Pedal Power ACT contributor Leonie Doyle tried out a bike fit at Pushys Plus, and gained new respect for the human pelvis.
Recently I invested in a bike fit with bike-fitter-to-the-stars Steve Hogg. It was a fascinating if rather self-indulgent experience. I’d argue it’s worth your while if you love riding bikes and certainly if you experience any discomfort while doing it.
I’ve been riding the same road bike for nearly four years, on the same standard issue saddle that came with it, but saddle comfort had started to become an issue. This was frustrating at a time when I was starting to enjoy cycling again (after an injury-induced hiatus in 2016) and forming plans for some longer and more ambitious rides.
My quest began simply as a shopping trip for a new saddle – as nothing else seemed to be broken – but a friend recommended Steve Hogg for an overall bike fit. Beyond the essentials – tubes, tyres, servicing – I’ve spent frugally on my cycling. I figured it was time to stump up some cash for comfort.
Steve offers three levels of bike fit – Comprehensive, Standard and Lifestyle. Being on a budget, and realistic about my level, I opted for the two-hour ‘Lifestyle Fitting’ – $260 plus whatever parts you purchase. It was all arranged by email, and Steve’s final instructions were ‘Please bring your bike, cycling shoes, knicks, helmet, cycling sunnies and any other item you routinely ride with.’
It all takes place at Pushys Plus in Fyshwick, where Steve has a little workshop with a desk, laptop, bike stand, massage table and various other bits of equipment. He started by taking a detailed case history of my diet, lifestyle, activity levels and injuries.
The first objective was to measure (and apparently correct) my hip alignment, one being slightly higher than the other. That was followed with scores of diagnostic tests of my musculoskeletal system using the resistance of my outstretched arm as a proxy for detecting any functional disorder.
There was so much time spent testing for these tell-tale points of weakness that for several days afterwards my shoulders and upper back were really sore.
If you are accustomed to kinesiology, Steve’s holistic and unorthodox approach will feel quite normal. If you aren’t, it is kind of a bizarre and mystifying process. He also used magnets to correct alignment or neutralise electromagnetic interference. At one point he stood directly behind me and turned on a drill, which was mildly alarming. It’s okay, it whirred a hands breadth away from my hip.
You can make up your own mind about these therapies; I can neither confirm nor deny their benefits. I do rate my chances of maintaining a regular practice as close to zero – if only because it falls at the end of a long list of competing priorities.
I will say that I mentioned an old Achilles injury but, put on the spot, suddenly couldn’t remember whether it was the left or right heel. I accidentally picked the wrong one and he assessed it was the other. So even when I gave him a bum steer he made a correct diagnosis.
On range of motion, Steve declared that my flexibility was nearly off the chart (thanks, yoga!) and that this is both good and unusual for a cyclist. He also pointed out that it probably lets me get away with things that would cause problems earlier for others.
I found his philosophy that humans weren't biologically designed to sit on bikes and pedal them for hours on end reassuring. In that sense, bike fitting is about making what is essentially an unnatural activity feel as good as it can.
I didn’t even climb on my bike until three-quarters of the way through the appointment, and only once Steve was satisfied with my body balance, alignment, shoe fit and various other things.
So what actually happened in terms of bike fit? Well, although Steve gave the overall size and geometry of my bike two thumbs up (phew! – I wasn’t up for buying a new bike) he did make some noticeable changes.
One was lowering my seat by about 10mm. I knew how common this error is – people sitting too high – so I was disappointed to find myself among the culprits, even in a marginal way. The new, lower seat position felt…horrible. Like sitting on a BMX with my knees up in the air. But, true to Steve’s promise, within a month it felt both normal and comfortable. Even this slight difference in height can make the difference between rocking laterally over the bones and soft tissue, and having a stable pelvis and hips that allows your legs to power away unhindered.
Another adjustment was moving my shoe cleats backwards by about 5mm. This meant that more of my forefoot was over the pedal, giving me a more powerful point of leverage. Fair enough.
Steve also put semi-stiff, arch-support insoles in my bike shoes (Sof Sole FIT Series, about $50). His pitch was something about the foot-brain feedback loop and optimising power transfer. I was highly sceptical of these, inwardly grumbling about how much room they’d take up in my shoe and what difference they’d possibly make. To my surprise I converted almost instantly. They feel terrific.
‘So, what about that saddle?’ you ask.
Right. I trialled two different test saddles over a period of about a month, courtesy of Pushys Plus, and eventually purchased a third one – a Selle SMP ‘Lite 209’. Between the ample cut out, hammock shape and bull nose verandah it looks as if there is nowhere to sit, yet somehow fits my bits and feels extremely comfortable. At $250 plus, it would want to.
To summarise: if you’re curious and you haven’t had a dedicated bike fit, give it a go. For your money you get a one-on-one assessment, a personalised, multi-page report, and at least one follow-up appointment a few weeks down the track.
Steve’s website has a wealth of information about bike fit and performance. Reading it, I have gained a whole new respect for the human pelvis, which is so delicate yet takes so much punishment.
He also offers a money-back-if-not-happy guarantee that I suspect he doesn’t need to honour very often. For the record, I’m a satisfied customer. You can literally say I’ve ridden off into the sunset.
For further information: https://www.stevehoggbikefitting.com/