Seamus Allardice has always been DIY in his approach to setting up a bike, relying on a quick peddle around the parking area and a few adjustments of the saddle height to get comfortable. But a recent back injury from a hastily set up bike made him realise that a more comprehensive approach was necessary, so he booked a Body Geometry fitment session with Specialized Body Geometry professor Peet le Roux.
The seed for Body Geometry, as Peet explained, was conceptualised by Doctor Andrew Pruitt in the Seventies. As anassistant athletic trainer at the University of Colorado saw many cyclists with overuse injuries and started to wonder if prevention might not be better than treatment. The science of bicycle fitment was in its infancy at the time and the dominant model for determining how a cyclist’s bike should be set up was taken from a study done on a group of Italian professional roadies.
You don’t need a degree in anatomy to know that the flexibility and other physical capabilities of a professional cyclist are vastly removed from those of the average person, especially given the “lower is better” school of thought at the time – when it came to saddle and bar drop. So Dr Pruitt went to work developing a bike fitment programme that took in the individual rider’s unique personal anatomy.
The Body Geometry fitment session, is not something you can rush and can take up to three hours, which seems like a lot, but my fairly straightforward fitment took two and a half hours so I’d strongly suggest budgeting the time. It starts with a chat about your riding goals, aches and pains, and injuries. Then the fitment expert takes you through a strength, flexibility and anatomical measurement programme, to establish key data like the distance between your ischialtuberosities (the width of your sit bones), your hip and hamstring flexibility, and leg length discrepancy.
Armed with the data and the knowledge of what’s bothered you in the past and what you’d like to achieve you move across to the bike. Now in the ideal situation you’ll be fitted on a Retül Müve sizing cycle, but given the cost of the Retül bikes it’s more likely that the fitment will be done on your bike, clipped into a stationary trainer. The Retül Müve sizing cycle makes it easy for the fitment expert to quickly adjust and one of the parameters at the turn of a handle, whereas on your bike the process is slowed by you needing to dismount and wait as the saddle is raised or the bar dropped.
On the bike the fitment starts with the side view. The fitment expert determines your ideal saddle height, based on your feedback regarding comfort and a measurement of your knee angle. The measurement is taken when the pedal is at its furthest point from the saddle (near the five o’clock position). The ideal knee angle is 30 degrees, but due to the fact that most of us have a slight leg length discrepancy (anything below 3mm doesn’t require special action from the bike fitter), in reality it’s likely that the compromise will result in one leg having a slightly more acute or obtuse angle. Your saddle angle (ideally it should be perfectly horizontal), handle bar height, stem length and cleat position are all adjusted in turn. After each adjustment you’ll have to spin at 60% of your maximum pace to reset yourself on the bike and you’ll be asked if you’re comfortable – before the next adjustment is made or you finalise a setting. It’s a lot like being at the optometrist – sometimes you just can’t tell what’s more comfortable.
Next up is the frontal view, where the fitment expert will check your hip, knee and foot alignment. This could mean special inserts in your shoes to combat your knees rotating during the pedal stroke. Finally from behind your placement and squareness on the saddle is checked, before setting up your suspension and fork for your weight and riding style.
To help with the analysis of your body in motion the fitment expert will make use of a Body Geometry Clipboard App which captures video and allows the expert to review your cycling form in slow-motion which guide lines inserted to check for deviations from the ideal.
A Body Geometry fitment session is above all a personal experience, an interaction with a professional who’s there to help you be as comfortable, efficient and injury free on the bike. I went into the session with back pain from a poorly set up bike and afterwards spent nearly ten hours over the next three days riding without a single niggle. From being a sceptic and believer in a quick, what Specialized call a bike sizing (set the saddle height and maybe flip the stem to change the drop), there is no way I’d ride any significant distance on a bike without setting it up properly again.
Sus the Body Geometry Bike Fitment
Time: ±3 Hours
Cost: R1 000 – R2 000 (depending on time, the fitment expert’s experience and excluding new components)
Value: Save a fortune in physiotherapy and doctor’s bills
Body Geometry Accredited Fitment Studios
Concept Cyclery Cedar Square
Helderberg Cycle World
Concept Cyclery Ballito
Concept Cyclery Melrose Arch
West Rand Cycles
Complete Cyclist Bryanston
Concept Cyclery Waterfall
(The new Cape Town Specialized Concept stores will also have an accredited Body Geometry Fitment Expert in store)
Peet le Roux is Specialized South Africa’s Body Geometry professor, he teaches the principals of Body Geometry fit to the fitment experts who’ll be getting you comfortable on the bike. Before joining Specialized he practiced as a physiotherapist and now heads up the Specialized retail department.