The ‘Assometer’ – Preparing for a Grand Tour

The epic tours, Hannibal, Napoleon and Caesar…..6 weeks straight on a bike this year from Paris to Moscow and a lot of running around in between. Last year I didn’t take my own bike with me and I ended up riding 5 different Ride and Seek hire bikes during the touring season. Lovely bikes (besides the guest’s bike who liked the look of our rentals more then his own..) but not one was my size and at the end of it my knees hurt, I had pins and needles down my right arm and I was riding poorly (I am hoping someone can fix this too!).

This year I swore things would be different and I’ll be right on at least on one account. I gave Paul, my Local Bike Shop, also a Specialized bike fit master a call. I’ve never had a bike fit so when Paul advised on preparing for the fit, in his thick Brummie accent, “shave your legs, have a hair cut” I thought I was going back to school (I did go to a Grammar school…)! Haircuts have never been my thing so I went the easier option and took out the razor (female special of course, much more comfortable I was advised) to my virgin legs and was surprised how easy it all came off. Sure, when I go to soccer I quickly whip on my shinnies, but besides that I am a fan. This only grew when Paul informed me (after commenting on the patches of hair I had missed) that it would save me 70 seconds over 40km, maybe only 50 for me with the tufts on the back of my knee and my shin blade slowing me down….

So in we went to the fit….

What I loved about it was it was thorough, relaxed and enjoyable. It wasn’t about fitting you to race as fast you can or put you in a position to ride a time trial, although I know if that is what you want, Paul would fit you to it. It was about genuinely fitting you to your style on the bike even if, like me, you aren’t really sure what that is.

We began with a coffee and a thorough run through of medical history – mine is a little mixed – a colleague from my previous days as an archaeologist once confidently told me I would have been dead by the time I was 30 if I was a caveman. This was due to my (and supposedly a lot of young cavemen’s) injury recidivism – the need the keep trying things/ doing things which hurt but not really learning from the pain!

From medical history to a physical examination – the assometer (measures your sit bones) was great for finding the right size saddle (mine was looking decided ill once I looked at it seriously – saddle that is, not ass) and the thorough examination from head to toe was surprising but made total sense as Paul explained how your whole body ties into being comfortable on the bike. From your neck flexibility looking down the road, to your ankles influencing your pedaling style every joint was tested for flexibility and movement – for example my hamstrings are great and flexible so I should be fairly good with most positions – from a time trial to sitting up high on a bike.  However counter to this my hip flexors are useless and always tight so there had to be a balance in how low I could perch over my handlebars and how my body would bend without stressing my hips. This was all about identify the individualities of your body and how they affect your riding position.

the ‘assometer’, it wasn’t as uncomfortable as it looks!

my saddle has seen better days, but the assometer didn’ show such serious swing to the left hand side!

Then ( 2 1/2 hours into the session) onto the bike….adjustments made to saddle, pedals, handlebars, stem, shifters, cleats, even down to spacers in my left shoe (my left foot sticks up a bit and is a bit different to my right, never previously known, but identified in the examination, now glaringly obvious every time I look down!). I sat on my bike, fixed to the trainer, Paul doing laps of me checking the knee extension, adjusting the handlebars, moving the saddle, taking videos of my pedal stroke, adjusting again….

on the road again and yep I can see the hairs on my knee too!

It was an amazing process…I’ve now ridden twice since and there is no doubt I am more comfortable, and feel stronger and more able to put power through the pedals.

Napoleon awaits, only 2 1/2 weeks to go, can I get fit in that period? Can anyone help me with that??

Curious about bike fitting? Email Paul at [email protected]