Critique My Fit: Getting Aero and More
Our third edition of “Critique My Fit” digs into yet another member’s issues: trying to get faster, reducing saddle sores, and eliminating shoulder pain.
Heading out the door? Read this article on the new Outside+ app available now on iOS devices for members! Download the app.
Each month, we’ll be choosing one of our Outside+ members to get a free virtual fit from expert bike fitter, Jon Blyer, owner of Brooklyn-based ACME Bicycles, a Retul Certified Master Bike Fitter, and teacher at the Guru Academy in Bethel, CT.
Using the member’s email fit feedback and three video angles, Blyer gives his recommendations below, along with suggestions that can apply to other readers’ situations with similar problems.
I am 47 years old, I live in TX, and I have been racing since 2015. I have dabbled in all the various distances, but I truly enjoy the half-iron distance. Currently my focus is on Ironman Tulsa, and I’m working on gaining more power on the bike—as I feel like it is a limiter for me.
“Vicious” is a 2014 or 2015 Felt S22, I bought her used at the end of December 2016. She is a size 52cm, handlebars are what came with the bike, I recently changed out the crank to a Cobb 160mm, it has Favero Assioma pedals with power, and my saddle is an ISM PR1.0. I am 5-feet-5-inches and my inseam is 28.5 inches.
I have had a couple of bike fits, and I am wanting to lower the stem a little to get more aero. I do have discomfort in my shoulders, and after riding for a while I feel like I need to shift around on my saddle. I have gotten saddle sores, they seem to come and go, but they are always in the same spot.
– Karen M.
Thanks for sending in the videos and photos of you and your bike, Vicious! It is always great to see someone still rocking the HED Tri Spoke!
I had a good look at your videos and I have a few comments about your position which should hopefully help bring you a bit more comfort in the saddle and shoulders, and maybe we can make you more aero in the process. I always try to remind my clients that a comfortable, powerful, and sustainable bike position is the most important thing. It doesn’t matter how low your aerobars are if you can only ride in your aero position for a few minutes at a time.
I love that you have already switched to 160mm cranks. I wish that more riders would switch to shorter cranks, as there really is no downside (other than cost) as far as I’m concerned. Shorter cranks are a great way to improve comfort and aerodynamics, so kudos to you for being one step ahead. I also love seeing your hands as relaxed as they are, resting on top of your bar-end shifters, that is a good sign and I hope you can ride with similarly relaxed hands on the road. Death gripping your aero bars is a sure way to create upper body discomfort.
Now, I have a few comments which I hope you find helpful:
Based on the videos you sent in, it seems that your leg extension at the bottom of the pedal stroke is slightly different on either side. It looks to me that you are leaning towards your right side on the bike, causing your right hip to be a bit lower or possibly further forward than your left. This lean leaves a bit more bend in your right knee than left at the bottom of the pedal stroke. No one sits perfectly symmetrical on the bike, so there is no need to get carried away trying to “correct” this because it’s probably not worth correcting. Based on the bend in your knee in either leg, you have room to raise your saddle slightly. To my eye, your knee extension in your left knee looks to be towards the low end of the acceptable range but your right knee looks a bit too flexed at full extension. I suggest starting with an increase of saddle height by about 5mm and seeing how that feels.
Your cockpit distance—or the distance from your hips to your elbows—seems to be about right based on your shoulder angle, so with any changes that you may make, I would try to maintain that distance more or less. Your bike is equipped with “S-Bend” aero bar extensions which were pretty popular back around the time your bike was produced, but if you take a look at the current options available from all the popular manufacturers, I would be surprised if you see S-Bend extensions on any of them. S-Bends look cool, but that’s pretty much where the benefits end. The goal of any bike fit is to try and relax your entire upper body as much as possible, and it’s far easier to control a bike equipped with an upturned extension than while using an S-Bend while death gripping. You may want to consider swapping out your extensions with something else. My favorite extensions currently on the market are from 51 Speedshop and Zipp.
The ISM PR1.0 is a fine saddle and it works well for many. It looks to me, however, that you are sitting quite far back on it. A saddle like the PR1.0 is intended to be ridden with the rider sitting fairly far forward. As a general rule, I like to see 2-3 inches of the saddle exposed behind the rider’s behind. When I look at your video, I can barely see any saddle behind you. When you sit this far back on the saddle, the saddle will feel wide and will rub your inner thighs quite a bit. This can also contribute to saddle sores and other discomforts. I suggest trying to slide your hips forward a bit on the saddle and also moving your arm pads and extensions forward simultaneously so your upper body does not feel cramped. By sliding forward on the saddle, you are also going to be effectively lowering your seat height, so you’ll probably want to bump the seat height up a bit further when you try this.
In addition to sliding your hips forward on the seat, you may want to slide your seat itself forward a bit. It appears that it is mounted fairly far back on the saddle rails. By doing this, you will have to slide your aerobars out even further. Triathlon bikes differ from road bikes fundamentally in that the seat tube angle of a tri bike is more forward than on a road bike—the reason for this is to simultaneously maintain a biomechanically sound hip angle at the top of the pedal stroke while lowering the handlebar for better aerodynamics.
Should you follow all of my advice here, between sliding your hips forward on the seat and sliding the seat itself forward, we will have shifted your body significantly further forward on the bike, which will open up your hips quite a bit. You have two choices as to what you want to do with all this extra room in your hips at the top of the pedal stroke.
- Leave the height of the aero bars alone and simply enjoy a more open hip angle, which is probably more comfortable and sustainable.
- Lower the bars down, probably up to about 5mm lower for every 10mm forward you’ve brought your hips.