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Flat Harry's Cyclery Fitting

BikeFitting - At Flat Harry's our obsession with the details, means we also take great interest in matching people up with bicycles that fit them the best, so they can ride in comfort and get the best performance out of their bike. Most customers that benefit from my bike fitting service either are just in the process of purchasing a bike and needing to get it setup for them, or already have their bike yet don’t feel they are getting the best out of it and bike-fit is a service designed to get you feeling great on your existing machinery. Bike-Fit is a great thing to do for many reasons such as remedying injury niggles or simply helping you ride more efficiently, so you can enjoy your time on your bike as much as possible! Below Cris, business owner and chief bike-fitter talks through his own very personal approach to the art of bike-fitting.

BikeFitting Pricing - great value at £99: Our bike fitting service is priced intentionally to be great value. Yes I could charge 3 to 4 times the cost (as most of my competitors do) but I feel that’s wrong on many fronts. Firstly, a bike fitting is like a car MOT, it’s only valid for that point in time, and in your case for your current level of fitness and capability. If you significantly improved your flexibility, or strength, or conversely have picked up an injury or life pressures have reduced your typical hours per week on the bike, then you are likely to need to make some fitting adjustments to compensate or to take advantage of your new found abilities. My intention is two fold, firstly to make it possible for you to feel a bike fitting is something you can do at least once a year, and secondly to ensure that you can learn about how your body adapts and how you can improve or best adapt your position over time.

Bike Fitting Duration: Typical bike fittings take between 2 to 3 hours. Sometimes we need 2 or more smaller appointments to test and address how to overcome long term issues, or for example, to adapt you to a new ideal TT racing position.

Bike Fitting Focal areas: All bike fittings are about focusing on the ideal Trifecta of Power vs. Aero vs. Comfort. You can achieve success in 1 or 2 of these 3 focus areas, but it’ll often be at the expense of the 3rd. So I’ll help you work out your priorities and not unsurprisingly most folk simply want comfort, but I can help in all 3 areas. I’ll spend as much time teaching you how to improve power, help yourself be more comfortable and help yourself become more aerodynamic, as much as making adjustments that achieve the same goals.

While bike fitting is a science, it is also an art: Your bike fitting position is not something that can be calculated based on a formula. Formulars get you close, maybe 85% close... but the difference in feelings between close and spot-on are enourmous... and the variables infinite. All bike fitting formulas are flawed, as they are unable to cope with immeasurable variances such as your feelings, your aspirations and your level of flexibility or injury. Thus the art of bike fitting is based on starting from known ideals and working out for each rider how best to interpret those, without assuming you are a 21 year old 6 foot tall Male pro level rider, who sits on the bike for 35 hours a week, as their level of capability will enable a very different position than 99.99% of customers who want a bike fitting.

My Methodology: I have studied Bike Fitting for the past 40 years, and more recently formalised my studies of BioMechanics, which has allowed me to adapt and grow my approach based on constantly challenging my previous understandings and assumptions. The types of people, and more importantly the expectations and abilities of these people now riding and needing bike fitting, are very much different from those who rode 10, 20 or 40 years ago.

My bike-fitting is based on using the BikeFit(tm) approach developed by Paul Swift along with latest ideas and insights from Phil Burt and Keith Bontrager, as well as my own observations and understandings of the need to adapt positions to our current level of cycling capability and capacity. Formally defined methodologies are great, but as anyone who’s been indoctrinated into a methodology knows, they all have strengths and weaknesses, and it’s down to the creativity of the user to interpret adjust and apply that method sensibly.

My approach starts from the feet and the interface between your feet and the pedals (cleats and shoes), and study the stability and alignment of your feet through your ankles to knee and hip joints. For those riders increasing the duration or intensity of their riding, any misalignments will present themselves in the form of pains and strains, which can be avoided with careful placement of the cleats to position the toes and heal in the right positions to best transfer power.. Occasionally we need to utilise pedal axle extensions (for riders with feet need to be positioned outwards due to their specific placement of hip joint and knee joint)

Having established the alignment of your legs and the way your pedalling motion impacts upon your positioning I'll begin to adjust the positioning of your saddle. Saddle height is key to you creating the available power, yet also depends on the riders level of confidence and intended type of riding (tarmac, or off-road) as to what the right height should be.

Saddle angle - the rule of thumb is to set your saddle up flat (parallel to the ground). On my own bikes, my saddles have to be flat or I can’t sit comfortably, but my position is a typical ex-racer aggressive position. The reality is that this rule exists to be broken. Many roadies will swear blindly that a saddle is wrong if it’s not flat, but I’ve significantly changed my view over the last 15 years, due to two things evolving. Firstly saddle shapes have developed, meaning that where you measure the flat section of saddles is in itself unique to each saddle. Secondly as more people in their 40’s and beyond have been coming back to, or starting afresh with cycling, their hip joint and spinal flexibility often require saddles to be angled with the nose down a few degrees. Some people need up to 7 degrees of slope on their saddle, so as long as it’s not transferring pressure to the arms and building up tension in shoulders from having to constantly push your bum back up onto a saddle, then I happily break the flat saddle rule with full confidence that it's justified.

Saddle fore-aft positioning is key to dynamically balancing you on the bike such that your body weight is suitably distributed to both wheels. Ideally approximately 35 to 40% over the front wheel and 60 to 65% over the rear wheel. This is what enables you to start feeling at one with the bike, as it carves through corners with great levels of feedback, rather than making you feel nervous through unexpected oversteering or understeering.

Finding the ideal Handlebar height and distance from the saddle is dependant on your intended style and speed of riding, as well as levels of flexibility and injury. Racing cyclists find being stretched out such that they can fully engage upper body muscles is key to performance, whilst more leisurely cyclists often find such a position too aggressive and unsustainable. My approach seeks to balance comfort with power and aerodynamics, whilst keeping close eye on bike handling dynamics. Stability can be significantly undermined by the hands on the handlebar being too far behind or in front of the front tyre and front axle I.E the frontal contact patch of your bike and steering pivot point. I will position your hands such that the steering input forces are producing a natural balance for stable steering purposes, as well as producing a comfortable position for yourself.

Education is a key aim of my fitting method. I focus as much on sharing the advanced riding skills and techniques, as this has a significant impact on your ideal position. Many riders don't engage their upper body effectively in the process of riding with strnegth and efficiency. I help you understand the art of riding well, the art and feel of ankling to produce an efficient and powerful pedal stroke, how to steer and carve the bike through corners using your hips to direct the machine, how to be dynamic on the bike, how and when to engage your core and ride using your upper body to drive the pedals, rather than leaving your upper body to simply absorb the pain of the road surface below.

High Tech Tools? Getting a bike fitting has become an industry in it’s own right, with many high tech very expensive tools being used by unskilled and inexperienced bike fitters, producing some very poor outcomes. I know this because I have had many people referred to me after a failed expensive bike fitting. The limitation of the technology based tools is that they are only as good as the data that drives their analysis, and the fitter using them. And still the data they drive their methodology from still is overly biased towards the ultra-lean all skin and bone pro cyclist who spends 40hrs a week riding their bike, rather than 40 hrs a week at their desk or on their feet.

Of all the wonderful technology out there, I'm still looking for a high tech bike fitting solution that really would add value, but so far I've not yet found one such tool that helps me do a better fitting than I can already achieve with my relatively low tech tools such as my engineers eyes, laser sights and Goniometer. Most of the bike fitting is about your feelings and using my eyes and ears to understand you, these are not things measurable by tools.