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Buying a bike that fits. Part 1

Written by Fiona May 06 2013

When I first got into road cycling riding I bought a second-hand bike from a pal who is about my height. I jumped on and rode off into a very happy place. But as the months went by I began to suffer aches and pains in all kinds of places. Longer distance bike rides gave me sore shoulders and neck, an aching lower back, a sore under carriage and twinges in my hamstrings.

A bike stretch too far

A bike stretch too far

I took advice from cycling pals and bought a shorter handlebar stem, moved the seat forward and generally tinkered with the set up. Things improved a bit but I never felt ultra comfy on rides of more than 40 miles.

First carbon bike

Then I bought my first carbon road bike. I measured my first bike, took a couple of cms off, called a couple of bike shops, told them my height and leg length and settled on a well-priced medium Giant Advanced TCR. At first it felt so, so much better to ride than my second hand Pinarello and so I imagined I’d ride off into the distance happy and comfortable.

But it turns out that this bike was too long for me. A long top tube saw me over-reaching and so the pain across my neck and shoulders became excruciating after about 40 or 50 miles. I swapped to a shorter handlebar stem, which helped a bit but made the front end of the bike quite twitchy. Then, one day, during a hard and hilly bike race I pushed too hard while stretched out too far and knackered my glute/hamstring. That was almost eight months ago and while I haven’t been back on the Giant, I still have the niggling leg injury.

Smaller for winter bike

The next bike to be bought would be smaller. I’d learned that much. I wanted a bike that would get me through miles of triathlon training in the Scottish winter. A friend suggested Canyon and this retailer helpfully has a sizing mechanism that takes all your body sizes (such as inside leg, torso length and arm reach) and tells you whether you’re a small, medium, large etc. This time I bought a small Canyon road bike. It immediately felt so much better to ride and over the winter I enjoyed shorter, harder training sessions as I built up to the World Age Group Triathlon qualifiers.

Sadly, as the spring came around and I began to head out for longer bike rides my old niggles – shoulder pain and tight hip flexors – started to give me discomfort again. This time I decided to take some expert advice. Rather than mess with the bike myself I headed to a bike shop that offers qualified bike fit. I never knew there could be so much to consider. Find out more about my Criterium Cycles Bike Fit in this blog.

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