05-03-2012, 06:30 PM
It seems to me that manufacturers might be better off if they focused a tad bit more on comfort instead of solely on performance. One shouldn't need a degree in biomechanics to set up a bike for oneself and ride comfortably. I'm just sayin'....

It's a chicken and egg problem. There are relatively few bike shops that don't cater to the racing crowd or the gnarly mountain bike crowd. The manufacturers don't have much of a distribution channel for bikes for normal people outside of wal-mart. Shimano dumped a ton of money into trying to sell an auto-shifting bike to leisure cyclists, and they gave up largely because people either got scared out of the stores or got steered away from the "lame" bikes into the carbon road bike they "really" needed. I have hopes that with more people cycling there will be some incentive to change, but right now it's fairly tough for someone to walk in off the street into a bike store and get a decently priced, drop-bar commuter set up with racks, fenders, etc.

Arlingtonrider
05-03-2012, 07:53 PM
Paul Hoover, who works with Clovis at Freshbikes, but out of the Bethesda location, did my fitting for my Trek 7500 hybrid. It solved all the problems I was having. I have nothing to compare it to, but it seemed very thorough, and I think he did very well by me. He happened to be filling in for Clovis at the Arlington location that day. Freshbikes has biographical information about its fitters on its website.

Mark Blacknell
05-03-2012, 08:07 PM
It seems to me that manufacturers might be better off if they focused a tad bit more on comfort instead of solely on performance.

I'd say that's constitutes the approach to the majority of Trek's lineup.



One shouldn't need a degree in biomechanics to set up a bike for oneself and ride comfortably.

So long as the bike you were sold roughly fits you, you don't. For example, Ann's road bike? Fits her well enough for comfortable riding, tho it certainly wasn't optimal. In comparison, her incredibly oversized MTB? Selling that to her should have been a crime.

(And I'm not just picking on Ann, here. I see the results of badly sized sales regularly. It's not always clear who's fault it is (some customers just really want *that* one.), but I'd certainly like to see fewer sales like that.)




For the benefit of all, do folks have any advice/opinons on the various fitting services in the area? I see there are fitters that rely on "eyeballing" and a tape measure, others who use Rutul; some fit you with your bike on a trainer, others use an erector set style bike, etc.

My view is that the systems used matter a whole lot less than the fitter him/herself. There's loads of great information online (see, for example, my friend Eric's site (http://www.velofitter.com/blog/) on fitting). If it were all about formulas/systems, you could just break out the measuring tapes and calculator. Except . . . yeah, that's not going to work out so well (tried it).



How do you know if the fitter is any good before you get there? What questions should you ask ahead of time? I'm specifically thinking of sessions that cost in the $75-$250 range; not the 10 minute freebie services.

I got to mine the same way I get to most professional services - referrals from people like me*, and then a conversation about what I want/what they can offer. If I'm not comfortable with the conversation (and that includes making me feel stupid)? Move on to the next.


*I think this part is important, and often overlooked, when it comes to fitting. I'm a big fan of the aforementioned Clovis @ Freshbikes. I've referred more than a few satisfied customers to him. But I'd never send him someone who just needed their cruiser set up for weekend spins on the WOD.

acc
05-03-2012, 10:24 PM
Blacknell, you swine.

Calling me a chimpanzee? On a bike? You will pay.
After a winter at Bull Run trying to teach myself to corner sharply and failing, I went to Clovis at Freshbikes for a professional fitting.
It was like going to a doctor's for a head cold and finding out you have inoperable lung cancer.
I knew Spartacus had a roving eye. I had no idea he lusted after a much bigger woman. I simply could not compete.
So after flattening his tires with some creative bike tool movements, I let him go. He wanted something I could never be, larger.

I have a new bike.

It is truly amazing. Riding a bike that fits seduces you into riding to the corner just to buy a pack of gum. Riding a bike that's fun to ride makes you ride sixteen miles to turn in a five page paper. Love makes fools of us all.

I don't have a name for him yet.

ann

off2ride
05-03-2012, 10:28 PM
K,

Let me know when you're ready for a Commuter Fit @ BPS in Gtown. I'll hook you up.

dbb
05-03-2012, 11:02 PM
I don't have a name for him yet.

I am sensing an opportunity for a "name that bike" activity.

Ann should describe the requirements for her bike name and the forum members can do the rest.

acc
05-03-2012, 11:08 PM
I name my bikes after handsome men. So any name is up for grabs except one: Blacknell.

