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please critique my bike fit(43 posts)

please critique my bike fitJefferson
Sep 18, 2002 8:37 AM
I got some race pictures back and I have never really analyzed my bike fit in a photo until now. I welcome your suggestions. Does it look like I need a longer stem? Or do I need to raise my bars? I feel rather comfortable in this position. I fit the bike my self. I did not have a shop size me. Note:My right heel is dropped down because I am coasting into a corner.

re: please critique my bike fitSteve_0
Sep 18, 2002 8:43 AM
What are you looking to accomplish if youre already comfortable. You could seek an aerodymic edge, but

1. decreased comfort could offset any edge gained by aerodynamic improvement.
2. if aerodynamics are TRULY your goal, you should use a windtunnel. People guessing (which is all they can do) based upon your picture is rather useless.

be happy. its all about comfort and enjoying the ride.
Sep 18, 2002 8:48 AM
youre dipping your heel on your right foot. looks like your coasting. you shouldnt coast. ever.
Sep 18, 2002 8:52 AM
If I don't coast at some point I will make enemies within the peloton when I ride up their back wheels!
Sep 18, 2002 8:54 AM
are for roadies. pass 'em.
wrong pic for critiquebrider
Sep 18, 2002 8:51 AM
Your arms and right leg are locked, you're coasting.

Post one in action for better feedback.
try this oneJefferson
Sep 18, 2002 8:57 AM
give this a look.
try this oneSteve_0
Sep 18, 2002 9:00 AM
arms are still locked. stop that.
if the locked arms are necessary for a comfortable back, you may want to raise your stem.
locked armsJefferson
Sep 18, 2002 9:07 AM
When I add spacers and raise my stem to get a bend in my arms when in the drops, the hoods feel too high. I have thought of trying bars with a shallower drop?
try this oneIseemo
Sep 18, 2002 9:03 AM
I don't know that the fit is bad - you just don't look relaxed. Why are your elbows not bent and relaxed? Maybe it is not a matter of right or wrong fit, but of more miles on the bike to become less tense.
try this onebrider
Sep 18, 2002 9:04 AM
Lower body seems fine. Upper body needs some tweaking. Your arms are locked, you're holding the bars pretty near the end (away from the brake levers). Bring the hands into the hooks, relax teh elows, and drop your shoulders. I think you'll find any neck fatigue and shoulder soreness (you didn't say anything about this, just making observations) will quickly fade away.

So with that said, there's probably some adjustment that needs ot be made in the stem/bar department. Can't give specifics, but is an area to look into.
my .02lonefrontranger
Sep 18, 2002 10:08 AM
To start off, let me mention that I've raced, coached and taught clinics for many years. Not to take away from the knowledge base on this board, but the General board does tend to be biased towards recreational riders, and their needs (and positioning) are different from racing. Not to mention the "stem police" The first thing you should do is pay for a correct, professional fit, preferably done by someone who races or who has raced in the past.

There are several issues in these photos, and not all of them are related to fit. It looks to me that you carry a lot of weight back on your saddle in a static "dead" position. The ideal balance for racing is to have roughly equal body weight distribution between the pedals, the bars and the saddle - think of an equilateral triangle and how stable that is.

The overall fit of the bike looks a trifle small to me, looking at where your knee falls in re: the top tube. Colnagos run notoriously "short" in their larger frame sizes. I might suggest you go a tad longer on the stem. I say this despite the locked elbows, because you've got a "roached", compressed back and upper body position with tight hunched shoulders. If you relax and "drop" your upper back, extending your lumbar region (visualize your back as a suspension bridge) this would result in a natural bend in your elbows that would bring them right back by your knees, which indicates to me that the TT is a bit short on this bike.

If nothing else, practice moving your hands more forward in the drops and releasing the tension from your upper body. The first step is to "release" the bars - get rid of that white-knuckle grip. Visualize being able to "play piano" with your fingers at any time. This will help relax your arms and unlock your elbows.

