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Fit Your Bike to You

Posted by on January 17, 2017

So I’ve always told people that I am not a very good cyclist. I struggle on most of the uphills, the dragon backs, the Bukit Hantus, the Brogas female or male, and when it comes to the flats, I can’t quite bring my speed to keep up with most of my friends. For one thing, I admit I don’t put in quite enough mileage in cycling, but for another, I suffer from lower back pain during every single ride. I’ve visited physiotherapists and chiropractors, and I’ve concluded, based on my own findings, that my back pain is due to a shorter psoas (and probably one or two other muscles), on one side, as well as a hyper-extended and slightly shorter right leg. So it’s never going away, but it can be managed.

The first step to back pain management is to do plenty of stretching, pre-ride, post-ride and basically whenever possible. This helps to delay the time the pain starts to set in.

The second step is to get a proper bike fit. I had the privilege to meet Chuah, of Little Rock Bikefit. He was referred to me through a friend and so I went to his quaint home-studio in OUG to get a bike fit. I’ve had a bike fit done before, in 2015 when I was gearing up for Ironman Langkawi 2015. But since then, I have laid off the saddle quite a bit and because of that, getting back on the saddle was tough! This bike fit couldn’t have come at a better time!

The first thing Chuah did was to analyse my situation, where I told him about my back pain. He then proceeded to run some tests on me, by asking me to lie flat down on the floor, then he asked me to perform a sit up, and from there he could tell that I do, indeed, have a shorter right leg, about 0.6 cm shorter.CIMG1415Next he measured the degree of my foot tilt. The foot tilt is how your foot normally rests, in a slightly supinated or under-pronated position. He did this by asking me to kneel on a bench, with my feet relaxed. He had a tool which he used to measure tilt and he found that my feet had a slight tilt of about 8°. This, he says, could cause an air gap in my pedalling, and so he placed some stack chips underneath my cleats to counter this gap.

The feet needed to be relaxed, in its natural position

The feet needed to be relaxed, in its natural position

Measuring the foot tilt

Measuring the foot tilt

He placed these stack chips underneath my cleats to fill in the gap

He placed these stack chips underneath my cleats to fill in the gap

CIMG1427

Just 2 stacks for me please!

After this, I’m up on my bike on a trainer. He has a webcam on the side plane, and a TV screen which allows me to see how my posture is. I was asked to cycle a bit, and he would give me some tips for better cycling. He noticed that I needed to push my saddle forward a little bit, and that my handlebar may be a bit too narrow for me. He had a test set for me to try on, and he commented on my posture after that.

New handlebar width. My shoulders were too wide for my old one.

New handlebar width. My shoulders were too wide for my old one.

Watching my posture on the screen

Watching my posture on the screen

He also measured my knee rotation ie whether or not my knee was aligned with my big toe when I pedal. This, I knew was an issue, especially with my right leg being bow-legged and hyper extended. But with the chip stacks he placed in my cleats, I think it helped realigned my knee slightly.CIMG1438CIMG1437

All in all, I believe Chuah did a very comprehensive job with the bike fit. It took about 3 hours in total, and I learned a lot from him about myself, my bike and cycling!

I’ve since gone back to cycling, and although the pain still sets in after an hour or two, I do feel more comfortable with my saddle. I also seem to clock slightly faster speed averages. Coincidence? I don’t think so :) I’m looking to purchase a wider handlebar, hopefully to improve my performance in this year’s upcoming races.

Chuah is very knowledgeable and can be contacted via his Facebook page here: Little Rock Bikefit Studio.

Thanks Chuah!CIMG1442

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