Sep 14, 2021
This week on the podcast we tackle Gravel Bike Fit 101. Randall interviews Coach and Fitter Patrick Carey about the fundamentals of fit with key takeaways for every rider.
Patrick / Speed Science Coaching Website
Automated Transcription (please excuse the typos):
BikeFit 101 with Coach Patrick Carey
[00:00:00] Randall: Hello and welcome to the gravel ride podcast. I'm Randall Jacobs, and today I'm joined by Patrick Carey. Patrick was on the pod with us in February of 2021. Craig and him had a conversation about the five skills every gravel cyclist needs to master.
[00:00:17] Patrick wears a few different hats. He is the founder of speed science coaching. He does full-time training for cyclists and endurance athletes. He's a skills coach with Lee Likes Bikes and Ride Logic, and he travels all over the country, teaching bike skills. He is an SICI. I train bike fitter and their approach is very much integrating some of the thinking from the medical and physical therapy fields into bike fitting. And in a previous lifetime, he was a mechanical engineer, so he really understands how mechanical systems work, including, biomechanics.
[00:00:45] Before we get started. I'd like to remind you that if you'd like to support the podcast, there are a few different ways you can do so. Firstly, you can go to buymeacoffee.com/thegravelride and make a donation or become a recurring supporter.
[00:00:58] All proceeds, go directly to Craig and offset his costs in producing the pod. Secondly, you can join The Ridership and contribute to the conversations that are happening there.
[00:01:06] And lastly, if you'd like to support the work that I do, thesis currently has a limited number of build kits for complete bikes for delivery this fall. If you're a friend you're interested now, it'd be a great time to schedule a consult so we can work together to create the perfect spec for your unique fit, fitness and terrain.
[00:01:21] And with that, Patrick, welcome back to the podcast.
[00:01:24] Patrick: Hey, thank you. I'm so happy to be back. This is going to be a lot of fun.
[00:01:27] Randall: Yeah, this is a conversation I've been wanting to have with you for quite some time. So let's just dive right in. How do we even define a good bike fit?
[00:01:34] Patrick: I think that's a great place to start. My take is that every good bike fit starts with the bike fitting the rider, not the other way around. And unfortunately, oftentimes what happens is people are shoehorned onto their bikes and that's really the opposite of what we want to happen.
[00:01:50] We want to set every bike up for each rider so that the rider just naturally falls into position on the bike. There's no pain points. You're not running into impingements and you're also not contorting yourself in any way you're not overreaching. You're not bending your wrist some awkward way, and in that same idea, if something hurts when you ride your bike, it's not right. Don't ever let someone tell you "oh, that's just how riding a bike is. It's supposed to be a little uncomfortable". No, it's supposed to be joyful and it's supposed to be wonderful. And when you get your bike set up correctly for you, it can be that.
[00:02:25] Randall: This is very much aligned with what I often talk about. We're not creating a bicycle. We're creating a cyborg. And the interface between the animal and the machine is how you achieve that. Let's dive in even further. So different approaches to fit.
[00:02:37] Patrick: Probably what most people have been used to it's the throw a leg over it approach.
[00:02:41] You literally stand over the bike. If you can clear the top tube, that's probably a good place. And then, when you throw the word fit in there usually what ends up happening is, you eyeball the saddle height, the stem maybe, gets flipped. It probably does not get changed. And then also, a lot of that is relying on fit charts, right? So bike companies put out the fit charts that says if you're five, seven, you should be on this size bike. If you're five, 10, you should be on the size bike. And I personally believe that very often, unfortunately, results in people being on the wrong sized bike. Typically a bike that's too big.
[00:03:17] Which means that they are overreaching on that bike and you ended up chasing the front end of the bike. So the front end become somewhat fixed in space and you can always shorten the stem so much. So then that rider ends up being shoved way, way forward on the bike. And yeah, bikes are meant to create enjoyment. This takes away from it.
[00:03:35] Randall: And when you go with too short of a stem. It does take some of the mass off the front axle. So for say high-speed canyon carving that front end is not gonna feel as planted. Works fine. Say for gravel. But in a road application, it can really make the bike feel vague upfront. So it's this handling issue as well.
[00:03:53] Patrick: It can work okay for gravel, I think one of the beauties of gravel bikes is their versatility.
[00:03:58] For me personally, I have a couple of dedicated cyclocross race bikes, mostly because they're the ones that I blast with a pressure washer after every race. But my gravel bike has become my only other drop bar bike. I have wheel sets that I switch around so that I have a set of road tires a set of gravel tires.
[00:04:14] But that bike has amazing versatility. And so what you don't want to do is compromise the handling to a point where, okay, it feels good when you're sitting up going slow on a dirt road, but then boy, it feels nervous at speed, down that same dirt road or on pavement.
[00:04:28] Randall: Yeah. Let's keep going with this. So we have the throw the leg over it approach. What would be a better approach? Let's go soup throw nuts starting with a new machine.
[00:04:36] Patrick: Okay. So if we call the throw leg over the approach the worst case scenario, the best case scenario as a coach and fitter would be to work with someone before they ever buy a bike. So work with the athlete and figure out first what they want to do with the bike. What their ideal setup would be, but then look at their body completely separate to the bike.
[00:04:55] First thing we would do is a functional movement screening. And this is something I do for any bike fit, where I'm actually looking at people's ranges of motion. I'm looking at any impingements they have. We're looking at their specific body proportions.
[00:05:09] There's a great book called Bike Fit by a guy named Phil Burt, and he worked for many years with Team Great Britain, which is a pretty dominant force in the cycling world, and he starts the book off right away by saying that if you look at just average proportions and you define things off of average proportions, you're only catching about one third of the population you're catching the middle of the bell curve. So you're right away missing two thirds of the population. Okay. If you take that then into bike fit, if you just look at, say someone's height, that doesn't take into account their arm length that doesn't take into account their inseam versus their torso length.