In order to unlock your arms, you must work on your core strength (strong abs). You should work towards feeling like you could let go of the bars completely while riding on the hoods, and yet be able to maintain that position with your core strength.

When you've been racing for a while, you may find that you graduate to a "longer" position by default because a) you gain the strength to support it, and b) you're "up on the rivet" a lot more, meaning you transfer weight from being concentrated on your butt (most recreational riders tend to do this REGARDLESS of ability or experience) to more of an "attack" position, balanced between your feet and hands, just hovering on the nose of the saddle.
Great job!No_sprint
Sep 18, 2002 10:26 AM
I too was thinking the TT is a touch short. I'm not in favor of raising a stem for any racer. The problem to me is the lack of bend in the elbows and I don't think putting 2 cms of spacers in will make more than 2 cms of improvement. I second the recommendation of getting a pro fitting. If you've been racing a while, you've likely got your back into the lowest and flattest position possible. If you're relatively new to ridin' and racin', your position will improve thus gaining you some elbow improvement. Check out Tony Cruz's position in this pic.
yep, good pic, here's taking it to the extremelonefrontranger
Sep 18, 2002 11:04 AM
No, you are right, stem spacers would not help, as it looks like he's pretty upright to begin with. The picture below really shows how dynamic a good "attack" position can be. I guarantee these guys have no weight at all in the saddle. Note how loose and supple they look despite their high speed and high angle of lean (Pro 1/2 guys going through a 120 degree corner):
one more thing about your approach to cornerNo_sprint
Sep 18, 2002 11:35 AM
At least here in Socal, cornering is vicious and critical, if you're not attacking in every corner, you're losing and someone will cut into your line even if the spacing between your front wheel and the wheel in front of you is only the size of a wheel itself. That means that you need to be in attack mode when approaching a corner. Compare your position approaching the corner to the pic displayed by Lonefrontranger and this pic of local pro Harm Jansen who put forth an impressive day last Sunday.
yep, good pic, here's taking it to the extremeIseemo
Sep 18, 2002 1:38 PM
Now that is excellent form.

I cringe when I see some pros with bad form - and they're out there. I can't figure out if they have ridden like that since they were juniors and just won't change, or if they're ill fitted for their sponsor's frames. No matter - they can still ride like crazy, but it's still painful to look out. I've been amazed to see how many guys in the Veulta ride with almost locked elbows. Many of those spanish riders have very short torsos and I imagine they're hard to fit - but can't they get some custom bikes?
one more form picNo_sprint
Sep 18, 2002 2:16 PM
The person in this pic has received complimentary comments regarding his form. :)
Woo...very nice pic! nmLeisure
Sep 18, 2002 10:24 PM
Yea but....cdale02
Sep 18, 2002 11:18 AM
Cruz is in the lead and is low to cut through the wind - also his hands are on the hoods. Granted his elbows are in and bent.... his back is also very flat.

But check out the Saturn rider's arms in the 3rd postion. (I think Frank McCormic is in 2nd, not sure who is 3rd) He is on the drops and his elbows are straighter.... can't tell if they're actually locked.

No real point from me here, just wanted to point out the differneces in the hand position in relation to the photos originally posted.

