In my defense, I’m the last guy who should ever consider going for a bike fit. I’m the kind of bike racer that barely knows a derailleur from a brifter from a downtube and if you ask me what (who?) a Campologno is I’ll most likely bunt and say it’s an exotic Italian delicacy. (I’ll pause as you click away from this page and go read about Schmalz and his digestive system)
Ok, thanks for sticking around.
Preparing and thinking about this particular piece of near-drivel has helped to get me to think about the world in which we live. If you think about it, we are forced to fit ourselves into the world and its sizes, shapes and designs and rarely do we get to experience anything that is fit to us. Something that in its rawest form is built only with our dimensions and needs and pecularities in mind. Of course, we could point to a Savile Row suit as an example of making something that’s fit to us, but think about furniture and most clothes and shoes and houses and cars. The design is made, usually in some far away factory, and we need to pick the design that causes us the least amount of hassle or discomfort. Not exactly the best way to live, so it’s not uncommon that when we should have the opportunity to have something fit to us we should jump at it. This is what I now consider a good bike fit to be. The chance to make the world fit itself around me rather than the other way around. Luckily enough this fit may also help to make me a lot more comfortable on the bike and hopefully a whole lot faster (trust me, after the Grant’s Tomb debacle I’ll take all the help I could get).
Lucky for me I learned this at the Serotta Fit Lab in upstate New York. Steven LeBoyer, formerly of Sid’s Bike Shop and now the manager of the Serotta Fit Lab, conducted a fit session on their state of the art technology in beautiful Saratoga Springs, NY. The Serotta Factory Fit Lab is the home to the Serotta International Cycling Institute, SICI, where every Serotta dealer is trained using cutting edge equipment most of which can only be found with Serotta. The lab has customers in from around the country to visit the lab, receive a custom fitting and order their new Serotta. Before the fit though Steve was kind enough to take Jim Mernin and I on a tour of the Serotta factory and I was able to see how the Serotta philosophy of working to get every exact detail correct informs their fit philosophy. Now not to beat a dead horse, I’m really the last guy for you to be speaking to if you want exacting details about the industrial strength magic that Serotta uses to make their bikes, but suffice to say that Serotta makes as many pieces of the bike as possible on site at their factory in Saratoga Springs or their composites facility in Poway, California. While bagfuls of the items could be purchased from overseas at a fraction of the cost, it’s obvious that Serotta knows that handmade parts, no matter how small or seemingly inconsequential fit into a larger whole that makes an excellent final product. Another indicator of Serotta‘s dedication to their craft was the presence of a lone welder in the shop on a Saturday morning who came in on his own time to get a part just right so that it can move on in the building process on Monday morning. It was impressive to say the least.
Moving into the fit lab, Steve began the process by discussing with me any physiological abnormalities (luckily we didn’t touch on the mental abnormalities – we only had a few hours) that may affect my biomechanics (note – I used the word ‘biomechanics’ there as I’m sure that fit sessions concern words like that). I shared the gruesome list of injuries that this glorious sport has inflicted upon me. Steve took copious notes and made certain to check for how these post-crash ‘body adjustments’ may affect my pedal stroke. This was followed by a foot analysis and size measurement and then we moved onto the massage table. Steve checked my range of motion and flexibility as dreadful as it is. Watching while Steve took copious notes I half expected him to wander over to the secret red button, hit it and have me drop into the floor. Another impossible case. It should be noted that a Serotta fit is not only for a Serotta bike. Steve looked my Cannondale (an AMC Gremlin in a roomful of Porsches, mind you) up and down and took its current measurements.
Then came the fun part. Serotta has created a proprietary machine known as a Serotta SizeCycle which enables the fitter to modify and quickly adjust the dimensions of the bike and through videotape analysis measure the different angles that the fit allows. These angles are then compared to data which shows the best angle for that action. Now this all sounds very technical but I can understand and therefore so can you. What makes this fit more specific to the rider is that the Fit Lab has shelves full of handlebars, shifters, pedals and saddles and he can replicate your bikes exact setup.
As you can see from the pictures, Serotta brings the same level of exacting detail that they use in creating their bikes as they do in fitting riders to their bikes. Steve noted that my leg length discrepancy could be remedied by a shim under the cleat of my right shoe and that my saddle was too small for me (Schmalz is already formulating his comment about the size of my posterior, I just know). A good amount of time was spent on my cleat position which was explained as the first contact point with the bike and essential to a solid fit. Another issue that he picked up on was the relative strength difference between my right and left legs. The underdeveloped adductor muscle on my inner right thigh and the over developed thigh muscle on the outside caused my right kneecap to pull outward during the pedal stroke. This has been a source of amusement and derision for years and Steve strongly recommended that I see a PT to help address that issue. Another issue was that my current handlebars in relation to my shoulder width were too wide and should be replaced. So basically every single thing about my fit is basically wrong.
Great, that’s just great.
It was clear in speaking with Steve that he loves to design custom Serotta bikes. Customers are able to create personal paint schemes and select the proper components, but Steve is a huge advocate for the importance of the fit process for any bike purchase. While he, of course, believes that Serotta has mastered the art of the fit he recommends that, "anyone considering a bike purchase should seek out a certified fitter and factor the fit into the overall cost of the bike." The final fit dimensions can be used to create a custom frame or to select the best "stock" frame with the most appropriate geometry. In speaking with Steve he also believes that it’s important for the fitter to have some version of a size cycle as a regular road bike is too limiting. The use of video is essential too as it enables the rider’s position to be adjusted under the pedaling load rather than stopping and measuring throughout the process.
Regardless of the challenges of my personal fit, I was able to leave the Serotta fit lab with a headful of information about how I can be fit to a bike and how the bike can be adjusted to be fit to me. Steve’s expertise, and excellent bedside manner, enabled me to see my pedal stroke and bike position in a brand new light and I was able to see up close how some really great bikes are made. In speaking with my experience at Serotta with my wife I equated it to visiting the Genius Bar at the local Apple store. My questions were answered quickly. The staff knew what they were talking about and I could shop there or use other purchase opportunities like working with a dealer or buying online. It’s also worth once again pointing out that Serotta is located in beautiful Saratoga Springs, New York. Not only does it have gorgeous riding and great local cycling clubs but its downtown area has shops and spas galore for a significant other to wile away the time while Steve analyzes you with exacting detail. I look forward to using the information gleaned from Steve’s time with me to wreak havoc upon my excitable fellow Cat. 4 racers.
Now if Steve could just do something about my woeful genetics. . .