Fits by Paul partners with Endurance Performance Training Centers

I started working at Endurance Performance seven years ago as a cycling instructor, bringing my experience and knowledge of racing and riding to their cycling classes and learning a lot along the way from many kind folks. Three years ago I started the Fits by Paul brand to fill a needed niche in the world of bike fitting: The Mobile Fit….removing the time and hassle of traveling to a fitter. Thanks to the greatest clients and friends anyone could hope to have Fits by Paul had tremendous support from the beginning and is successful beyond what I had envisioned.

Fast forward to today and I am a managing partner at Endurance Performance Training Center and have a complete fit studio inside the center. The fit studio includes:
-Retul, the gold standard when it comes to bike fitting technology featuring motion capture precision with angular and linear measurement analysis.
-Fits by Paul inventory featuring products I personally test and use. Vendors include Ritchey, Fizik, 3T, Selle San Marco, Selle Italia, ISM, Brooks and Catlike.

If we’re thoughtful about scheduling your fit we can even have you jump into an eCycling class to try out your new position. eCycling and Endurance are celebrating ten years of changing the way people train for endurance sports. To learn more about Endurance Performance click here.

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What Saddle Do You Recommend?

Its a question I get from nearly every client over the course of an appointment. Its an easy enough question, on the surface at least. Without fail my stock answer always is “The one that feels good to you.” Indeed its an obvious answer but opens up perhaps the most broad and technical questions of a bike fit and an ensuing discussion that enlightens and educates the client.

When I began riding seriously, and racing, there were just a few saddles available, all of which had been around for years. Some of these saddles where bred out of tradition and some from select rider feedback. The selection, only a few dozen, compared to the tens of thousands of riders, seemed paltry. Of course we didn’t know then what we know today.

Fast forward nearly three decades and the technology, thought and engineering in the saddle industry seems to have caught up with the demand and need of the sport. The downside is a virtual sea of saddles with overwhelming marketing and sometimes inexperienced or untrained shop employees unable to speak to the benefits of each saddle. So what to do?

As I tell all of my clients, your saddle will be “The one that feels good to you.” Reading endless reviews about how a saddle feels is the same as reading how a bike rides. It probably helps but you have to get out and take the bike for a ride to see how you like it. You simply have to try saddles.  Before doing that I urge you to ask the following questions:

  • How is my current saddle uncomfortable?
  • When does this discomfort occur?
  • What would I like a new saddle to accomplish?

A cornerstone of my personal fit philosophy is comfort. If you are not comfortable on your bike your motivation to ride will wane. Your saddle serves as the primary contact point between you and your bike. The majority of your weight, and time, will be spent on your saddle. Comfort in the saddle translates to an enjoyable, productive ride. Its these issues that lead to the saddle being a paramount piece of equipment for your riding.

As I was forming my business I quickly found that I had access to everything in the bike industry. Indeed, vendors clamor to get their wares in the hands of the people in the industry who have close contact to consumers. Despite access to thousands of items, saddles included, I made the conscious decision early on to provide my clients only the items I felt would provide them value and are of the highest quality and fabrication available. Great margins and deep discounts do not dictate what I offer my clients. Quality does.

All of my saddles have been personally tested and evaluated to meet my standards. I offer an array of saddles that are designed for distinct biking disciplines. I also offer clients the option of testing as many saddles as they want, for as long as they want. Its the only real way to determine what saddle works for you. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Riding a saddle around a parking lot doesn’t provide the rider with enough information to make a decision. If you are working with someone who says otherwise I suggest you take your business elsewhere. You have to take the saddle out for a few rides. Fatigue, pelvic rotation, climbing, descending….they all find you perched atop your saddle in a different position. Moving from your tops to your hoods to your drops necessitates rotating your hips. Its this rotation that increases or decreases the width of your ischial tuberosity, or sitting bones. Moving fore and aft greatly changes the width of the saddle. Do you spend much of the time perched on the nose of the saddle? A rider needs to experience how a new saddle feels under these circumstances.

Here are a few of the saddle vendors I believe in and stock.

Fizik:

These saddles have been around for a few years and were quickly adopted by the pro peloton. They come in a variety of widths and lengths. Fizik’s primary focus on a riders’ flexibility has driven their saddle design, width and length. They have recently introduced a perenium cutout, termed their “Versus” line, in all of their saddle shapes. This line, like their original saddles, has rapidly gained many fans.

ISM:

Short for Ideal Saddle Modification. These saddles have been around for over a decade and sport a distinct two pronged nose. The saddle design targets increased blood flow and perineal comfort. Tested via pressure mapping in conjunction with a noted urologist these saddles have found a wide audience in the world of triathlon and are also being seen in road cycling circles.