This is an interesting thread, I'm enjoying it.
Cruz' positionbrider
Sep 18, 2002 11:54 AM
Cruz' body position would be the same in either the drops or as he's shown here. I've done this a lot myself. The fact is he has very little weight on his hands, and can absorb any bumps from the road or from the side in that position. In most other parts of the race, he'd ride a little taller, with hands on the hoods, but the arms would still be well-bent.
Longer stemJefferson
Sep 18, 2002 11:17 AM
I think I will try the longer stem approach. My reach feels short when I ride on the hoods. I tend to hang my fingers over the front of the hoods. If I look at the front hub when in the drops, it is slightly in front of the bars and not obscured like the old rule of thumb goes. My current stem is a 110. Should I try 120 or go straight to 130? I don't have the luxury of a LBS. The closest reputable shop that could offer a fit program (Wheat Ridge Cyclery) is 170 miles. However, the drive would be worth it.
Without a pro fitting, go just 10 mm longer at a timeTig
Sep 18, 2002 11:47 AM
You may end up liking a 130 later, but it takes time for your body to adapt to position changes. If you jump strait to the 130, you might not like it and then turn around and buy a 120. At least you'd have a 130 to grow with, but that gets to be an expensive game. Fit is a very individual thing and what works this year may not feel right the next year. It is best to fit yourself for now and not down the road.
I'd still consider a professional fitting.
dude. this situation cries out for mail order. performance hasbill
Sep 18, 2002 12:03 PM
a 100% satisfaction guarantee. Order a 120 and a 130. Try them. Whichever you like, send the other back.
It looks to me, too, as if you're too much upright. I'll bet that you have a fair amount of weight on your front even as upright as you are, because your hands are more or less parked right under your body, so that you aren't getting any suspension effect that LFR was describing. You have to be jamming your wrists, shoulders, etc. I would say that a flatter back is advised. Same stem height but longer reach will stretch you out some.
I like this ideaJefferson
Sep 18, 2002 12:13 PM
I might try ordering both sizes. This way I can switch back and forth until it feels right. Thanks for the tip.
a good lbsSteve_0
Sep 18, 2002 12:08 PM
will lend you an adjustable stem (big, ugly contraption with a scale on it) which allows you to determine best stem length without return trips to the shop or mail-order hassel.
They usually have quite a collection of swapped out stems.dzrider
Sep 18, 2002 12:41 PM
All sizes, shapes and styles. A few shops around here keep them in a bushel basket right next to the basket of swapped out saddles. They seem to consider any money they get for one of these to be found money.
As much as I like my LBS, they sell used, swapped out stems forbill
Sep 18, 2002 12:46 PM
maybe, and I do mean maybe, a SLIGHT reduction from their "club" price (still over what you can get on the Internet). They won't sell them under cost, no matter how used. And some of them are pretty used.
What angle should elbows be?fbg111
Sep 18, 2002 1:05 PM
When in the drops, my elbows are bent, but not by much, and definitely not close to 90 degrees. What angle is a standard, good technique racing angle?
well, that depends...lonefrontranger
Sep 18, 2002 2:52 PM
on a lot of things: your speed, your position in the field, whether you're attacking or sitting up resting, your need for aerodynamics, whether you're climbing or descending or cornering, the degree of cornering, yadda yadda. Limitations of the Internet, that's why we have been posting pictures to illustrate our points.

The main point is that any bend is better than no bend at all, because even the slightest amount of bend will create the suspension and steering damping you need to absorb bumps from both the road and your competitors. You should never at any point be completely "locked out", because this creates a situation where any minor jolt will probably cause you to steer the front end of the bike all over the place.

One of the first things I teach any student or skills clinic rider I work with is the principle of the "cone of movement" and suspended riding in the attack position, all of which was taught to me by (of all things) a mountain bike instructor. By getting weight out of the saddle and into the pedals, you effectively lower your center of gravity from the saddle to the bottom bracket; for most riders this drops their center of gravity by well over TWO FEET, plus you then engage your body's natural suspension capabilities, which any BMX'er can tell you beats the plushest freeride bike all to shame. This is what I am referring to by going from a "dead" static position sitting with most of your weight jammed onto the saddle to a dynamic racing position, with your weight evenly distributed between bars, pedals and seat, or an even more aggressive "attack" position where you hover just above the saddle.

The extreme cornering pics we posted show a lot more bend in the elbows because the riders are correspondingly crouching lower, and sometimes even "ape-hanging" a bit off the back of the saddle to lower their center of gravity as much as possible.