[00:05:47] So that's really important to factor in any kind of bike fit and the beauty. When we're talking about this approach is that we can really factor that in because the next thing I would do after that functional movement screening is I would put someone on a fit cycle, which barely looks like a bike. Other than that, it has crank seat and handlebars, but it allows you to move those points in space in the X- Y axis, and that way you can adjust and find someone's ideal position, right? The position where they just fall right onto it. They're able to comfortably generate power. They're able to ride in that position for a really long time. And then we take that position. And we can now compare those points in space against actual bikes and come up with a list of bikes that fit them. So someone might come to me and say, I'm looking at these three different bikes, right?
[00:06:37] Either, they tick the boxes. I like the idea of them or they're available right in this day and age. And so then we can say, okay, this is the size for that particular bike. This is the size for that particular bike. And it's quite often they're not the same size, right? Because that sizing, as we will talk about a minute, that sizing is oftentimes misleading, meaningless, right? Doesn't refer to real measurements. So we're able to go by actual, stack, reach measurements like that. And then, depending on what someone wants to do, we can come up with a complete custom build all the way to their custom crank length bar with, everything, or they can buy a bike off the shelf and, we can say, okay, this is going to get us the closest possible, and then we're going to change the stem and that's going to get us there. Or maybe, for some particular proportion that you have, you really do need to change the bars or something like that. But that really would be best case scenario because now you're totally eliminating the risk of someone ending up on the wrong size bike from the start.
[00:07:41] Randall: Yeah. And fit cycles the most advanced ones, have quite a few degrees of freedom in terms of what you can adjust. Everything from crank length and Q factor and stance. And you can adjust all these variables in real time, as you're seeing the rider pedal and that ability to calibrate the machine to the rider and see the rider in motion is vastly superior to just having, static measurements and trying to graph them onto the bike. It's a good starting point, for sure, especially if you're trying to just select a bike and know if a bike is going to work at all, you could start that way, but going and getting this functional analysis, this analysis in motion is just next level. I can only go so far. For example, when I'm doing a bike consult for one of our bikes and I can get everyone, somebody the right frame size, crank length. Handlebar with and those types of parameters through asking some questions and having them take some measurements, but stem length I can't get for sure, because that's an output of all these other variables that need to be locked in first, the crank length, saddle height, saddle for- aft and so on. And then also I'm not able to see, what you had mentioned about their flexibility and looking at their physiology and then seeing them in motion.
[00:08:50] There really is no substitute for this sort of analysis with somebody with a scientific mindset and a lot of experience seeing lots of riders on bikes.
[00:08:59] Patrick: Absolutely. And this is probably some of the best money you could possibly spend. If you're going to make the investment in a bike. We're talking in the range of two to $300 probably is what a complete, pre- purchase fit like this would cost, and that's going to a professional fitter that has a fit cycle. That's going to spend.
[00:09:19] Upwards of a couple hours with you laying all this out. And then it's also going to be available to you to walk through the process of buying your bike. Because maybe you come up with some ideal setup and then. Ugh that bike's not available. So now you have to go back to the drawing board. That person will help you through that process.
[00:09:34] That is the best money you can spend because even if that represents a significant percentage of what you're going to spend in the total in the end, right? Like maybe you're going to, maybe you're going to spend. $1,500 or $2,000 on a bike. Spend $300 upfront and that bike will fit you better. You will enjoy it more. You will have it forever.
[00:09:54] As opposed to you don't spend that money, make a mistake on something and now it's never what it could have been.,
[00:10:02] And the other extreme of this is the person who spends a lot of money on their gear, gets the Aero wheels, the Aero helmet, and, carbon rail saddle, and all of these things that are really marginal gains at best.
[00:10:13] A bike fit, it's not something that you can show off to your friends. It's not something where you can hand the bike off and have people pick it up and be like, Ooh, it's so light. It's so fancy. But it is this animal machine interface and having that just be as dialed as possible unlocks performance in a way that no components can.
[00:10:32] Track 2: Absolutely. And I see all the time, I'm always at events, I travel around the country coaching and it's just so often it's actually rare for me to see a person who's bike is totally dialed for them.
[00:10:42] I hate to say it, but it is rare. And I oftentimes see people are like, wow, like they would enjoy riding so much more, riding would be so much easier for them. Even if it's as simple as cut that stem length in half. You oftentimes see it, people have their seats slammed as far back in the rails as possible. And it's surprising. Sometimes it just ends up that way and they don't know any better or it came that way from the shop and they didn't know they could change it. And oftentimes you're talking about close to free as far as some of these changes.
[00:11:13] Randall: Yeah. And if you have to spend a few bucks to swap a stem or something to get that dialed fit again, some of the best money you can spend.
[00:11:20] So we've talked about two extremes. One is how most people end up on the wrong size bike with the throw the leg over it approach the other is this really ground up clean slate sort of approach. But what if you already have a bike, how do we make that bike fit better?
[00:11:33] Track 2: Yes. And to be fair, this is probably 80 to 90% of the people that I work with as a fitter. And and this is also probably 90 plus percent of people out riding in the world. We're talking about, if you have a bike that is close to the right size for you, right? Maybe you could have split hairs and said that you should have a slightly smaller, slightly bigger bike, but this is how I work on a regular basis with riders as they come to me for this. We would confirm that bike is a close starting point. And I always use reach as that cornerstone. And reach in the sense of the stack and reach those two measurements to define where the top of your head tube is. That's the thing on a bike you can change the least, reach then affects where your front end is. And yes, you can absolutely can and should change stem length and amount of spacers above or below, or flip the stem, but. Compared to say saddle height, where you can telescope that seat post up and down a tremendous amount, reach actually is the least adjustable thing on the bike, your front end. So we would always start there.
[00:12:37] Randall: And how's reach measured. We should probably talk about that.
[00:12:39] Track 2: Oh, yeah. Thank you. So reach, if you were to take your bottom bracket, which is the spindle that your crank spin on, and if you draw a line vertically up from that, It would be a measurement from that line horizontally to the center of your top tube. And usually that oftentimes includes the headset cap as well. And then stack is if you measure up, it's where those meet. So it's how high the front end of your bike is above the bottom bracket. So that gives you X, Y coordinates for where your head tube is. That's your starting point.