Selle San Marco:

Formed in 1935 this company began manufacturing bicycle saddles in 1940. Among their saddles are the revered Concor, perhaps the most ridden saddle in the professional peloton. Evolution has been at the core of Selle San Marco. After personally riding the Fizik Arione for years I now spend my time perched atop the “Zoncolon”.

I encourage anyone who has been frustrated by never being comfortable in their saddle to not give up. Finding a knowledgable resource is key. All of my saddles are available for demo. And remember, moving from one saddle to the next is a little trickier than simply affixing the new saddle. Stack height, width, length and shape can vary widely among saddles. You should expect your fit to remain unchanged when a new saddle is affixed to your bike. This takes a few minutes but is the only way to go.

Here’s what you can expect when you demo one of my saddles:

  • Saddle demo installations are scheduled for thirty minutes.
  • No labor charged for the appointment.
  • Bring cycling kit with you. You’ll be pedaling atop a trainer.
  • Saddle deposit required. Deposit credited towards final saddle purchase.
  • Try as many saddles as you like.
  • Bring thoughtful questions

Have a great ride!

-paul

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Can Cleat Placement Be A Little Too Over Thought?

or……Why Are Cleats Important?
or……Did You Just Undo Your Bike Fit?

The topic of cleats seems to be gaining momentum. As I chat with friends on rides, clients during fittings or drop into my local bike shop the discussion is becoming more and more prevalent….and with good reason.

Consider the equation: 3 hour bike ride = 15,000 pedal revolutions.

Cycling is a non-impact exercise and is indeed often prescribed by physicians to long-time runners as an activity that can give aching joints and knees much needed rest. I’ve done countless fits on former runners, many of which complain of niggling pain here and there as it relates to their knees. Look at those numbers again and think about who put your cleats on. Perhaps a novice bike shop employee who may have had no thought, methodology or training to do so, threw them on and off you went. When I hear these stories it gives me pause and has me scratching my head. The cleat set is such an integral and crucial part of the fit yet its often overlooked. Not having your cleats set thoughtfully and deliberately by a professional or at least someone knowledgable could very well set you up for an uncomfortable fit and an all-together awful experience on your bike.

How then does one go about setting cleats? What do I look for and what’s correct? Cleat placement has three basic aspects:
1 Longitudinal placement…along the length of the shoe
2 Lateral placement…along the width of the shoe
3 Rotational positioning….the rotation of the cleat

Lets look at the first point, longitudinal placement. This is perhaps the most discussed aspect of cleat positioning in the industry and certainly one for which there is the most research conducted. Traditional methodology, of which I’ve yet to find any substantial thought or scientific logic, positions the riders first metatarsal joint directly over the pedal spindle. Why? I’ve little idea as it relates to bike fit aside from the simple geometry of the bike, crank arms and a rider’s foot size and the effort to eliminate “toe overlap”. This is the niggling issue of turning the wheel to such extent that the front tire touches the end of your foot when the cranks are roughly parallel with the horizon. If this served as the rational for any fitter to place your cleats such that this doesn’t happen I do have an issue with that. First, this placement of the cleat..moving them forward towards the toes in order to position the foot rearward may have accomplished the goal of accommodating for toe overlap but this is an exception scenario. How often does toe overlap really occur? Yes, I understand it can be alarming and can actually cause a fall if not corrected quickly but please read further to learn why I just cannot fathom cleat location being dictated by the toe overlap problem.

The primary muscle groups that have, and always will, power a standard upright bike are the gluteus and quads. The lower leg muscles, more dominant being the calves, have never been a huge contributor to power the bike. To be clear, they do help. Indeed beautiful “ankling” has long been a great attribute of many successful professional and amateur cyclists. Repetitive and steady flexion and extension of the ankle joint provides the necessary movement of the foot needed to reduce the circumference the femur travels. In a nutshell: its an assist. Moving cleats forward on the shoe, equal to or beyond the first metatarsal joint will increase the demand for flexion and extension of the ankle joint. It can also cause harm to the achilles tendon.