Even then, if you look at the pic I posted, Tarkington (Vitamin Cottage guy on the left) is "ape-hanging" and really crouched low, and Moninger (Mercury guy on the right) is in a more "neutral" position, and even starting to pedal out of the corner a bit.
well, that depends...fbg111
Sep 18, 2002 5:41 PM
Thanks for the tips! I think I'm alright then, as my elbows are never locked, and are bent differently depending on whether I'm cruising or sprinting. As for weight distribution, I'm about half and half between saddle and bars. Not sure how much weight I put on the pedals, but I don't conciously put more weight on them than what it takes to pedal. Maybe I could use some improvement there, but it's hard. Like doing a wall squat for an hour. How do you condition bikers keep more weight on the pedals and less on the saddle?
conditioning and positioninglonefrontranger
Sep 19, 2002 8:26 AM
For crit racing you will naturally have to be more dynamic than for a long road race. You are right, it takes some strength, but it requires more core strength (abs, lats, gluts, lower back) to keep yourself "engaged" than leg strength. There are three positions I talk about with my students:

The first one is referred to as the "dead" position, meaning you are sitting back with most of your weight on the saddle. You use this position at times in longer races when you're spinning "piano", to stretch and relax, go for food, recover, whatever. It's the starting point, where most recreational riders (and a lot of beginner racers) tend to camp out, and from whence we see many of the "sore butt" threads on this board. Also, the smaller gear you turn, the more weight you will carry on the saddle. As you become stronger as a rider and learn to spin bigger gears (spin them, not mash them), you become more "engaged" to use your entire body.

The second position is where you really should be most of the time: the "neutral" position that I was referring to when I say you want that equilateral triangle feeling of being balanced equally between your saddle, your bars, and your seat. This is where fit is crucial, and core strength comes into play; you should be able to let go of your bars and hover balanced without falling forward or backward. Saddle tilt often causes riders to carry too much weight forward; if you're riding the right saddle on a properly fitted bike, you shouldn't have to drop the nose of your saddle such that it throws you forward onto your hands.

The third position is the "attack" position, and the faster you go, the dicier the terrain and/or the harder you corner, the more you need to be in it. You might have noticed that the harder you hammer, the less weight you tend to carry in the saddle, no? This is part of the whole suspension equation; when you are going all-out, you naturally float off of the saddle a bit to really bring your full body into play.

This is hard to describe, but if you watched Paris-Roubaix this spring, Johan Museeuw gives a great example of what I'm talking about. Museeuw is arguably the (physically) strongest guy in the pro ranks. He rides suspended in the attack position for very long periods of time spinning an enormous gear. If you watch the Roubaix, when he enters each cobble section, he shifts to a harder gear and hammers like a madman, the only rider who visibly accelerates on the pave. He swims many many miles during the off-season to develop this strength He's the only pro rider (besides trackies) I've ever seen with huge lats and rib muscles. With his jersey all wet and plastered to him, you can really see the definition in his back and shoulders, and how he engages his entire body to launch him over the cobbles. It makes him too heavy to get up the big mountains in the grand tours, but that doesn't matter for a classics guy, or for an amateur crit racer in the U.S.
Your quads are too small for a Colnago (nm)Silverback
Sep 18, 2002 3:38 PM
We can't all be Marty Nothstein can we?(nm)Jefferson
Sep 19, 2002 6:18 AM
its okaylonefrontranger
Sep 19, 2002 8:37 AM
My quads, calves, wallet, gender and race category are most likely ALL unfit to ride Colnagos according to the Colnago Police. I don't care because that's what happens to fit and ride the best for me. The Colnago Police would probably be horrified to think I race my Record equipped bikes in crits and my full Campag Colnago 'cross bike in the rain and mud. Not only that, but I tend to occasionally boot them across the pavement at 30mph...

You know the nice thing about nude carbon fiber weave and those complex Colnago paint jobs? It's a lot harder to see the dings and scuffs on them than on your typical Ultegra equipped Cannondale :)
thanks lonefrontranger!Jefferson
Sep 19, 2002 8:54 AM
Thanks for the great feedback lonefrontranger. Your insight was very helpful. See my thank you post below. I think the Colnago police need to hang out in the donut shop a little more and less time on patrol. I race my C40 in crits as well. I bought it to ride it and race it. If I crash, oh well. That is racing. I race cat 4 in Colorado. The Colnago police would probably lock me up for that too. I see a lot of people on OCLV Postal Service Treks. All of them are not Lance. Does that disqualify them from being on one of those bikes? Hmmm? Ride what you got.Don't bash what others have.
de nada...lonefrontranger
Sep 19, 2002 9:57 AM
You must live out on the Western Slope or in the CO "outback" (central mts.).