[00:13:14] Randall: yeah. Center of the crank spindle vertically to the line that intersects with the height of the center of the headset bearing. And there's some other measurements out there that people will talk about virtual head tube. Seat tube. We've already debunked the idea of sizing being universal, but let's talk about that a little bit.
[00:13:30] Track 2: Oh, yes. I'm glad you brought that up.
[00:13:32] Used to be, years ago when we were talking about road and cyclocross right before what we now think of as gravel bikes, road bikes generally speaking had the exact same head angle and the exact same seat angle almost across the board. And you could use quote unquote standard sizing and before that bikes were also what they were called square, meaning the length of the seat tube and the length of the top tube were the same. Some were along the way in the last 20 years that has moved away. A lot of it is that there's no need to have the top tube cranked all the way up. We can get better stand over that way.
[00:14:10] But then bike companies have also been shifting around the angle of the seat tube. And so The horizontal top tube measurement can become a seriously misleading thing. If your seat tube is pressed way forward. It's going to create a shorter, horizontal top to measurement. If it's pushed way back, it'll make it longer.
[00:14:32] To make it even more confusing for riders, unfortunately, companies have clung to putting number sizing on their bikes, right? So they call a bike, a 54.
[00:14:43] Or a 56. And if you look at the actual measurement chart for that bike, or if you take a tape measure to that bike, it's not uncommon that nothing on that bike measures that dimension anymore. They call it virtual sizing. And unfortunately, I'll use myself for example, I'm five, 10, somewhere along the way. Someone told me that someone who's five, 10 belongs on a 56 centimeter bike. So for years and years, I was riding 56.
[00:15:11] And I could not understand why, no matter what I did with adjustments, I had all kinds of neck and shoulder discomfort. I'm talking tingling hands, right? All kinds of tension. And somewhere along the way I went, dammit like all this fit stuff, it's not actually correct. Some of this stuff is definitely outdated. And I got a 54 and lo and behold, it was super easy to get that bike to fit me well,
[00:15:35] So that's an important point for riders too. If someone told you in the past that you're a particular size, don't let that guide your future decisions.
[00:15:45] Randall: And I want to take a second to hit this from a different angle, and then I can cue you up. One of the things I also want to make clear to listeners that a lot of companies still use number sizing. They'll quote things like virtual top tube, or top tube length or seat tube length, all of these parameters can change without changing the reach, or the stack. And the reason why we use reach primarily, and then stack secondarily, is because these variables don't change. Even when you change the seat tube angles such that the seat tube angle is more slacked back, you could always run the saddle further up on the rails or flip the saddle clamp to allow a more forward saddle position and your points in space would be identical. So this is an important point that people really need to understand. All these numbers that are quoted, most of them are entirely irrelevant. reach most important stack is number two and then stand over just to make sure you have enough clearance. And that's really it. And the rest of it is really getting into how the bike will feel and perform and handle given how your points in space are grafted onto it.
[00:16:50] Does that resonate with you?
[00:16:51] Track 2: Absolutely. It does. Absolutely. It does. And one more thing that I see, we're finally moving away from it, but there was a period of time companies were making quote unquote women's geometry bikes. Because again, they were looking and saying if you look at the typical woman's proportions. Long legs, short torso. Longer arms. Okay. But if you look at the cross-section of the population, there are so many people that don't line up into that. And there's plenty of guys that line up into that.
[00:17:20] I think it's very important to not let labels cloud that don't say I'm a female, I must need a women's bike or I'm a guy I must. Luckily companies are actually abandoning a lot of that whole shrink it and pink it idea which I think a lot of people were really misserved by.
[00:17:38] I think that's super important. You are a human being. You are not a man, a woman, a six foot tall person. You're a human being and you have unique proportions that we can address by finding those right points in space.
[00:17:50] Randall: Yeah, women's specific was much more of a marketing ploy than anything else.
[00:17:55] Track 2: Yes, that's all it was. And I'd like to say too. Most of it was defined by a bunch of six foot tall dudes, right? I always love when those people absolutely are convinced that they know the experience of a five foot two woman.
[00:18:09] Randall: Hmm.
[00:18:09] Track 2: Okay. Yeah.
[00:18:11] Randall: Yeah, I may have seen some of that behind the scenes.
[00:18:14] Let's continue on. What's next.
[00:18:17] Track 2: Okay. So if we said, okay, we've got the right size bike, we're in the ballpark. Now let's actually come up with a bit of an actionable list of steps. And this first one is probably gonna seem very counterintuitive because it doesn't have a lot to do with the bike. And that would be that your bike fit actually starts with your foot.
[00:18:34] If you think about it, you have five total touch points on the bike, right? Two hands, one, but two feet. Your feet are responsible for all your power transmission. Every time you stand up on the bike, they're bearing all your weight. So if we don't have proper support in the form of the correct shoes, and also support in the shoes, you may have issues that will never be addressed by any other part of the fit process. And on that, if you ever go to a bike fit and they don't look at your feet, they don't look at your shoes, they don't leave your cleat position, they just put you on the bike and start adjusting things, they missed a lot. And that's a question you can ask before you even go to a fit. What's your process. And if they don't talk about this, that should be a red flag.
[00:19:17] So first and foremost, if you were going to buy shoes, go to a shop, go to a brick and mortar shop. Ideally have your feet measured. If you remember the old Brannock device that we all used to get our feet measured as kids with. I still use one as a bike fitter. They make a Euro sizing Brannock devices.
[00:19:36] And that tells you the length of each foot and it tells you the width of each foot. So go to a shop and get the right size shoes. It's so common for me as a fitter to have people come and they've got shoes that are one, two sizes too big. And then they're crushing those shoes down to try and take slop away. It's putting the cleats in the wrong position. And then when I say, how did you arrive at these shoes? They say I bought them online, I tried to match my street shoe size. I bought them online.
[00:20:03] Don't do that. Go to a shop. Buy the shoes from that shop, pay them the money because they had the inventory there. They're providing you that service.
[00:20:11] Randall: Yeah. you really need to try on the actual shoe and see if it is a good fit for your foot. The measurements may even work out, but it just doesn't feel right. And that is enough reason not to buy a shoe.