KLizotte
05-03-2012, 11:12 PM
Given your troubles with the last one, are you sure this new bike is really a "he"?

I think you might want to have another look under the tail, so to speak....

acc
05-03-2012, 11:30 PM
Oh, he's a guy. That's obvious. I had to have him "trimmed" in the shop.

americancyclo
05-04-2012, 08:09 AM
It's also really nice to have a shop that will keep a copy of all your measurements in a PDF and be willing to email it to you if you're traveling and renting a bike for a long ride. I think all the shops do this, but it's a nice feature, in case you lose your initial numbers, the shop will always have an extra copy to give you.

Greenbelt
05-04-2012, 09:59 AM
I can't let this thread pass without recommending Jill at Proteus, although I do have a bit of a conflict of interest as unofficial group ride coordinator and cookie maker for her shop. Plus my wife's going to start working there after the school term finishes. Jill's very intuitive -- has a good feel for tuning the fit to the type of riding you do, and has a lot of experience helping riders who have had overuse injuries or past fit problems. I'm going to get both my bike re-fit with her this summer, hopefully. (Because I've changed a little since they were first fit, not because they're new bikes or anything!)

Ann, congrats on your new dude!

eminva
05-04-2012, 10:00 AM
So far, I've subscribed to the "If it ain't broke, don't fix it" school of thought on bike fitting. I ride 100-150 miles per week on my road bike, feel comfortable, but at times I have my share of aches and pains. Usually I chalk them up to some non-bike related stupid thing (like lifting a laundry basket full of books, which led to several days of back pain) or plain old age. However, now you've got me wondering . . . could something about my bike be a contributing factor? If so, it is certainly not something I'm conscious of.

I could afford a bike fitting, but a new bike is not something I've budgeted for at the moment. I dread hearing the fitter say "Your bike is three sizes too big!" I realize this is not a good reason to avoid it, but what would be a good reason to go ahead and have one?

By the way, I've had the bike for just over three years and have maintained it routinely. I rarely tamper with saddle position or other variables.

Thanks.

Liz

eminva
05-04-2012, 10:04 AM
Oops, two more things:

Greenbelt's post made me realize I've changed, too, since I got the bike. I had major surgery which in some ways limits my range of motion in my chest and back(I'm still working on that with other exercises).

And Ann, congrats on the new bike. I suggest Phidippides. If he'd just had a bike, maybe he wouldn't have died.

Liz

acc
05-04-2012, 10:40 AM
Phidippides would only remind me of running, my least favorite activity besides taking out the trash.

Three things happened at about the same time to convince me I needed a better fit.
1. I wasn't getting any better at sharp turns even though I spent time practicing.
2. I saw a picture of myself next to other riders at the Bike Summit Ride and my positioning was out of alignment. I looked like a flying squirrel reaching for the handlebars.
3. I knew the pedals didn't feel right. The power of pedaling wasn't going into the ball of my foot.

As for being sore and stiff from riding I've noticed two things. As long as I continue to lift and stretch I feel a lot better. And I learned some things from Tim, the combination of swimming, running, and biking works to distribute the physical stress of exercise. But you have real obstacles to manage, I'm just a natural complainer.

Does any of this really matter? Probably not if I'm just out riding around by myself. But if I ride in groups or any other situation where speed and bike handling are important then it matters.

If I don't drown during the swim portion of the triathlon I'll have to get on my bike and ride--- with people --- going fast. I strongly suspect they won't be calling out "on your left." Therefore I need to be in control of my bike. I won't have the large margins of error I try to build in for myself when I'm riding in traffic or out on the trails.

The only name for the new bike that's popped into my head so far has been Apollo.

KLizotte
05-22-2012, 02:24 PM
After struggling for a month trying to get comfortable on my 47 cm Trek Lexa, I decided a professional fit was in order. It didn't seem right that my hands and feet were constantly falling asleep and that my most comfortable hand position on the handlebars was just plain weird looking. acc (Ann) very kindly gave me the lowdown on what Clovis at Freshbikes did when she went for her fit so I made an appointment with him last Friday night. It was not cheap.

Long story short, the Trek was too big for me. I was having to reach too far for the handlebars, could barely reach the brakes, and was standing on the equivalent of tippy toes on the pedals. This was causing my numb hands and feet (and sore fingers from stretching to hold on to the brakes). I was also never fully comfortable on the bike (it always felt twitchy or wobbly if I took a hand off the handlebars). I found all of this surprising since the websites I looked at (including Trek's), and the fine folks at Revolution, said I should be on a 47 given my 28" inseam and 5'2" height. Most manufacturers (including Trek) do not make an adult road bike under 47.