Here's another tip: If you're going to come all the way to the Front Range to get a fit done, I'd seriously recommend you get it done at Vecchio's in Boulder. Not only are they a Colnago dealer, but they are the most experienced professional roadie shop in the area and they cater specifically to serious racers. I trust them so much that when I needed frame prep on my bikes and special help setting up my Dream Cross, I paid full retail for Vecchio's to do it right, instead of getting the parts at cost from my buddy in Cincy.

Here's a pic of me in my team kit (on the Dream Cross) so you'll recognize me if you come racing in Boulder next year:
Not a Colorado residentJefferson
Sep 19, 2002 11:06 AM
Was that photo from the Boulder Roubaix? I want to try that race next year. I will look into Vecchio's in Boulder. I actually live in western Nebraska. Boulder is a little over 2 hours from where I live. I like racing the front range because it is so competitive and there are races almost every weekend. I don't get bummed if I miss a race when family takes priority. I can always catch a race on another weekend. Besides, there is no racing in the western part of Nebraska.
May I ask what bar/stem combo you are using? (nm)Iwannapodiumgirl
Sep 18, 2002 4:00 PM
just a quick impressionlegs
Sep 18, 2002 4:30 PM
at a quick glance it looks like your seat is a bit too far behind the bottom bracket and that you are not bending your elbows at all.. so you are reaching too far to be in the drops...
it also look like you need to lower your saddle a bit (but that will change as you slide it forward)

at a really quick glance i get the feeling you are on something that is a hair too big for you...

I think you should go into a shop and get a fitting done...
cause it looks like your legs are reaching for the bottom of the stroke too...

the symptoms of your fit being off are your straight arms and legs...
Thanks for all your help!Jefferson
Sep 19, 2002 6:09 AM
Thanks everybody for the sincere suggestions. I have taken in all your input. I really opened myself up to criticism but sometimes getting other racers view points can make a big difference. That is what this forum is all about. Learning to ride better. I think I will go to a shop and get professioally fit. However, I borrowed a longer stem (130mm)yesterday and rode last night after work. It made a huge difference in the bend in my arms. The suspension brige example made total sense to me. Thanks Lonefrontranger! I never realized how arched and compressed my back was. It opened up my chest for easier breathing as well. The longer stem allowed my back to relax and I could actually look up and forward with less strain on my neck. I have been going to the chiropractor with neck problems all year. Could this be the cure? Maybe. It also got my butt off the saddle and into the attack position. I have always rode in the "attack" position on my mountain bike but could never achieve it on the Colnago. Now I know why. I run a longer top tube/stem(0 degree rise) on the dirt. In fact, with the longer stem my hub was obscured by the bars when I rode in the drops. I took special notice of last nights stage of the Vuelta Espana to watch positioning of the pros. They all had flat backs and reached for the hoods and drops instead of having them directly under them.
so do you want the position of a pro in attack mode all the timeishmael
Sep 19, 2002 5:05 PM
I think not.
no ishmael, please read through the thread againlonefrontranger
Sep 20, 2002 8:45 AM
I never said that. If you paid attention, we talked about your position being dependent on what you were doing. The pic Jackson posted was an approach to a corner in a crit, hence the explanation.
hey nowishmael
Sep 20, 2002 7:59 PM
I race and lots of times in the pack I'll sit up and be far from an aero position. I'm sure I can find some pics of pros doing the same. dont take it personally, I'm not talking to you singularly. And I have read the thread, everyone is comparing his relaxed position to different aero positions. I hear so much bad advice on position with most of it being "do what the pros do and get way streached out" It might not be bad advice in his case but it would take more to decide than two pics.