[00:20:22] Track 2: Absolutely. And some brands are higher or lower volume, a wider or narrower lasts. Yes. You want your foot to slide in. And the closure system is there to just do the final snugging. It's not there to. To crush the shoe around your foot.
[00:20:37] Randall: Great.
[00:20:38] Track 2: Yeah. And then just by carbon soles if you're going to ride clipless pedals where carbon soles it's only the lightest riders that can get away with either a carbon plate or a thermoplastic sole. You're talking about putting a lot of power transmission and a lot of force through a pretty small area with that pedal.
[00:20:57] It's just worth it. And they'll last longer. Sometimes the thermoplastic, so we'll be stiff enough to begin with. And then they will start to gain flex over time and over time, it'll feel like you're standing on golf balls. Because we're talking gravel. Some riders like using flat pedals and shoes.
[00:21:12] That works great. Everything we're going to talk about still applies. Use good pedals that have grippy pins. Metal pins and then aware of bike specific shoe, like a five 10 or something like that, because that shoe is actually going to be built in the same idea of transmitting power and supporting your weight. Not to mention, it's going to stick to the pedal. Now you've got these great shoes, right? You've spent real money on them. Don't cheap out here, spend if necessary, spend another, whatever it is, $40, something like that on proper insoles that support your whole foot. If you look at how our feet are made to move, our feet are built not for bike shoes. Feet are built for running, walking. Where you would, your foot would naturally pronate. And I think of that as you would land on the outside of your heel and your foot is going to roll across and your arch is going to flatten as you leave off your big toe.
[00:22:04] That's just normal pronation. That's how our feet are built to move. The problem is on a bike you're in a constrained plane of motion and if your arch collapses, what ends up happening is now your ankle collapses to the inside your knee, collapses to the inside. Sometimes that can translate all the way up to your hips, and a tremendous amount of discomfort that people have is just simply because maybe they have higher arches and they don't have high arch insoles.
[00:22:30] Randall: And just as a sidebar here this is often the source of a lot of pain and repeated stress injuries. So to the meniscus or to the IT bands or what have you. So this is a an issue that I used to have, and I tried everything I could, but there are other parameters of the bike. And finally, I got some custom insoles made and everything aligned.
[00:22:50] Track 2: And I bet you've had those insoles forever, too.
[00:22:52] Randall: Coming up on 13 years.
[00:22:54] Track 2: There you go. So they probably an expensive investment to begin with, but man, they've changed riding for you over the
[00:22:59] Randall: Yeah, I even run within souls and it makes a world of difference.
[00:23:02] Track 2: Same here. And so just to put a bow on, that if you pull a rider's insoles out and marks individual marks from their toes that means that they're calling inside the shoe to try and create stability. That can be solved with proper insoles. Sometimes people have a verus twist to their forefoot. I think I forget what the percentage is. It's approaching half the population has this. I certainly do. And so I put a very thin angled shim under my forefoot. Inside the shoe between the shoe and the insole. And the goal here between all of that is to create so much support for your foot, that you pushed down through the entire sole of your foot. And there's no arch movement.
[00:23:41] Everything can just move smoothly. You don't want any kind of tension in the foot, the ankle, the knee to try and stabilize that motion.
[00:23:50] Randall: So we've talked about shoes. We've talked about insoles. What's next.
[00:23:53] Track 2: And now the last part of that is how does that connect to the bike. So cleats and pedals. If I had to put money on what I'm going to see when someone comes to me for a fit, it almost always includes that their cleats are slid too far forward. We're typically talking about mountain bike shoes for people riding on gravel, so if you look at the underside of your shoes, there's two sets of threaded holes for whatever reason most people put their cleats in the front set of holes and then they might even be slid forward from there because there is some sliding adjustment. If you want a catch all for the easiest thing to do, put them in the rear set of holes and slide them all the way back.
[00:24:29] They're very few shoes that actually have adjustment ranges that will allow you to put it back further than is comfortable. And you'll know that you're feel like you're peddling behind the ball of your foot. But even in that case, there's no downside to pedaling from a midfoot position.
[00:24:44] But there are a lot of downsides to pedaling with the cleat towards your toes. If you think about it, you don't walk upstairs by putting the tips of your toes on the stairs. Cause that would add all kinds of tension to your calf, just to be able to walk up the stairs. So why do we want to pedal from the front of our foot where we're going to have to tense our calf and our ankle with every single pedal stroke.
[00:25:07] It's amazing oftentimes just by moving someone's cleats you'll they'll have a history of calf cramps. Just go away.
[00:25:15] Randall: Or tendonitis in the Achilles, which was an issue that I had until I made that adjustment all those years ago.
[00:25:21] Track 2: Yup. Absolutely.
[00:25:23] Randall: I'd add in addition, this is really why getting the right size shoe is so critical because if you have a shoe that's too big, you're not going to have sufficient rearward adjustability in that clique in order to get this optimal position.
[00:25:34] Track 2: Absolutely the longer your shoe is the further forward those cleats go and you can't get them back far enough. And then the last part is the pedals themselves. this is this pretty simple, I always recommend people onto an SPD style nothing wrong with the others that are out there. But the reason that I do, if you look at either the Shimano XT or the XTR pedals, and I have no affiliation with them
[00:25:57] They have these two small machined areas on either side of the mechanism on the pedal itself. Those are for the tread of your shoe to sit on. So you actually get a massive amount of contact area. I don't even ride road pedals anymore. Again, I said my gravel bike is my only drop bar bike, but I'll go on 200 kilometer rides with my SPD pedals. Because you're getting such a big bearing surface. It's like you have a big road clean. You're essentially getting the best of both worlds.
[00:26:27] Randall: Yeah, I definitely second that the SPD style with a bigger platform to interface with the tread of the shoe is really the way to go. I could see some opportunities to improve on that, but maybe that's something that I explore in the future.
[00:26:40] Track 2: I would love to see that. Okay. So those things aren't going to feel like they're super connected, but if you miss that, you're going to have potentially knees wobbling all over the place. You're going to have all kinds of little problems that you may never be able to chase out otherwise. So let's come up with an actionable list as far as what would that process look like? This is something you can do at home.