So I ended up buying a 44 cm Canondale Synapse alloy Shimano 105 road bike. It fits a gazillion times better. Clovis did have to put on a riser stem (I think that's what it's called) because I still had too much weight on my hands with the original stem. He also put wedge like inserts in the brakes so I can easily reach the brake levers (I have short fingers). Now my hands rest on the bars in a normal position and I can brake comfortably and safely (my fingers are no longer getting a workout). I did change out the saddle for one that doesn't bother my sciatica and it sits much higher than it did on the Trek.

I also got outfitted for clipless for the first time (SPD with mountain bike shoes because I insisted on the ability to walk around easily). While apprehensive at first, I found them very easy to adapt to. No falls or close calls at all; made powering up hills so much easier.

My first real ride with the bike was on an organized group ride around Baltimore on Sunday. Lots of stop and go at the beginning till the crowd thinned then lots of hills on the outskirts of town. 48 miles and zero numbness or pain!!!! It was a miracle. I felt very comfortable on the bike; no more wobbliness when I signaled and I felt comfortable going down some rather scary hills. I was also happy to discover that going over bumps no longer felt like I was going to lose a filling or two in the process. I would have biked some more that day but it was 84 degrees by then and I was very sweaty and hungry.

Loved the clipless system. Wish I'd gone that way earlier. Unfortunately the shoes turned out to be a little too short so now I'm awaiting a special order pair to come in. Other than that, I'm a thousand times more pleased with the new bike because it simply fits me better.

I almost went for the all carbon Synapse but the deal breaker was the lack of rack or fender capability. Clovis was rather aghast I turned down carbon but I need more flexibility in my bike since I may use it for commuting sometimes and I hate wearing anything on my back while riding. Also, because the frame is so small there is no room to secure a lock or pump. I can't even fit two full size water bottles. It stinks being a short person.

I'm now looking to sell my virtually brand new 47 Trek Lexa SLX. It's a great bike, just the wrong size for me. Post will go up soon. PM me if you are interested.

Word to the wise: if you feel numbness in hands or feet, can't find a comfortable spot for your hands on the bars, feel wobbly, small bumps cause you to go "owww", then the bike does not fit you. You may or may not need a new bike (sometimes a simple stem adjustment is all that is required) but do yourself a big favor and get a professional fit. Better yet, go to a fitter first, then buy the bike. I wish I'd done that.

Regrettably the front of house salespeople are rather useless when it comes fitting (some salespeople tried to sell me 50 cm bikes!). I didn't know what a properly fitted road bike was supposed to feel like and figured I'd get used to it. An expensive lesson learned.

Thanks to everyone for all their advice and offers of assistance. It was greatly appreciated!!!! ;)

GuyContinental
05-22-2012, 02:38 PM
So I ended up buying a 44 cm Canondale Synapse alloy Shimano 105 road bike.

Dang- I should have thought of that earlier- My wife has your dimensions (more or less) and ended up buying pretty much the same bike because it was just about the smallest female specific bike made. It made a world of difference for her when combined with a Clovis fit. Congrats on working it out!

On the pedals- I wouldn't sweat the MTB style vs road... I used my winter bike for the rain today (with eggbeaters) and honestly couldn't feel much of a difference- not having to walk like a duck was nice as well. The important part (IMO as a faux-roadie) is the shoes- super stiff and well fitted carbon MTB shoes make a big difference in power and comfort.

eminva
05-22-2012, 02:43 PM
Glad to hear you are on a bike that fits and that you are happy and comfortable, but sorry for the expense and trouble that preceeded it.

It is with some trepidation that I face an appointment with Clovis tomorrow afternoon. My husband bought his last bike there and got a fitting as part of the process so he has been encouraging me to get one. It has been 3 1/2 years since I bought my bike and there have been enough changes in my riding and circumstances that it seemed like a good idea. However, I would be devastated if the diagnosis is that my frame is the wrong size. So don't sell that 47 yet, K. :)

Why can't the sales staffs at various bike shops learn some of this mojo? Seems like a lot of folks are making expensive mistakes . . .

