Saturday, June 16, 2007

Millimeters


Most days this summer (which has been all of five days for me) I've been riding with The Sweetie to work in the AMs. He's only got a six-mile commute into downtown so I get a 10-12-miler in before heading home to join my classes online. It's been a nice way to start my "work" day, wakes me up, gets me breathing. Often I do the same at the end of the day, but with this week's 90-degree days, morning has been the time to ride.

The other day on the way home I felt an ache on the back of my left leg behind my knee, a subtle reminder of the slight ache that started last Saturday in the hills of WI did I mention I hit 51 that day? I got off and dug for my multi-tool to make what amounted to be about a three-millimeter adjustment in my seat height.

Relief.

In my early cycling days I had a hybrid that I just couldn't get set up right. I visited the PT, did my exercises, learned a bunch about fit, adjusted what I could. Considering I was just getting back into cycling I had wheeled the bike as-is out of the LBS yep, this feels good! can I have wider bars???, fine tuning came months later and meant the adjustments involved a new seat you mean, I just take off the seat that came with it? do they buy it back? and a longer stem so THIS one just goes into a drawer?? along with different toe cages that allowed my foot a bit more movement. After finding I liked doing some distance, I also found my lower back complaining...so I got aero bars...put 'em on the hybrid yep so I could finally stretch out. I read magazines and learned about the relationship between knees, cranks and bottom brackets. I kept stats: miles and average speeds. They increased by leaps and bounds each season. I read about the slight changes one must make when adjusting anything, especially seat height, but that went by the wayside the day I'd had it and yanked my seat up in frustration and finally felt relief. Fine-tuning wasn't so fine -- changes were in huge increments, inches even.

When I got the first road ride, at 21 lbs., I was riding air and air didn't need as many adjustments. Since I knew more that time around, LBS and I spent more time setting it up. In the weeks after riding away from the shop I got a women's specific road saddle with longer rails and dialed it in. Early on, I changed-out the stem from a 110 to a 100. Fine-tuning this time around was in centimeters.

That same bicycle took me through most of my racing years. I took and then taught a beginning racing skills class. I kept stats on my training: miles, average speeds, routes, numbers, grades, intensity, fatigue, attitude. Without realizing it I was filing away other sorts of stats as well: the dynamics of riding with a tight group, the patterns of body language in teammates and opponents, and the sounds of purpose and fake-out. I used to take hills with a straining grip on the bars until coach said just try it with your hands here instead. I learned the subtleties. I got Betty which was a perfect fit almost from the get-go. With the amount I was training and learning, any adjustment in fit or technique had the potential to send something else out of whack or edge me away from being a strong rider toward being a good rider. Fine tuning was subtle -- changes were in millimeters.

I've been back to recreational riding and grocery getting for awhile now, but it's different than it was in '92 on the hybrid. I don't keep stats. After a couple summers without, I finally replaced the cyclo-computer that I lost, but I didn't zero it out this past January...and I regularly ride a bicycle or two that don't have one at all. If asked how many miles I've racked-up so far this year I couldn't even hazard a guess. What's my resting HR these days? Dunno. My longest ride this season? I'm at a loss. Cadence? Please. Those are practically inches.

Last weekend a cycling friend told me she was working on pedaling more efficiently and asked if I had any suggestions. She's a strong rider, but not a good rider...a little squirrely in a paceline, a bit of side-to-side movement when she pedals.

Well, first you need to know about millimeters, I said.

- The Bag's racing was always measured with a yardstick!

5 comments:

Alberto said...

Good, good post! Really. I think I need to change my saddle but they don't take the replacements back, do they? And how do you know the new one will be better? Oh, this is hard, isn't it?

C. P. said...

As always, TOB, so very well said.

The Old Bag said...

Alberto -- most times it's worth the plunge. Good to hear from you.

CP -- thanks! I'm guessing you're probably working in nanometers.

sydney_b said...

3 mm for a big change. It never ceases to surprise me how little it takes to improve the ride or the performance sometimes.

gwadzilla said...

happy birthday...

bike fit is a funny thing

one day I will get on a bike that fits

most bikes just make sense to me at the time

but I am not sure if I have found one that fits

but... some have made more sense than others