[00:27:03] The very first thing to do would be get your rough satellite correct. In my fit studio, I use motion capture software. I use angle measurement device. I do all kinds of things. All of those line up with the heel method where you need to be balanced against a wall or even better on fixed trainer, but the idea is. Be in the saddle and unclip from your pedal. And now push the pedal all the way till it's at its furthest point away from you at the bottom of the stroke and with a totally straight leg, your heel should just be making contact with the pedal. If you're making firm contact your seat's too low, if you can't touch the pedal, your seat's too high.
[00:27:45] And when you get it in that range, what happens is when you bring your foot back to the ball of your foot's on the pedal, you end up with a pretty nice knee bend. So that's a really good starting point. And depending on your flexibility, you can adjust up and down from there, but it's pretty darn easy for anybody to get their saddle correct that way.
[00:28:04] Randall: Yeah. I'd like to add to this that it can be good to say backpedal and make sure one, you don't have any leg length discrepancies, but also that you're not rocking your hips or otherwise reaching While you're doing that one legged check. So backpedaling we'll help you to ensure that you really got that dialed as well as possible given the method being used. There's another way that this can be done that I often use in virtual fits, which would be the 92% of barefoot inseam. Again, this isn't gospel. This is just a starting point for getting the appropriate saddle height.
[00:28:35] But in this case, barefoot against a wall jam, a hardcover book between your legs firmly so it bumps right up against the bottom of your pelvis, make sure it's square and then take that measurement. and 92% of that would be a rough approximate saddle height.
[00:28:48] Track 2: Where would you measure that satellite from, and to when you translated that to the bike?
[00:28:52] Randall: So center of the crank spindle, along the seat tube to the top of the saddle. Now as you can see depending on whether the fat saddles more four or more AFT, it's going to change the effective distance to the sit bones, right? So it's not a perfect method. It's no substitute for actually going to a fitter, but it gets us in the ballpark in the same way that the bare foot inseam does and combining these two methods, one can have a nice checking effect on the other.
[00:29:20] Track 2: I totally agree. And then we're going to talk about some things too, that should hopefully help you tune in from that standpoint? As far as okay. If I'm experiencing this, what do I do?
[00:29:29] So the next step, once we've got the rough satellite, we would want to set rough draft. And if you're doing to the measurement that Randall mentioned, you probably want to do this first. So that, that way you're setting to the same point. Years ago. I'm thinking late nineties, early two thousands timeframe, essentially all the leading minds and fitting. Had this idea that we wanted our saddles as far backwards as we could get them so that we would be able to bear all of our weight on the saddle. And this is a case of where they were thinking in terms of physics, not biomechanics.
[00:30:03] That really is outdated. What ends up happening is you're pulling your hips back and you're closing up the angle between your thigh and your torso. Most people don't have phenomenal hip flexibility. And what ends up happening is if you're pushing yourself into the back seat like that, you're closing that angle up and you run out of your active range of motion.
[00:30:26] And you end up now starting to stretch your hips with every pedal stroke. And if you've been behind a rider and maybe you've experienced this yourself, but it's easier to see it on someone else. If you're riding behind someone down the road and you watch their knee come out to the side with every pedal stroke.
[00:30:43] That's their hip angle being too closed up. Now it could either be that their saddles too low, or what I see very often is that their saddle is too far back.
[00:30:52] So if we want a good starting point. Start in the middle of the rails. But be mindful too, of how much setback your seat post has. If you have a seat post with, say 15 to 20 millimeters or setback, you may have to set your starting point pushed forward. I'm finding more and more.
[00:31:09] That that most riders are best served with a zero setback seatpost, and when you have that, now the saddle generally falls right in the middle of the rails. Okay, so next step, as you're doing this, don't stress out over your knee- over pedal spindle. One it's pretty darn hard to measure yourself, but two, if you use that as a guiding principle, it will oftentimes push you back too far. And you'll, again, end up with those hip impingement issues. I measure knee over pedal spindle at the end of a bike fit, but I don't drive the fit around it. Whereas years ago you would set everything using that.
[00:31:45] Randall: And using and doing it in a way that actually ended up putting more strain on the front of the knee. Used to be you would take a plumb Bob from the front of that bony protuberance just below the knee cap and wanted that to go directly through the center of the pedal spindle. that puts more strain on the front of the knee. The newer thinking on this, which is something I've adopted long ago. And I use in my remote fits is a slightly higher and more forward saddle position opens up the hip, and that ends up putting more of the center of the joint over the center of the spindle. Not that it has to be perfectly there, but that more forward position ends up seeming biomechanically more sound, more comfortable or efficient.
[00:32:26] Track 2: Absolutely. And it's, and you're just, you're running into these impingements so much less, so it's much easier to get the pedal over the top of the stroke. It's much easier to get into the downstroke, the power stroke. And we want no dead spots in the peddling. And we don't want to be creating them with some of these artifacts of fit.
[00:32:43] And then as far as where your knees are tracking, I mentioned before knees flicking out to the side, that's usually a saddle that's too low or too far back. If your knees are diving to the inside, that's usually Back to support inside your shoes. But don't chase those things with side, decide adjustments on the bike.
[00:33:04] Certainly never use adjustments in your cleats to try and constrain your body into a certain path of motion. And on that same idea. We all have a natural stance. Some people their toes are pointed out when they're just standing. Some people, their toes are pointed in. There's no good, bad, right wrong there.
[00:33:24] Unless you're trying to force yourself out of that natural stance. So don't say okay, I'm naturally a little bit of a pigeon toed, so I'm going to try and crank my cleats or my adjustment to try and straighten that out on the bike. That's the worst thing you can do, because that is how your body was built.
[00:33:41] That's okay. And don't let people say, oh, your heels need to track behind your toes. No, your body needs to track how it naturally does.
[00:33:49] Randall: Yeah. And forcing it is really where injuries come into play.