In an interesting study from Ball State University’s Biomechanics Laboratory the longitudinal placement of cleats was thoroughly evaluated. The initial thought of the study was that longitudinal cleat placement effected power. A number of tests with solid controls were conducted that actually showed power was not impacted by cleat placement. Regardless of the longitudinal location of the cleat power was not effected. What they did find was as the cleat was moved further and further rearward the efficiency of the pedal stroke subsequently increased. Moving the rider’s foot further over the pedal netted good efficiency. I was very happy to find this study in my research. It validated my theory that decreasing the flexion and extension of the ankle joint, the demand to “ankle”, increases efficiency in the pedal stroke. I have been placing mine and my client’s cleats at least 5mm behind their first metatarsal for years based on my own personal experience and theory on longitudinal placement. I’ve also listened closely to my client’s feedback when it comes to my cleat settings, which has been almost entirely positive.

Further work as been done in the field of longitudinal cleat placement by Gotz Heine. He is the pioneer of “arch cleating”. Thats right, affixing cleats to the mid-sole or arch area of the shoe. He’s even developed his own proprietary shoe for such cleat placement. I’ve read much about Mr. Heine’s work and largely agree that it is certainly a more efficient cleat placement than the simple “first metatarsal” method. What I am not sold on is the application of such cleating. For example, I identify myself as a climber and find myself out of the saddle a large part of the time while climbing. The mere thought of doing so with mid-sole cleating begs the question if its right for that scenario. Not being able to drop the heel and subsequently push the pedal down and back intuitively would sacrifice power and leverage when out of the saddle. That aside I’ve read a great deal about Mr. Heine’s work…couple that with my client’s feedback and the Ball State University study and arch cleating is a very compelling proposition!

Lateral placement (stance or Q-Factor) is the second aspect of a cleat set and perhaps the least critical of the three coordinates, albeit still crucial. For some riders it is merely an exercise in moving the foot as far away from the crank arm as possible to avoid brushing it with the shoe on every pedal stroke. Some riders may even require pedal spacers to achieve correct lateral placement. For other riders with smaller feet a more precise orientation can be achieved with the best location allowing the knees to track in parallel line with the hip and foot, an ideal scenario I try to achieve with every rider.

Correct rotational alignment is the last positional aspect and will allow the foot to move freely and take full advantage of cleat systems that allow float. There are a number of cleat alignment systems on the market but I choose to use a simple laser and the human eye, drawing it off the center of the cleat and running the line along the length of the shoe. Proper rotation calls for the cleat to be aligned anywhere from 5mm to well over 1cm from the center of the shoe to the outer edge of the heel when looking at the shoe’s sole. How much off center exactly? Well….it depends on a number of things including the size of the rider’s foot, how tall the rider is and what type of pedal/cleat system they are using. The other aspect that can be a sticky wicket is hip alignment. It is rare for a rider to sit square in the saddle. When rider’s sit with one hip forward of the other it almost always results in an effective leg length discrepancy and forces the rider to sit crooked in the saddle. Ever wonder why one of your knees is always closer to your top tube than the other? Its likely your hip alignment. “Good information Paul but what does that have to do with my cleats?” Well….set the rotation incorrectly based on your needs and you just might perpetually find yourself nearly unclipping one or both of your pedals, at the least forcing the pedal spring mechanism to its furthest reach. You can address this through proper cleat rotation and/or going to a cleat/pedal system that allows for more float. Either way it takes an experienced fitter to identify and prescript for hip alignment issues.

Of course the devil is in the details when it comes to setting cleats. On any cleat set I do, even a la carte cleat appointments, I insist on seeing the client on the bike pedaling. It adds substantial time and effort to the appointment but I’ve yet to engineer another method of checking my work.

As a professional fitter I feel its my job, and part of what the client is paying for, to explain exactly what I am doing throughout a fitting appointment….this includes setting the cleats. What is my thought process and what am I trying to accomplish. Of course I am amenable to editing the boring minutia for clients upon request….it can be very geeky, yawn inducing material…I get that. That is in part why this post is ending. I am sure there are many questions swirling about cleats…

What type of pedal do you suggest? Do I need to shim one of my shoes? Do I need to wedge my shoes? What degree of float do I need? My intent of this blog is to educate cyclists as much as possible on the art and science of fitting. Unfortunately the scope of questions and level of detail in the fitting process makes the subject incredibly complicated and expansive. Look for more digestible, non-sleep inducing bite size morsels of posts on this blog in the future. And by all means if there’s a topic you’d like me to talk about let me know.

Until then, Have a great ride.

-paul

References:
Ball State University Study
Steve Hogg Blog referencing Gotz Heine

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Welcome to my blog

As you can see I have a new website. I strived for a clean, simple look that clearly communicates a sense of myself and my work. An important aspect of my site is this blog. Please check back frequently for my updates. You’ll find interesting posts regarding everything fit and bike related.

Have a great ride!

-paul

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