Volume 1 / Issue 006
The newsletter for active cycling lifestyles
Volume 1, Issue 6 / ISSN 1945-1776
A Note from Kevin
Welcome to “Perfectly Fit,” our newsletter which is designed to help you get the most out of an active, cycling lifestyle. I have a team of pros from all over the world that will help me provide you with great info and a place for you to find out what you want to know. Your feedback is so important and we will make a place for you to be heard.
I am off to Dallas this weekend so look forward to seeing my friends up there. The location move to the Cooper Fitness Center studio cycling room was fantastic. People getting fittings in Dallas are in for a treat. The CFC also provides locker room facilities and showers and offers a free tour of the facility.
The Superdrome has racing on Saturday afternoon, but I don’t think my right knee is ready for the track just yet. I turn 52 this week and soon I will do a birthday ride “around town,” meaning the 100 mile loop around San Antonio on 1604. The last time I tried it I cramped and had a very unpleasant experience. My buddy Regina and I will have a great ride soon and I will report back.
This ezine will focus on some of the issues I have to deal with regarding fitting people and frame geometry. I guess I shouldn’t squawk too loudly about the production bike manufacturer’s penchant for making bikes ill fitting to people over 40, as I make a great living helping people design their own special bike.
Our Q&A section continues with questions about geometry.
Thanks again for letting me share with you a little about cycling. I respect your time and will strive to continue to make it worth it.
Our every other weekend trips to Dallas have to be modified in the next few weeks to accommodate demand. I am also developing fitting trips to Houston and other locations so stay tuned. If you want me to come to your city and do fittings for you and your colleagues, contact me and we can arrange it.
Dallas Fitting Trip, November 21st through November 25th. Fittings will be held in the Cooper Fitness Center in the spin classroom.
Dallas Fitting Trip, December 12th through December 16th. Fittings will be held in the Cooper Fitness Center in the spin classroom.
Thanks for your comments Glenn.
I love your Newsletter.
Your helping comments to those of us who are less than professional are outstanding! In addition, your coverage of Lance at Gruene was super as only a fellow cyclist could do & other fellow cyclist appreciate.
Keep up the great work. I enjoyed a couple of visits we had at KGS Bikes and a couple of Wheelmen rides we ended up doing together.
Feature Article – Bicycle Frame Geometry 101
I had been riding “stock” frame geometry for decades and the possibilities created by the combination of an unlimited fitting system and true custom geometry did not exist for me, and thus for you, until fairly recently. The time honored principles of Knee Over Pedal Spindle, (KOPS), the Lemond method, standover height, saddle height equal to hip height when standing next to the bike and scads of other techniques were developed to help people choose a bike size that would work for them.
We need to look at a bit of history because bikes were made quite differently in the 1970’s and before than they are today. The ‘70’s were a time where road bikes had a much different geometry, with seat angles in the 71-72 degree range. Additionally these bikes were built in half sizes and thus had as many as 12 sizes for one model! Today’s bikes have between 3 and 5 sizes so more people are forced to “fit” a bike that will be less than perfect.
The archetypical road bike in the 70’s was the Raleigh Team Professional, which was arguably one of the best and most comfortable racing bikes ever made. At this time there were two schools of racing as well, a European style which was centered on longer rides and races including mountains. An American style developed as well focusing on Criterium racing; shorter closed course races with lots of turns and sprints. The American bicycle manufacturers started producing bikes with 73-74 degree seat angles and much less saddle setback with the logic that our races were shorter and one didn’t need the comfort for a 125 mile race if we were racing for 50 miles.
This style of racing bike geometry became popular as Americans liked the more aggressive position and the young racers working in bike shops could sell these bikes. We now are in a time when most nice bikes are still designed for young professional racers, but are purchased by successful people over 40. I have seen my position change on the bike since I was able to use my setup bike to experiment. I found that the bars really needed to be higher and the saddle needed to be further aft to get the balance points right.
I also found that as I got older (and had some injuries on the way) that my tolerance for the more aggressive geometry was no longer possible. People who came into my studio tended to be folks who had no success getting fitted in other bicycle stores so I had more challenging cases on a day to day basis. I saw more and more people who could not get comfortable on their stock bikes and even had to abandon the respected WobbleNaught fitting system because it tied the individual to an existing bike.
The setup bike began to show me that when one truly was in balance that many good things started happening. First, saddle problems diminished and disappeared completely for most people. Second, low back pain went away. Third, hand numbness was diminished. Additionally people’s ability to ride greater distances improved and incredibly, their power and efficiency improved so they were faster. There was only one problem. The positions that I discovered turned out to be very close to the riding position people had on the old Raleigh Team Pro! It seems that what is old is new again.
It is a long uphill battle to convince production frame manufacturers to build bikes that “grown ups” can ride, but fortunately a handful of expert custom frame manufacturers exists now. I have great success in designing a custom frame based on real individual setup data and can work with these experts to create a frame that has predictable ride characteristics and will be the servant of the rider, not the other way around.
I still get a few people who are the right size for a stock frame but have found that at this level, almost everyone seems to want a well designed custom bike. People seem astonished when they learn that bike riding can be comfortable and much more enjoyable than before. The process is simple; get balanced on the bike first and put the handlebars in the right place second. The geometry of the bike can be a help or a hindrance to a rider and thankfully there are solutions that will allow anyone to be comfortable on a bike.
Until next time,
Q & A with Kevin
Kevin I have a question on stem length. I am a second year bike racer. When I’m in the drops the front hub is hidden under the handlebar. It feels good. I was told by one person that I should drop a plump line off my nose and it should be 1″ behind the bar. When I do it is direct center. So I would need a longer stem. I was also told I should put my elbow against the tip of the saddle and the fingers should be 1″ from the bar. I am several inches from the bar so I would need a shorter stem. Which method would you recommend?