[00:33:53] And so having your cleats dials right into the center of the float for that cleat pedal system is ideal. There should be no restrictions whatsoever in your natural motion is essentially what you're getting at there.
[00:34:06] Track 2: Okay. We've got the saddle in the right spot. So we'll move on to the front end. And this will set the rough handlebar position. And this is the thing it's. It's very difficult to do by feel yourself. It's much easier if you say film it or have someone take pictures or help you eyeball these things.
[00:34:25] What you on the bike? Them standing there. In the terms of our goal for upper body position. No matter how high or low your front end is, we want to get about a 90 degree angle between your upper arm and your torso. Within a gentle bend at the elbows. When you do that, you end up naturally bearing your weight so that your shoulders are being pushed back, your shoulder blades are being pushed together.
[00:34:52] This carries your weight really comfortably. You don't have to have tension. You don't have to to engage muscles, to hold yourself there. One of the most common ways I see people go wrong here. Is that if you're feeling, say discomfort in your hands or your shoulders or your neck, They will shorten up their reach and they will sit themselves up higher. And the idea is we're going to get more weight on the saddle. We're going to get weight off our hands.
[00:35:19] The problem is not weight in your hands. The problem is how you're carrying that weight. And when you close up that angle between the upper arm and the torso, right? When you take that from 90 degrees and you start shrinking that angle. Now if you picture your arms down more close to your sides, when you push up, push your elbow up.
[00:35:39] It's now hunching your shoulders. That's not a comfortable place to be. So what you end up doing is you tense your shoulders and your neck to hold your arms back down. And now try holding that for a couple hours at a time, through bumps and while you're always trying to stabilize a pedal.
[00:35:56] And so it becomes this losing battle. Oh, I still have a sore neck and shoulder, so I'm going to shorten it even more. And then it never goes away. In this case, don't be afraid to go a little longer and certainly don't be afraid to go lower. I very commonly lower riders front ends, especially if they've been playing this game, as far as trying to get away from that pressure. What ends up happening is when you move yourself into that position of carrying your arms, your upper arms at 90 degrees. From the torso, all your weight almost feels like it disappears. And if you were to do the physics free body diagram of it, there's more weight in your hands. There's more weight pushing through your arms, but biomechanically you're carrying it in the way your body was designed to carry it.
[00:36:42] Randall: And that in turn has an impact also on handling.
[00:36:46] Because one, if you're not comfortable, it's hard to handle the bike over a long duration ride. That's one thing. But then too, in terms of the planted ness of the front end, if you're constantly going. More and more upright taking mass off the front end. That can work in a straight line dirt descent, but if you're trying to plant the front end on a high-speed road turn, for example it's exactly the opposite effect that you want. So having your body balanced on the bike, so the bike can dance under you in a way that maintains optimal control is also something that comes into this fit component too.
[00:37:15] Track 2: Absolutely. And if I put on my bike skills, coach hat for a moment one thing that I see very often when riders sit too far upright, or they push themselves into the back seat, they extend their arms completely. And what ends up happening is when your arms are totally straight, you can't really lean the bike very well.
[00:37:33] You end up having to steer instead, and bikes really are not built to be steered. They're built to be leaned. And then the geometry of the bike takes over and does the appropriate amount of steering itself? So by getting a little bit lower and by getting a nice, comfortable, say, 15 degree bend in your arms, and also, then when it's now cornering time, get that little bit lower.
[00:37:57] You now have room to reach and lean the bike, which makes a massive difference in how confident the bike feels. And it will essentially, the way it would manifest itself is if your front wheel is constantly washing out on you, you're steering, not leaning.
[00:38:10] Randall: That's a great pointer. Let's continue here. So what else? What's next from here?
[00:38:14] Track 2: Okay. So now when we're still on the bars There is an ideal angle for your handlebars, and there's an ideal angle for your hoods. And there are two independent things, meaning just because your bike came, with the hood set at a certain place, the hoods, meaning the shifter brake levers. Just because they came in a certain place and they're all taped up and beautiful and neatly packaged does not mean that someone was thinking about you when they set that up. Most of the time, those hoods are too far down, they're tip too far forward, and what ends up happening then is you have to cock your wrist downward. So it almost be like you're pointing your thumb downward and you're creating this pressure in your wrist.
[00:38:57] That is not something you want to be doing for hours on end. And when you're on gravel and you're handling bumps like that, man, that is not fun. It can result in a lot of discomfort.
[00:39:07] Randall: Or injury. There's a on the carpal bones at the base of the wrist.
[00:39:10] I've definitely made that mistake and had to rotate things back to, to alleviate it.
[00:39:15] Track 2: Yeah. So the, if you truly don't feel comfortable on taping your bars, you can roll the bars themselves back, but I'm here to tell you don't be scared of bar tape. It's it's very easy. You actually only have to untape as far as the hoses themselves. And then the hoods just have a simple band clamp that holds them in place.
[00:39:34] Bring them up to a point where you can put your hand just naturally falls right onto it.
[00:39:40] Don't want to have to cock it up down. What you'll also find too. It because it's now coming up a little bit more. You will have a far more secure grip on it. All of my drop our bikes, just by coincidence, have the SRAM hydraulic levers. They have a big horn on top, that can feel pretty secure. Most of the time. It feels like a joystick. When you have them tipped up like I'm talking about.
[00:40:02] But on say a Shimano lever that's got a much more subtle horn. When you're going down bumpy stuff, if you feel like your hands are slipping off the front of the hoods, this will make that go away because you'll bring it up to a place where you're actually catching the web of your hand in that.
[00:40:18] Randall: Yeah. And one thing I want to throw out for folks too, is that if you have an existing bike, If you're reaching in order to get your hands into that natural position on the hoods, if you're having to stretch and you find your hands sliding back when you are going in a straight line and relaxing that means your front end is probably too long.
[00:40:35] And so that would be one way to get some anecdotal indication that your stem length is off or some other fit parameter is off.
[00:40:43] Track 2: Yeah. I would absolutely agree with that. And I see that, like I mentioned, most people come to me on bikes that are on the big side for them. And then their hands, their happy place where they're hands naturally fall, was somewhere between 10 and 30 millimeters behind the hoods.
