Bike Fit with Freakin’ Lasers

4

by Byron on Jun 09, 2010 at 5:05 PM

Those are lasers in the background during the fit process at Cycling Northwest. After busting my ribs up last week in an accident, decided it was a good time to adjust my fit and visited Russie’s studio. Russ is a former pro, elite cyclist, and looks damn good in a Hugga Cap.

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Regarding the lasers, he said:

The Laser is simply a point of reference for alignment of the knee over the foot. Using the knee dots placed on the Tibial Tuberosity and centering a plum laser line with your foot and ankle, a fitter can see how the Patella (knee cap) tracks laterally. This will show you in which direction to move the foot to achieve knee over foot alignment. Some fit systems use light capture or video to achieve the same view. This is one of the most important (and often overlooked) pieces of a thorough bike fit. Without proper knee/foot alignment the risk of torsional strain and risk of injury to the knee join goes up. It also improves power and efficiency… all things any cyclist should strive for.

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Old school builders and bike shop fitters may scoff at this, as who needs freakin’ lasers, but where it definitely helps is for the cyclist to see changes to a fit in real time. That’s much better than looking down at a plumb line from the saddle. The changes made to my fit include

  • 1cm down
  • Wedges under cleats
  • cleats all the way back
  • 20 m axle spacer
  • Stem up 1cm
  • stem shorter by 1 cm

That gets me slightly more upright and breathing easier.

The rib is healing and I’m back to racing and training this weekend and will report on how this fit works. Traveling as well to Toronto and we’ll also start the big touring miles this Fall before Cross Season.

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Comments: 4

First, let me say that I’ve never been fit to a bike, and absolutely should be, but then add that I’ve seen plenty of folks go through the process.

You can put science into it, but I still get the feeling that under controlled conditions, that a fitter would not give the same fit to me and my clone. Sure, they would be close, but not (statistically) significant compared to Wobble-Naught, Fit Kit, or even the guy who grabs two fistfuls of seatpost, puts your knee over the pedal spindle, and calls it a day.

That said, lasers *are* freakin’ cool. I’ll pay an extra Benjamin or two for it.

The reactions to the “lasers” has been interesting for sure. It’s not like a menu item, with or without, or some sort of quackery. It’s just a visual aid that bike fitters can use, like a fit stick or the Serotta bike fit contraption or various computer programs. What I do is have a fitter baseline the fit then take it from there. Some want you up on your tippy toes and others slammed way back. Look at Boonen, his fit defies conventional wisdom while Cancellara is a prototype. Lance has changed over his career coming upwards. For recreational cyclists and commuters they’re likely going to seek out a fit for comfort or pain issues. What has changed is considerable science into fits, lasers or not, and much of that is with shoes and cleats. Seat height you’ll know, sure, but Russ made a very positive change with wedges under my cleats.

I mentioned some of my opinions in the female bikes thread but might as well repeat them here.

I don’t really think fitting is any sort of science, it’s a set of established practices based on lots of experience on what yields a comfortable positioning.  Biomechanical scientific research has only started up comparatively recently and the fitting methods well predate much of that information. 

As such, it isn’t a good idea to put unquestioning faith in plug and chug fit calculators and indeed there are a bunch of potentially workable fits for any given person.

What a good fitter does is adapt all of the variables to a rider’s intended purpose and all of their little body, posture, positioning and pedal stroke idiosyncrasies.

Any tools that make that job easier (and lasers are about the best you can get for visually aligning/positioning things) is IMO a really good idea.

Considering you can buy cheapy laser sheet levels and the like for 30-40$ it’s probably good value added for shops.

The lasers Russ uses are from home depot.

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