Liz

acc
05-22-2012, 02:46 PM
I feel your pain. It's amazing how much better life is when you don't look like a flying squirrel stretched out over the handlebars. And I no longer dance the hula reaching for the bottom of my pedal. I was shimmying in the saddle like I needed the money. It is a bit mortifying when Clovis starts bringing out the adaptive equipment for the little clown bike to make it easier to reach the brakes.

A professional fit makes a world of difference. If something hurts and probably shouldn't it might not be you. It might be the bike.

Sometimes being treated like a lab rat pays off.

ann

eminva
05-22-2012, 02:47 PM
By the way, it sounds like Clovis is going to have a sad face when he sees all the commuter junk on my proud road bike: rack, kickstand, me, etc.

Liz

Greenbelt
05-22-2012, 02:49 PM
The difference between riding a bike that doesn't quite fit and a bike that really, truly fits is the difference between fun and joy.

DismalScientist
05-22-2012, 03:00 PM
By the way, it sounds like Clovis is going to have a sad face when he sees all the commuter junk on my proud road bike: rack, kickstand, me, etc.

Liz

A rack is fine, but a kickstand is blasphemy.

BTW, have the folks at LBSs ever heard of touring bikes?

eminva
05-22-2012, 03:05 PM
BTW, have the folks at LBSs ever heard of touring bikes?

Not really. When I started bike shopping four years ago, I went into each bike shop with a written list of what I was looking for in a bike, but it really boiled down to an all-weather commuter for a 28-mile round trip. I did NOT specify what type of bike I was looking for. I thought I would end up with a touring bike or a cross bike, but I was shown anything and everything but. I am happy with the road bike, but sometimes it seems like there might have been a better tool for the task.

Liz

KLizotte
05-22-2012, 03:11 PM
By the way, it sounds like Clovis is going to have a sad face when he sees all the commuter junk on my proud road bike: rack, kickstand, me, etc.

Liz

Don't worry about it. Just stand your ground. He was rather perplexed when he saw I was using pedal straps instead of clipless on my Trek.

He really knows what he's doing but I learned that you have to be firm about the problems you are having and what kind of bike you are looking for (it is a bike store after all and they will try to up sell). Fortunately they took back my (barely) used clipless shoes and ordered me a new pair without question (they were a tad too small). Other people stopped by during my fitting with fit questions and he was honest about what he could and could not fix. You are paying for his time so don't be afraid to be pushy.

I still have yet to go through the whole soup-to-nuts fitting process with him; it's been a little bit of a choppy process because of the appointment times I've had (right before closing) and changing my mind as to which bike I wanted.

Good luck! If you want any more info, please PM me and I'll give you my phone number.

KLizotte
05-22-2012, 03:18 PM
A rack is fine, but a kickstand is blasphemy.

BTW, have the folks at LBSs ever heard of touring bikes?

I have been continually dismayed by most LBS staff's attitude that one does *not* use a road bike for commuting, shopping, sight seeing, or visiting friends. When I have repeatedly told them I needed a way to easily carry a full size U-lock and cable on a road bike I've been met with a confused expression and "why?". Errr....because sometimes I have to get off the bike for a while. I also sometimes like to carry food, camera, hammock, and maps. Yeah, I'm a tourer at heart I guess.

brendan
05-22-2012, 04:07 PM
I have been continually dismayed by most LBS staff's attitude that one does *not* use a road bike for commuting, shopping, sight seeing, or visiting friends. When I have repeatedly told them I needed a way to easily carry a full size U-lock and cable on a road bike I've been met with a confused expression and "why?". Errr....because sometimes I have to get off the bike for a while. I also sometimes like to carry food, camera, hammock, and maps. Yeah, I'm a tourer at heart I guess.

I was really amused that I didn't really notice my road bike has rack eyelets embedded in the carbon seat stays before I got it home. I am somewhat nervous about actually attaching a rack to a carbon rear triangle, though...

Brendan

mstone
05-22-2012, 09:27 PM
BTW, have the folks at LBSs ever heard of touring bikes?

Not around here, in my experience.

