New location

Come on over to my new site:

Going to be posting regularly there.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Sidi shoe and SPD-SL compatibility issue

Ran into a problem with newer model Sidi road shoes (the last few pairs I've had this issue with are the Sidi Genius 5) and SPD-SL pedal/cleat system.

I need to research this further, but my guess is that Sidi, in an effort to continue to reduce the shoe weight and especially to decrease the stack height of the sole, has begun making the sole of the shoes thinner.

I do believe that this is more of an issue with Shimano than Sidi -- I don't have this problem with the Sidi shoes when I use Look pedals or Speedplays.

With the SPD-SLs it's even a challenge to get the screws to "bite", when you try the first-time installation of the cleat -- they just don't seem long enough. When I tried a 12 mm screw, however, it bottomed out before it could ever tighten down on the cleat and washer. Once you do get them fastened with the 10 mm screws it turns out you get only about two (2) turns on the fasteners until they are "tight" -- definitely not very confidence inspiring. Once you do get them fastened, if you need to remove and refasten for any reason, it's much easier the second time as it seems that the threads, which are pressed into the sole of the shoe, "pull out" slightly and seat themselves further toward the cleat side of the sole, which is a fairly common occurance with many shoe threads.

I have heard that there are 11 mm fasteners available to fix the problem -- apparently they "bite" easily when you first put them on, but, based on how early the 10 mm screws bottom out, I can't imagine that the screws that are 1 mm longer are going to tighten very well on the cleat either. Both the 10 and 11 mm should hold initially, but cleat fasteners have a way of unwinding -- anyone who has had a cleat come off mid-ride can attest to this.

I don't have this problem with the Look Keo system at all -- the rectangular washers are thicker, and the entire setup seems to have more leeway built into it, as I am able to shim and wedge the Looks, and I can always find a proper fastener length that works. When I tried to place a varus wedge under one of the SPD-SL cleats, I could not find a length of fastener from my whole trove that was a workable length.

I thought about using a thicker rectangular washer (possibly just substitute in the Looks) and a longer fastener to see if that alows for a bit more thread overlap, but I'm not sure that the fasteners won't protrude below the cleat and 1. contact the ground first when you walk and 2. it may interfere with the engagement on the pedal.

If anyone else has some experience with this combination and has a different, successful solution, I'd appreciate any feedback.


Saturday, April 24, 2010

"How did you start doing bike fits?"

I get asked this one nearly every bike fit I do. I can't believe I haven't just written it down -- maybe it would save me from repeating it 200-300 times a year. Not that I mind terribly; after 14 years of doing 1-on-1 client interaction you get pretty good at talking while you work.

So here it goes:

I have been into bikes since I was about 5. I can remember my first bike -- it was a hand-me-down (of course, in a family of 7 kids) that was rattle-canned copper by my Dad. My Dad and my older brother, Mike, taught me to ride and for the next 8 years or so that is all I did; how I got around the neighborhood; how we played in the "court" (the cul de sac, for you non-Mid Westerners) up the street.

On through high school and then into college where I used my bike to commute to class and eventually got into triathlons.

I graduated from Physical Therapy school and advanced into longer distance triathlons (up to Ironman) and then quickly into mountain biking as well and eventually 24-hour racing in my early 20's.

As you can imagine, I attracted a lot of training partners who thought as I did, that long races were fun -- especially when you weren't gifted with natural speed. When you are a physical therapist, family and friends frequently pick your brain about aches and pains they have, and I was happy to help, since turnabout is fair play -- free investing, home buying, and tax advice easily offsets the time spent on PT stuff.

Often, a quick test or two will reveal the problem with some joint or muscle, but with my cycling friends, they often only had the problem when they were riding. The next logical step? Well, we need to see you on your bike!

There is started, and stayed, for a couple years -- I would just help out a friend or 10 with biomechanical issues on the bike.

Of course, I went searching for help, and any existing information on bike fitting. I read everything I could get my hands on -- some of it made sense, most of it didn't ("So if I'm sitting on the bike and look down, my front hub should be obscured by my handlebar? Why?").

