Looking Out To Sea

Bike fit at Bike Craft (part 1)

Since I got my first bike as an adult several years ago I noticed that I pedal with my feet on the outside of the pedals, splayed slightly outwards. This wasn’t a particular problem with flat pedals but if I am using toe clips or straps my legs felt uncomfortable and twisted. After a day of cycling I got pain behind my knee, particularly at the back of my right leg.

Doing the research pointed up an issue of “Q factor”, the distance between the two planes in which the pedals move. Different bike designs (mountain, road, leisure) will differ due to bottom bracket size, the splay of the cranks and so on. But the racier the bike the narrower the distance between your feet.

Reasoning that my natural/desired Q factor was wider than one afforded by the design of my bike, I bought some pedal extenders — metal cylinders with a pedal-style male thread at one end and a crank-style female thread at the other. This seemed to solve the issue: my foot could be strapped in and I could pedal pedal pedal for hours without pain.

So where is this going? It’s going the way of all hacks, all “self-medication”. The niggling belief that there was something fundamentally wrong with my setup that I was not fixing but shifting elsewhere with the pedal extenders. With every new bike I buy, or every new saddle, or pedals, do I have to go through these experiments?

I arranged a fitting at Bike Craft on Ferry Road. They asked me about my cycling habits and distances, and the all important list of problems and aches I get. Then they set me up on a massage table to measure the flexibility of my hips. I knew this would be pretty terrible; despite the BJJ and capoeira I am still a stiff old board.

With all this data gathered I sat on my own bike on a trainer and made some adjustments, making sure to take before and after measurements. The seatpost was replaced with another that had a smaller offset — since my saddle was at its furthest forward to counteract the existing post’s large rearward offset. The saddle height was reduced. And the pedal extenders were removed.

I’ve got the temporary seatpost on loan for a few days to see how it works with the new height and without the pedal extenders. After all of the adjustments of the evening, and the unfamiliarity of my new riding position, I was unable to definitely say if it was better or worse than my usual position.

Initial impressions are that I feel more “inside” the bike. It feels more likely that I could get a higher cadence in this position, which does hint that I was too far away from the pedals before. I’ll give it a few days and a few more miles to see what happens.