GuyContinental
05-23-2012, 08:41 AM
A quick footnote on this fit conversation- I rode my "winter bike" for the first time in a year yesterday (because of the rain). 50 miles and I'm in some serious pain today because of the horrible horrible fit. I rode that bike for 10K before I built my current bike (fitted by Clovis) and honestly thought that pain was just part of road riding. Riding this morning on the fitted bike was like night and day- I may never ride the old bike again- frame is too long; seat is too narrow; bar angle is wrong; wrap is too thick... yuk. Most of these are fixable but the frame will always be too big and the whole rig is tired. Time to properly build up that new cross bike that I've always wanted ;-)

So:
1. Little details can make a BIG difference, particularly on a road bike
2. Biking, even for long distances SHOULD NOT HURT (well, the legs maybe)
3. It's rarely one factor that is driving bad fit
4. There are things that you can fix (seat, bars, stem, pedals, wrap) and things that you can't (frame size, frame geometry)
5. Life is too short for a bad fit

eminva
05-23-2012, 08:45 PM
In a salute to acc, I anthropomorphized my bike and gave it a name. Mine took on a female identity and is named Candy Cane. In retrospect, I should have known, because frankly, that sounds like a stripper's name. Today Clovis gave me confirmation that Candy Cane is too much bike for me. I had gotten so used to the abuse she dished out that I didn't even realize it.:eek:

The list is long: The frame is too big -- the advertised size is 54 cm, but he measured and it is 55 cm. I should be on a 51 cm WSD frame. The handlebars are too wide. The stem is too long. The crank arms are too long. The seat is too far back. My cleats are mispositioned. Wrong shoes. At the same time, I have gotten older and less flexible and strong. He seemed astonished that I rode 7200 miles on this bike.

I guess I have to adopt the attitude that GuyC articulated -- Life is too short for a bad fit -- but my wallet is going to be in a sad state. I will miss people telling me "nice bike!" whenever they take a look at it. I plan to keep it in the collection -- it will soon fit my son. And what middle school boy wouldn't want to cavort with a girl like Candy Cane.

Thanks for the advice.

Liz

Mark Blacknell
05-23-2012, 09:00 PM
I plan to keep it in the collection -- it will soon fit my son. And what middle school boy wouldn't want to cavort with a girl like Candy Cane.

Best.Mom.Ever.

Greenbelt
05-23-2012, 09:53 PM
Not around here, in my experience.

Kona Sutra

KLizotte
05-23-2012, 09:53 PM
My condolences to eminva on the bad news. You will feel much better on a better fitting bike though; at least Candy Cane will be staying in the family.

I think it is sad there are so many people out there suffering; I suspect most women are on bikes that are too big. The bike industry really needs to get its act together to better serve its customers; they are shooting themselves in the foot. Manufacturers could go a long ways to better instructing customers what to look for when buying a bike and be more accurate in their advertised measurements.

Now that I've been fitted, I have a much better idea what a bike should feel like the next time I'm in the market. It's very difficult to ascertain what is "normal" if you've never ridden a road bike before (or not in a long time). At a minimum, salespeople should measure a customer's shoulders to determine the correct handlebar size; that takes all of 30 seconds.

It would also be great if LBSs gave a 30 day back money back guarantee; that would give them an incentive to make sure the bike fits and help a customer out if it really doesn't work (unfortunately DC law forbids bike stores from selling used bikes - go figure).

vvill
05-23-2012, 11:28 PM
The LBS really should get the fit closer to right when they sell you the bike. But I also think a LBS doesn't expect each and every customer to really ride the bike a lot. A lot of bike owners don't ride their bikes much. They're businesses and they have to balance costs with customer service/satisfaction. But on the other hand, when I got my first road bike (last year), the salesperson at Performance told me to get a "M" based on my standing height above the top tube. :rolleyes: I just insisted on the "S". I'm quite sure I knew more about that particular frame's geometry than they did, even though I'd never really ridden a road bike at that point...

It is really hard to know that much about fit though when you have little-to-no experience on a road bike. If I went to a fitter I bet there would be mild-to-medium changes to a slew of things - in particular cleat/pedal position, but I think/hope I at least have my frame size right - around 535-540mm effective top tube seems to work - my hybrid is around 565mm :( ...which was measured based on standing height above top tube. There are some decent online tools that can suggest frame dimensions for you - one I remember using was http://www.competitivecyclist.com/za/CCY?PAGE=FIT_CALCULATOR_INTRO

If I ever get a "dream" bike I will probably get a fitting beforehand. No point otherwise.