[00:40:59] So you want to adjust where your front end is using the stem. That way the web of your hand every time naturally falls right into the bend of the hood, where you're just naturally locked in there and you're not having to grab the hell out of the bars to have a good purchase on the bike.
[00:41:15] Randall: Yeah. And you're not constantly moving your hands back on the bars to, to, get comfortable because the natural position is on those hoods. Cause they're positioned properly. Now. There are some other things that, that people can do to get a more dial fit. And I think especially for smaller riders, one of these things is crank length.
[00:41:32] Track 2: Yes. Yes, absolutely. Our traditional crank lengths. I'll just go out and say, if they're too long for most riders And the only reason that this stuff sticks around is because we have not as a community been asking the industry consistently enough for shorter stuff. that's really what it comes down to. And so people don't know that they should be on shorter cranks. I'll give a personal example. I just went down a three week rabbit hole, trying to find a set of 1 65 millimeter cranks for my mountain bike. Partly, I was trying to gain a little bit of clearance off the ground with it because it has a low bottom bracket, but mostly I was trying to smooth out my pedal stroke. And I'm someone, I'm five, 10. I literally am a professional writer. That's what I do for my living. I ride bikes and and yet I was finding that one 70 fives, even with decent flexibility, they were just too long for me.
[00:42:26] So I finally found one set and bought them. And man, it is like an instant difference. Pedal strokes, moved out, comfort increased. I can spin up faster. It's mind blowing.
[00:42:39] Randall: And I'm going to jump on this this soapbox with you for a moment and just say that. from my perspective crank length is the foundation of fit. Meaning you start with crank length in that circle, you get the foot position dialed, then you get your saddle position, dial and then you get your hands in the right position and that determines frame size and so on. But really that circle that you're spinning in is a key driver and should scale proportionally. Saddle height is a good proxy. So the ratio that we use is a 22%. Ratio of crank length to a properly set saddle height. And that works for the vast majority of people.
[00:43:14] Now some people will be concerned about, oh, I'm losing torque.
[00:43:16] Every five millimeters at that scale is only a 3% difference in torque, but at the same foot speed, your cadence is 3% higher. So you're not really losing power. Torque is not power. Torque is torque. It's a component of power.
[00:43:29] So really this is one of those areas that for riders of our scale, I'm writing one seventies, I think you're writing one 60 fives. It has some benefit. Are you on five 11? You're five, 10.
[00:43:40] But for smaller riders, especially a lot of component brands don't even offer anything below 1 65. So just finding something that is proportional scale, I do find it an entirely different vendor and then push them hard to create a whole new tool, to create a 1 55 length crank so that we could accommodate smaller riders properly. And that's really unfortunate because there's a pretty large market for riders who are, five foot. To five six that are not being taken care of currently by the market.
[00:44:08] Track 2: No. And unfortunately too, if you don't know any better, you just assume that the bike must come with the appropriate size. So in my coaching, I work with a lot of women and I work with a lot of women who happened to be on the petite side, in the five foot to five, four range. And we've had this conversation and they are very frustrated that their bike, an extra small bike is coming with 170 millimeter cranks. And actually, I was just working with one of my athletes this weekend and she was getting low back pain. And she notices that when she rides the pike with one seventies, she gets a low back pain when she rides pike with one sixties. And I'm sorry, not even one 60 fives. So tiny difference note and we have the Fitz dial. It's really just the matter of that, that longer crank really does push out beyond the natural range of motion.
[00:44:57] Randall: Yeah. And this plays into gearing. If you're using a one by drive train, and you're concerned about the jumps if you're using a proportional crank, then you're able to spin at a wider range of cadences more comfortably. And so the concerns with jumps go away.
[00:45:09] Also when you're pulling your leg up to go over the top of the pedal stroke you're working against your glutes. And so if your crank links are too long, your glutes are pulling even more against you trying to get your foot over and thus impacting your power over time. So there's a lot of benefits that come from going with proportional and for the vast majority of people. Shorter cranks that I guess I'll step out, step off the soap box. At this point, we can move on to the next
[00:45:34] Track 2: No. What I appreciate though, there is like you put your money where your mouth is there on that. In that you actually did go out and develop short cranks, right? You were not satisfied with what was available. You spent considerable time and effort to go out and develop short cranks. Actually, when I was going down that rabbit hole, I was like, God, I should just put thesis cranks on my mountain bike. And the only reason I didn't was because the spindle would not be long enough to fit a boost mountain bike.
[00:45:58] Randall: Yeah, I believe FSA does a good job here that they recently released some shorter length crank. So if anyone's looking that might be a good place to start. And now hopefully other brands come around on this as well, because it's a place where a significant gains can be had. So what else would we like to wrap up with here in terms of fit considerations?
[00:46:14] Track 2: Yeah. Let's see. It. Even though it does not necessarily determine the geometry of your fit. I think a dropper post actually is a contributor to good fit. Reason being, if you're talking about a gravel bike that you want to be able to handle comfortably, in chunky terrain then.
[00:46:31] You don't want to run a lower saddle height all the time with a fixed post, just to have more comfortable handling. It's much better to have a dropper post that you can then push down to an even better position. But then the rest of the time, spin on an optical satellite.
[00:46:48] Randall: Yeah. I'll often tell folks who are concerned about the weight that you're adding say three quarter of a pound. to be less than half a percent. and you're gaining by having the appropriate saddle height. You're probably gaining more than that half a percent in terms of efficiency and comfort and the sustainability of being in a given position for a long period of time.
[00:47:07] And so it's one of those ways along with certain other, other things, wider rims and so on. Bigger tires were adding weight to your bike can actually improve your speed and your performance.
[00:47:18] Track 2: Unquestionably. Yup. I absolutely agree.
[00:47:21] Randall: How about saddles?
[00:47:22] Track 2: Yeah. Saddle shouldn't hurt, man. And I really mean this to female riders as well, because I think that oftentimes, some dude at a bike shop tells them yeah, it's just how it is. Your saddle hurts. No.
