It’s either you or the bike!

By Helen, a grateful guinea pig. As may have been mentioned else where on this blog, Jo is a bit of an expert in all things bikes and moreover she is a bit of an expert in human physiology. In fact when she is not racing for our team she works as a corrective and holistic fitness coach.

Jo has seen me riding all year and noted that there were some less-than-professional looking riding positions that I have been adopting and she couldn’t help but wonder whether it was me or the bike?

Me or the bike? I couldn't say.

We all know November is a great month for growing a beard, but it is also perfect for making changes to riding positions and equipment so that you storm into spring racing.

Being a willing and available test animal, Jo’s challenge was to see how well she and Mal, bike-fitter at Le Beau Velo, could fit me on my bike. Between them, they bring together the best understanding of positioning for efficient bike riding from bike set-up and biomechanical points of view.

Mal can fit you either on your existing frame to the best position possible or a tailor-made frame designed to meet your unique needs as a rider, whereas Jo can advise you on exercises to strengthen or loosen muscles so that you achieve the best riding position you possibly can. Then presumably you are ready to take on the pros!

I have never had a bike fit before and didn’t know what to expect. Having ridden quite a bit this year, with no niggling aches or pains, I assumed my position was pretty good, still I jumped at the chance to see how compatible the bike and I really are.

Initial thoughts:

Helen: Frame may be a fraction too big, but overall I have a good set up. I’ve ridden around 10,000 miles this year with no problems so it must be pretty good.

Jo and Mal: ‘Urgh! No, that is awful!’ came the unanimous expert verdict.

Jo:  Helen looks like a chopper on a bike! Why is that?

Mal: This is frustrating to watch! – Plenty of commitment, clearly dedicated but this position represents a blockage to achieving her potential.  Plenty of scope for improvement…let’s get to work!

 Sometimes I wonder about the wisdom of ‘what you don’t know won’t hurt you’.

Jo quickly grasped the situation and began measuring me. After measuring my pelvic rotation with some giant plastic earwig pincers and lots of other flexibility measures, it seems that my body is coping well with my hereditary skeletal composition (I have had it since an early age) and Jo seemed pleased: “good for a cyclist.”

Yes, I do feel silly, but at least my arms are the same length.

Mal then set about taking my key measurements in order to set up a bike perfectly.


H: I am even shorter than I thought! And heavier! Less Dani King, more Danny De Vito. This is not good. It was a relief to learn that my arms are about even. As for inner leg measurement, you can see for yourself.

Yeah I know what you are thinking - pretty impressive!

J:  Just as I thought, Helen is in plenty good shape to get into a much better position.

M: Nothing unusual – just not enough due diligence and care in initially taking account of a rider’s specific requirements at the outset has led to this situation.  Good, I think I can really help make a difference.

Mal put the numbers into the magic number cruncher, which is almost certainly something like this:  (The machine above is for illustrative purposes only, and is not the actual machine Mal uses. No way Carol Leader would give this up. Watch the full 10 mins though if you have time and penchant for early 80’s kids TV.)

5 mins later, Mal returned with a sheet of A4 and my ideal measurements for my existing bike. Apparently I’m ‘an interesting case’ and factory-mades are not designed for funny lookin’ folk like me, so my ideal set up involves getting a custom-made frame (perhaps I’d better get buskin’). However through the measurements taken, Mal was able to suggest adaptations that could be made to my bike. He made some changes there and then, others require me buying some small parts to get closer to the ideal, this will cost me around £30, which I think is well worth it.

Number cruncher spits out measurements for my ideal bike

As a point of comparison, Mal set up the jig to my ideal settings.


H: Just a minor tweak on the bike and I already feel better. But then I sat on the jig – completely different. I naturally gravitated towards the drops and my pedal stroke just felt more fluid. What a difference a perfect fit makes!

J:  Nothing more for me to do here. Helen looks faster. Smaller frontal area and all that power – sh*t what have I done?!

M: Everything I hoped would happen, did happen.  Now she looks fluid and purposeful on a bike.


H: I thought I was set up correctly, just goes to show how wrong I was. Most of the people I know who have been for a bike fit have done it because they have had aches or pains, I am glad I have been fitted before I have done any damage. I am really excited to see if my new position changes how I feel on a ride. Maybe this will give me that extra power that I have been looking for!

J: Interesting. In this case it’s all about the bike, not the body. That’s pretty unusual. Perhaps it is more common for women than men. Interesting. (Scratching imaginary professor beard.)

M:  Success=99% Perspiration+1%Inspiration – I believe Helen wants to take the next step in her cycling development and has left some space in her regime for genuine feedback that could transform her hard work.  For her, there’s scope to learn off the bike as well as riding hard on the bike.  My experience is that the majority of riders overlook the performance value that a good bike fit can offer and the body/bike relationship gets neglected. I think Helen will now feel more confident about her position, will enjoy riding more and see an improvement in her performance.

I promise you that as soon as Steven Spielberg has finished editing I will add in a film of before and after so you can see the difference for yourselves. For now it is a case of COMING TO A BLOG NEAR YOU SOON…..

To find out more or to book an bike fitting appointment at Le Beau Velo, you can contact Mal on 0203 239 2311.


2 thoughts on “It’s either you or the bike!

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