Back in 2010 I decided I wanted a road bike. I knew nothing about road bikes, I only had a vague idea of what I wanted, and I didn’t have a ton of money to spend. Jason and I went to many, many bike stores and I finally settled on my Giant Avail.
The salesperson did a basic fit and asked me if I felt comfortable. Considering I was still slightly terrified of the bike itself I said sure.
Fast forward two years later and I’m out riding 30+ miles and doing rides such as the Venus de Miles. I began to notice that on any ride over 20 miles I started to have weird twinges in my knees and my hips. So this year before I start my training for the 2013 Venus de Miles I decided to get my bike professionally fitted by a trained bike fitting expert.
Did you know there was such a thing? I didn’t until I started asking around.
I asked all kinds of people for their suggestions on where to go for a fitting. Finally, a woman I know from my running club who also does triathlon and running coaching suggested I check out Element Multisport. Considering she has more bikes than I have pairs of running shoes I trusted her opinion on the best place to get one fitted. So off to Element Multisport I went.
Element actually has to Chicagoland locations. They have one at Clybourne & Damen in Lincoln Park and the other in Oak Park on Chicago Avenue. If I still lived in Forest Park I would have gone to the Oak Park location in a heartbeat. But considering I currently live closer to Clybourne and Damen now, I chose that location.
After making an appointment over the phone I arrived on Tuesday afternoon to spend an hour hanging out with Ed. This is Ed. And my bike.
Element Multisport has two types of bike fittings. One is super fancy and you get all hooked up to motion capture sensors and they film you. It’s called Retul. That was my original plan but it turned out I didn’t really need anything quite that fancy. A standard road bike fitting suited my needs just fine.
First, though, we had to discuss pedals. I’ve been using regular, platform pedals with cages on them since I got my bike. However, to maximize my fitting and comfort on the bike, Ed suggested I look into “clipless” pedals. You know the kind that you actually clip in to? REI does a good job of explaining the terminology.
“Clipless” is admittedly a confusing name for these pedals since you actually “clip in” to the pedal’s cleats much like you do with a ski binding. The origin of the name goes back a few decades when pedals with “toe clips” were a cyclist’s only choice for improved pedaling efficiency. The then-new clipless pedals dispensed with toe clips by offering a direct attachment between shoe and pedal. For better or worse, the clipless name has lived on ever since.
Admittedly, I was (and still am) a bit apprehensive about clipless pedals. Sure, I see people riding in traffic in them every day but if I ride my bike to work it’s stop-and-go for almost 2 miles. What a pain to have to clip in and out every 5 minutes. So, Ed gave me two options. One was a hybrid pedal where you clip into one side but it’s still a platform pedal on the other. The second option was the SpeedPlay pedal that comes with an optional “case” that converts them into platform pedals. Because of the fact that these are more adjustable than the hybrid pedals, that’s what I went with. In black. Only because they were out of white.
And, of course, because you can’t get clipless pedals without shoes, I got some cycling shoes.
Those white squares are the cases that convert my new pedals from clipless to platform. These will be my friends until I work up the nerve to ride on the street with the clipless pedals.
Ed then swapped out my pedals, had me get on the bike, and took several different measurements. Hip, knee, ankle, shoulder, basically all my joints. He also had me walk, jump, and touch my toes to get a basic sense of my biomechanics. In a way it reminded me of a physical therapy assessment! And, yes, I’ve had a lot of those.
Amazingly, my bike only needed a few adjustments. Raise the seat a few more inches (this short gal has long legs), move the seat forward, re-angle my handlebars, and move my break stems (the things on the handlebars where your break leavers are).
Now I just need to get out there and fully begin my Venus de Miles training. I rode 12 miles last Saturday and I’m signed up for Bike the Drive on Sunday. My plan is to ride the full 30 mile route during Bike the Drive so that I can work my way back up to the 60 miles I plan to do at Venus. The question is: do I brave using my clipless pedals on Sunday? Hopefully I’ll have the hang of them before July 28th. You’ll just have to join us at Venus de Miles and find out!