[00:47:36] Unquestionably no. And this is from also a medical standpoint too, and an injury standpoint. If you have discomfort that you are enduring for hours on end, that can lead to tissue damage, that can lead to blood vessel damage. No, to not do that.
[00:47:52] You don't have to spend a fortune on saddles. What you need to do is find one that works for you. And this is again, another place where your local bike shop can really come in handy.
[00:48:03] Saddle right. have demo fleets of saddles where say a company will send them one of every kind of saddle in every width, and you can take that saddle home and ride it for a few days and say, oh, okay. I like this, except it's not wide enough. I like this, except it's not padded enough or whatever those things are. And they can help you tune in so that you're not spending money only to find out that you don't like that.
[00:48:30] Randall: Yeah.
[00:48:30] Track 2: And just, oh my gosh, the seats that come on, a lot of bikes are oftentimes downright horrible. And do not assume that just because your bike came with a certain seat means that seat should be comfortable for you. This is a case of spend a few bucks and you will change your experience drastically.
[00:48:48] Randall: Yes. And the other end here is that if you have a saddle that's not comfortable while it may not be the saddle, there's some adjustments. Some tilt adjustment in particular that may need to happen in order feed a, find your sweet spot on that saddle and the right angle and the like.
[00:49:03] Track 2: And those adjustments are really minor.
[00:49:05] When I'm doing fits, I actually use a digital level because you oftentimes can't see how fine the adjustments are required to make a change. I'm usually making about a half a degree change at a time. You cannot see a half a degree. If you're making adjustments by eye, you're probably oftentimes overshooting.
[00:49:23] Randall: Wide nose saddles. The specialized power was one of the first ones there. back
[00:49:42] There's a bunch of different ones out there that are using the same philosophy ours included. And these generally can work for a wide range of riders. And they got their start in the triathlon world where you're in that extreme position for a really long period of time. So comfort is that much more important there, but now you're seeing them adopted, in road, in, in cross and gravel and even in the mountain bike spheres.
[00:50:03] Track 2: Yeah. And to that point, I actually ride the exact same saddle on every one of my bikes. Once I found the right one that really works for me, I then put it on every single bike. And that includes mountain bike cyclocross. Gravel bike. Find the right one for you because it's out there.
[00:50:19] Randall: What about someone's considering getting a new handlebar for whatever reason, maybe it's comfort or maybe they want to try a new flare so on how do they determine bar with.
[00:50:26] Track 2: Okay, so this is super common in the gravel world. I think the easiest way to think of it is you want to match your bars to your shoulder width. You can go wider, I would say up to about 20 millimeters. And that would be the measurement at the hoods, that would be your center to center measurement at the hoods. if you want to measure that, what you would do.
[00:50:46] Is put your hand on the outside of your shoulder and you'll feel like you're in soft tissue. And then work your way up, just creep your hand up until you come over and you'll feel all of a sudden, a bony protrusion, you'll feel where your arm goes in. And your shoulder bone comes out. Find that on either side. And have someone else measure that on you. you can't take this measurement by yourself. You want your bars to match that and they can be up to about 20 millimeters wider.
[00:51:15] Now I'm sure you've seen all the fashion trends in gravel bars lately.
[00:51:21] But what's your take on that?
[00:51:22] Randall: wider bars. Um, but But if you're looking for my philosophy with these bikes is I want a bike that is going to perform well on road.
[00:51:35] And on dirt. And I don't find that I have any handling deficits, even on the most technical dirt that I can tackle with my six 50 by 47 tires and dropper posts, which is some pretty rough terrain. And. What you gain from going wider is that you have more leverage. But if you are shifting your weight down and back over the rear axle and lightening up the front end while you're reducing the torque loads that are being applied through your steering column by the terrain as you're traversing it.
[00:52:05] And so really a dropper posts negates the need to go super wide there. But there were other considerations. Some people just prefer it. That's fine. Wider is better than too narrow is a problem. And then also if you're a bike packing and you want to have a huge bar bag up there that can be another consideration as well.
[00:52:20] Track 2: are coming in with really flared bars.
[00:52:27] I find that oftentimes those lead to more compromises than they than they help. And I'm talking about bars that are 15 to 25 degrees of flare what ends up happening with that? Or in the drops.
[00:52:46] But it's very difficult. And it requires a tremendous amount of iteration to try and get all of the positions on the bars, comfortable with those. And then it also, oftentimes even if you can get it there you're crushing your hands with the brake levers when you squeeze the breaks in the drops.
[00:53:02] My personal take, I'm riding bars that are 10 degree flared which is not insignificant. But I think that's about the the widest flare, you can go to have really natural use of all the positions on your bars.
[00:53:14] Randall: Yeah. I'm with you there. All right in closing, anything that we didn't cover today that you want to bring up.
[00:53:19] Track 2: No, I think we went pretty deep. I hope this spurs a lot of thought and some questions in the community. And then, what I'd like to do is keep the conversation going. Let's all get better at this. together. And what's that's a big part of what's so cool about gravel is that, that growth in the community. Do what I say and you'll be happy. This is let's all learn together.
[00:53:45] Randall: Excellent. Can you take a moment, just tell folks where they can find you.
[00:53:48] Track 2: I made it super simple recently. It's just coach patrick.bike. And so from there you can find all the different things that I do and and all the social links and you can interact with these super easily through that.
[00:54:00] Randall: Yeah, this is the bike fitting. This is the coaching. This is the skills camps. And so on.
[00:54:05] Track 2: Absolutely.
[00:54:05] Randall: Also Patrick is a member of the ridership, so if you have questions, you can definitely jump in there and we will have the episode posted in some conversation around that as well. So if you have questions or feedback on some of the things that we covered today would love to have you join us in that conversation.
[00:54:18] Patrick, thank you very much for joining me today. It's been a pleasure chatting with you and catching up, and I look forward to seeing you this summer and hopefully revising my personal bike fit using your expertise.
[00:54:30] Track 2: Yeah. I think we're gonna be able to be together in a month or so. I'm really looking forward to that.
[00:54:33] All right. My friend. Be well.
[00:54:35] Track 2: you very much. Thank you. Thank you.