I quickly realized that most of the "rules" were arbitrarily set, and very little research had actually been done to back any of it up. When I first started, the static bike fit system were popular -- Fit Kit, Wobblenaught and the like. In these systems you take measurements of your body, like arm, leg, torso measurements, and plug them into an equation which spits out your fit parameters. You input you body's measurements and the "system" tells you how far to place your bars from your seat, how far behind the bottom bracket your seat ought to be, etc. etc. etc.

As a PT, where we consider pain patterns, strength, flexibility, age, level of activity, and about 50 other factors, this was distinctly unsatisfying -- and as it turns out, mostly useless in actual bike fitting. This became glaringly obvious when my first commercial (non-friend helping) bike fits were from Wobblenaught and Fit Kit clients who came in wondering why they hurt so much when they rode. I then realized that there was a gap in the market -- there were people that had many troubles with their bike fit and wanted help, and it was clear that the static systems weren't going to help and therefore couldn't fill this niche.

I said, why couldn't I fill it? I started off slow, and part-time, doing perhaps 20-30 fits that first year. I kept growing each year, though, and it became more and more of my business. About 9 years later, I bought my Retul system which helped growth further, as I began to get many more clients from around the state and from out of state, since people were looking for someone that had a way to measure their mechanics dynamically and accurately, paired with having the knowledge and experience to apply all this information.

And so here I am. I'm doing anywhere from 200-250 bike fits a year, building custom bikes:

Oh yeah, forgot to include that - I saw about 5 or 6 years ago that some of the custom bikes my clients had were not made for them very well. Not very custom, which is a crime when you're paying $8000. There were aspects I certainly would have designed differently to tailor the bike to them better and their riding style -- so I did! It is truly a pleasure to build a machine that is meant for that one individual to ride comfortably, powerfully, and efficiently for hours and enjoy it.

So that's it; how I got started. It was a fairly organic and seamless process. I would bet there are maybe a dozen or so people in the U.S. that have the background I have, have been doing it for as long and have the equipment available to them that's necessary for the accuracy desired, and I bet every one of them shed the same amount of blood to get to where they are -- and that's the point. You can't short-cut this trade -- there is too much to know and (still) too little good information out there.

Happy pedaling


I'm back; SI joint Part 2; orthotics and cycling

Sorry again for the long delay -- this is such a busy time of year that I barely have time for anything besides bike fits and designing custom machines (and my family of course). This week, I purposely carved out some down time to catch my breath, and (gasp) even get out for a ride or two.

Of note recently: I had another client this past weekend with a clearly restricted SI joint (this time on the right side) and after a couple of tests, she too benefitted from treating that right side as a short right leg. A 3 mm leg length shim did the trick, and really allowed her mechanics to even out and she was sitting more equally on her seat as well. I will post the Retul files once I doctor them to block out her name, etc.

I've also had further reinforcement of my long held belief that custom orthotics do a very poor job of controlling lower extremity mechanics in cycling. I get a number of clients that have orthotics in their cycling shoes, and I routinely test them on the infrared with the orthotics as normal, and then without orthotics but with cleat wedges/shims as needed. I have never had a pair of orthotics do as good a job at controlling the mechanics as the cleat adjustments.

Part of the reason for this is that most people don't have two sets of orthotics made -- they have one set for walking/running made (because they're expensive). Walking/running orthotics WILL NOT help in cycling. They might not harm anything drastically, but they won't help -- the mechanics of running/walking and cycling have very little to do with one another. You can almost say they are opposite mechanical events of each other. Again, the orthotics may not cause harm, and they may even be more comfortable to the foot itself, because of the support it provides, but I have not found them to correct for much past that.

Even second sets of orthotics made (supposedly) for cycling have faired very poorly. My personal guess on this one is that most people making orthotics are not familiar with the mechanics of cycling. These health care professionals are educated in the context of gait training and evaluation. Walking is studying ad nauseum -- the micro-events that occur to the muscles during swing and stance phase, etc. (And, incidentally, they are often very good at assessing gait.) Some programs do not even spend a lot of time on running. The programs will acknowledge that there are significant differences between walking and running, however they often do not spend a lot of time on it. And cycling? Effectively "none" is my educated guess.

So my advice is to not spend another $200-$500 on cycling orthotics, when $30-$40 (max) of cleat wedges and shims is much more effective.

Anyhow, I will post some files to show this in a little bit, and I am making a concerted effort to post more regularly.

Stay tuned.