bikenurse
05-24-2012, 08:50 AM
I've bought my bikes from Proteus in College Park. They did not give me the opportunity to buy a bike that didn't fit. Buying a bike should take hours - time to test ride lots of bikes, then in the trainer to make sure you have the right fit. It's hard to get the fit correct by just measuring inseam. The length of the femur, torso, arms is not necessarily reflected in the inseam or the geometry of the bike. It's really appalling that lots of bike shops can't fit bikes properly, especially when they're pushing high end carbon bikes. Proteus includes a pro-fit for most bikes over $1200. If you don't already have clipless pedals, get them (and your shoes) when you have your pro-fit.
As far as touring vs road - my road bike (Orbea Volata) has no room for racks or other encumbrances. It likes to go fast. I bought a cross bike for commuting (Bianchi Zurigo - aluminum frame with carbon fork/seat stays). It takes racks and will do almost anything on/off road. I can ride it forever without getting uncomfortable. A lot of people buy cross bikes and put road tires on them for touring/commuting. I have knobby 34s on my Zurigo and I get around great. Any cross bike (Kona Jake/Jake the Snake, Bianchi Volpe) will work for touring/errands/commuting. The Kona Sutra is a dedicated touring bike with front and back racks already installed. A lot of people like steel for a more stable ride (i.e. for touring). You don't have to have carbon.
The main thing is that you're happy with your bike so you ride - lots! :)

brendan
05-24-2012, 09:14 AM
Can I take a step back and ask the thread participants a question that's been in my head for a while?

Is bike fitting somewhat (or much) less important and/or less complicated for non-"road bikes" (i.e. where "road bikes" = any bikes with drop handlebars)?

Brendan

vvill
05-24-2012, 09:25 AM
As far as touring vs road - my road bike (Orbea Volata) has no room for racks or other encumbrances. It likes to go fast. I bought a cross bike for commuting (Bianchi Zurigo - aluminum frame with carbon fork/seat stays). It takes racks and will do almost anything on/off road. I can ride it forever without getting uncomfortable. A lot of people buy cross bikes and put road tires on them for touring/commuting. I have knobby 34s on my Zurigo and I get around great. Any cross bike (Kona Jake/Jake the Snake, Bianchi Volpe) will work for touring/errands/commuting. The Kona Sutra is a dedicated touring bike with front and back racks already installed. A lot of people like steel for a more stable ride (i.e. for touring). You don't have to have carbon.

That Bianchi sounds awesome. I like the wide gearing on it too, 34/32 low gear!

I sometimes think I should've gotten a more commuter-centric road bike, as 28-35mm tires would really be a nice option but then I wouldn't have done all the longer road/group rides as easily. In the end, all it means is... more bikes :D

Dirt
05-24-2012, 09:48 AM
Is bike fitting somewhat (or much) less important and/or less complicated for non-"road bikes" (i.e. where "road bikes" = any bikes with drop handlebars)?

Honestly, I would say that fit is important for any bike that you're spending more than 20 minutes on. You can get away with poor fit on a beach cruiser.... Unless you're like my friend Chery (http://www.flickr.com/photos/eightrack/6163025634)l who does century rides on her Hello Kitty beach cruiser... and looks FABULOUS doing it.

GuyContinental
05-24-2012, 10:03 AM
Can I take a step back and ask the thread participants a question that's been in my head for a while?

Is bike fitting somewhat (or much) less important and/or less complicated for non-"road bikes" (i.e. where "road bikes" = any bikes with drop handlebars)?

Brendan

*Generally* speaking the more stretched out you are on the the bike (e.g. road or XC MTB racing) the more important mm of difference become in fit. The more upright you sit on the bike the "looser" the fit can be from saddle to bar because you aren't forcing your torso into a strange and highly strung position. However, good seat/pedal/seatpost fit is always important and a bad fit torso fit will become noticeable the longer the ride (pain in back, neck, shoulders, wrists etc). As far as tolerances go- think cm vs mm.

It's a little less complicated on a non-drop bar bike because you aren't dealing with the variety of body positions but not much- a MTB fit takes just as long as a road fit.

KLizotte
05-24-2012, 10:09 AM
Unless you're like my friend Chery (http://www.flickr.com/photos/eightrack/6163025634)l who does century rides on her Hello Kitty beach cruiser... and looks FABULOUS doing it.

Did she seriously do a CENTURY on THAT bike wearing THAT?!

If so, she has put us all to shame.

Dirt
05-24-2012, 10:35 AM
Did she seriously do a CENTURY on THAT bike wearing THAT?!

If so, she has put us all to shame.
Yup. She's all about the outfit. :D

consularrider
05-24-2012, 10:48 AM
Yup. She's all about the outfit. :D
But no rhinestones? Is she related to Nancy Jean Fish? 1098