Yesterday I continued to follow my knee “recovery” plan. Time for a bike fit.
If you bike seriously then you have probably heard of bike fitting. If you don’t, then you might not have thought a lot about what it means to fit a bike to your physiology. Bascially a bike fit is getting a bike set-up to match your personal body. When I was a lower case “b” biker I would set the bike seat up so that my legs were more or less straight when I got to the bottom of the pedal stroke. I knew that you were not supposed to have your leg completely straight so I adjusted the seat height so that there was a little bend. Bamm. All done. No fuss no muss.
Well when you start capital “B” Biking there is a lot more to it then that. There are specific angles you want your legs to make. You want your body weight to be properly set between your rear end and your hands. You want to be sitting on your saddle in the proper way. You want your shoes to engage your pedals in the proper orientation (you know that serious bike shoes have cleats that attach to the pedals kind of like a ski boot, right?) If your bike is not properly set-up then you risk injury. Many times injury to your knees (humm). Given that I am having knee issues right now it seamed like it was time to get my bike fit checked. That requires a professional.
Two years ago I had my road bike fit and it made a big difference in how strong I felt on my bike. I never had my mountain bike fit. I basically set my bike up similar to my road bike. But that clearly wasn’t working for me. Off to the local bike shop that does bike fitting Wear on Earth. What did we find?
1. The angle my leg was making while on the bike was wrong, by a lot. The solution? Raise the bike seat. The bike seat went up by about 2 inches. With the seat so low my leg was too high on the top of the pedal stroke, putting a lot of extra strain on my knees and legs.
Authors note: This was somewhat my fault. I had read that MTB seats are generally placed lower than road seats to allow for better maneuverability so I had set my seat a little low on purposed. I went a little too far. But the bike geometry was also different between the bikes. That lead to the super low seat. Also the lower seat recommendation really depends on what kind of mountain biking you are doing. The kind I am doing is a lot more like road biking than something like downhill. My MTB really needs to be set-up more like a road bike. Newbie mistake.
2. I was not sitting evenly on my bike seat. That meant I wasn’t pedaling evenly with my legs. The problem? Bike seat too wide. The solution? A narrower saddle. That might sound counter intuitive but a seat that is too wide is not as comfortable as a seat that it the proper width. With a properly fit seat your body has a more consistent, solid point of contact.
3. The last thing we found was that my right leg was “chopping”. What you want when you pedal is to have your leg moving in a plane parallel to the bike frame. When your leg chops it means that your knee moves in and out with respect to the bike frame. Lateral movement on a joint that is fixed two places (your hip and your shoes) means extra strain on the knee (which the the one thing that has some lateral freedom). That leads to knee injury. This is a shoe issue. It means that your arches are collapsing as you push down on your pedals. The solution there is arch supports. We added some wedges into my shoes to provide some more arch support. Interestingly, I was using my mtb pedals and shoes at Battenkill, so even though my road bike was properly set-up, I was having a chopping issue then. I suspect that the initial injury was a result of improper knee motion while pedaling really really hard on the uphills at Battenkill.
After my bike was fit I did my (still light and easy) training ride for the day. The immediate reaction? Wow so much higher on the bike. That’s definitely going to take some time to adjust too. The first single track ride could be exciting. Helmet required. I felt stronger and faster on the bike (that may just be emotional, but I did feel that way, so who cares 😉 )
The process of bike fitting takes about 2 hours, but it is well worth the time. I’m hoping that these changes will fix the knee problems and make me strong. Feeling much more positive today. OK, time for my morning dose of RICE. The knee is still going to take some time to heal, but it will get there.