This is a really good question and part of the answer is included in the main article on frame geometry. Specifically to your situation, this is dated theory. In a perfect world, everyone would be using stems between 100 mm to 120 mm, and would make that choice based on how they want the bike to feel. The stem length does play a big part in the steering and handling of a bike.
They would be balanced over the bottom bracket so they can jump out of the saddle easily, corner quickly and have minimal hand pressure on the bars. This assumes that the saddle setback is correct for you and the combination of seat angle and toptube length puts the steerer tube in the right place! There may be a relationship to your nose being behind the bars, but with the variations in modern handlebars, some having lots of reach and some having shorter reach, it is beyond me.
Bike fit is a science with lots of variables and many theories. I have come up with my theories over 25 years of study and still seem to be just scratching the surface. I use a “ground up” method of fitting which makes the handlebars the last thing to be adjusted. What I look for is the following: When you are properly seated on the saddle, you should be able to use the tops of the handlebars when going slowly, the brake hoods when in a fast paceline and the drops when bridging a gap or when at the front of a paceline, all with equal comfort. This means no stretching or pulling of your lower back or shoulders.
Remember you touch the bike in three places, the pedals, saddle and bars. Things in between these contact points have so many variables it is really hard to have a rule that covers everything. I recommend you seek balance on the bike and become aware of where you are out of balance so you can make the adjustments your bike can accommodate in order to ride more comfortably and faster.
How does one know to get re-fitted on their bike?
It would be nice to know the tell-tale signs that one must look for before a refitting needs to be performed. Thanks…
Since I have fitted you I know where you started from but thought I would answer in the EZine to share this info with others. There are two areas that will change over time that will cause you to have to make adjustments, and since you come to San Antonio often you may wish to get back on the setup bike. The setup bike has video analysis as well which makes a huge difference in visualization, synchronizing it with your kinesthetic sense.
The first area that may change is saddle height. Since we all generate power through the glutes, hamstrings and quads, all that energy has to go through your ankle to get to the pedal. The most common problem people have with efficiency is with their ankles. Pedaling “heel down” causes the calf muscles to work from a stretched position, which is not efficient. As an example, you would not climb stairs “heel down” nor do you pedal out of the saddle “heel down.” Your body uses the most efficient method to transfer energy in these situations, but for some reason we like to pedal “heel down” when seated.
What this means is, pedaling “heel down” or “toe down” makes a huge difference in the saddle height requirement. If you improve your pedaling form you may well need to raise the saddle as a “toe down” position will make the effective saddle height too short. If you start getting pain or a feeling of strain in front of your knees, at the top of the pedal stroke, the saddle may indeed be too low. Conversely if you feel stretched out too much at the bottom of the pedal stroke, if you feel pain in the back of your knees or your Achilles tendon, the saddle is too high.
You get the most power with the saddle as high as possible, but if it is too high, even 1 or 2 mm, it will cause problems. This is a critical area in our fittings that we work on to help you pedal better.
The second parameter that may change over time is the location of the handlebars. While your effective reach may not change much the location of the handlebars may change quite a bit, since your hands travel in an arc when you change the angle of your hips by bending over or sitting up. Since the hoods and the drops need to be useable, the bars may need to be moved down, in, or out, depending on the changes in your strength. This is much easier to find on the setup bike and while saddle height experiments are practical on your bicycle, the handlebar location is more challenging. The reason is, it takes quite a long time to replace a stem or change a spacer on the bike and your body may “forget” the old position, making it impossible to tell what was better.
If you are living a long way from San Antonio or Dallas I can consult with you over the phone and can work remotely if need be. The main thing is to keep your awareness of your position fine tuned so you can enjoy riding more and more.
Cooper Clinic - The world renowned Cooper Clinic is starting to create medical exams and services aimed at professional adults who ride bicycles.
Cooper Fitness Center – The Cooper Fitness Center has a special strength training introductory program for cyclists.
These links are to our frame builders and other providers that make KGS Bikes the premiere fitting studio and cycling boutique in the world:
Co-Motion Cycles – We’ve long enjoyed a reputation for building tandems that simply handle better.
Guru Bikes – Our approach is based on combining the best of both worlds: cutting edge technology delivered by hand and with an old school attention-to-detail.
Lew Racing – Lew Racing has achieved a following among racing cyclists because of the wheel’s tremendously high strength, low weight and the meticulous attention to engineered performance inherent in its design.
Parlee Cycles – Simply put, PARLEE frames are the best built and best riding carbon fiber frames available today, at any price. They are functional works of art.
Rocket 7 – Since 1999, Rocket7 has been handcrafting cycling shoes in the USA with the finest materials available.
Sem Custom Paint – Dave Sem is the best extreme detail painter in the world.
Serotta – Only Serottas have the extensive engineering of our proprietary Colorado Concept tubing design. It’s the foundation behind the unique ride of each and every Serotta.
Source Endurance – They are teaming with us to provide physiological testing, data analysis, training consultation and long-term coaching. They have two state-of-the art labs, one in Austin and one in San Marcus. We are proud to recommend them and invite you to check them out.
Storck Bicycles – Numerous innovations in frame and component design that are standard in the industry today were developed, patented, and introduced by Storck Bicycle.
Tacx – Home of the Fortius Virtual Reality trainer. This is the trainer component of our “Ultimate Spin Bike”. Tacx also makes many other fine products. KGS Bikes is an Authorized Tacx Testing Center.
Zinn Cycles – For more than a quarter of a century, Zinn Cycles have been working to make cycling more enjoyable for customers, and that commitment remains at the heart of everything they do.
About KGS Bikes and Kevin
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