One week ago, still in a jet lag haze after returning from Europe two days prior, I met with Colby Pearce for a bike fit. It was the bike fit of all bike fits.
I’ve had chronic back pain off and on for the last several years. Back in ’09, right around this time of year, it became so significant that it was debilitating. I spent the winter stretching and strengthening and was able to ride the 2010 season mostly pain free. Even the 2011 season was pain free.
Then, this past spring, I crashed hard on my mtn bike. Soon after that jarring incident, my back pain flared up again. Who knows for sure if they two are related or not, but the back pain was severe enough that it was time to do something about it. I started seeing a physical therapist for dry needling. There were days when I would guess I’d have 30 needles in my lower back, upper back and glutes. The dry needling alleviated some of the pain but it wasn’t enough to fix the problem. My PT told me repeatedly that she thought my back pain could mostly be attributed to my significant leg length difference and that a shim under my cleat would be most effective.
To know for sure, I would need a bike fit. I hesitated to schedule a bike fit because making big changes in the middle of the season isn’t ideal. There can be many side effects (ie, soreness, fatigue) associated with the changes, especially if they are significant enough. But, the back pain became too great to ignore so I scheduled the bike fit.
Finding the right person to do a bike fit in Boulder can be overwhelming because there are so many qualified people to choose from. I’ve had many bike fits over the years and I felt like something needed to be different this time from all the rest. From what I’d heard, Colby was more than qualified and came highly recommended.
From beginning to end of the 6 hour fit (yes, 6 hours!), Colby listened to every concern of mine, considered every nuance of my functional and anatomical imbalances and tried different options until we found the best solution. The biggest changes that we made to my fit wasn’t on the bike itself but with my shoes. Colby agreed with my PT that making changes to my shoes/cleats is where we might find the most effective way to counterbalance my leg length differences and therefore alleviate my back pain. After spending a considerable amount of time taking my cleats on and off to try different size shims, we eventually hit the nail on the head.
We made a few small changes to my position on my road bike and then moved on to my ‘cross bike. Same thing – fewer changes on the bike, more with the shoes.
Fitting shims to the sole of a road shoe is tedious but relatively easy. Fitting shims to the sole of a mtn bike shoe is both tedious and requires a little extra handiwork. Colby took my mtn bike shoes home with him to fit the shim and returned them to me a couple days later. He was concerned that I might have difficulty clipping into my pedals but everything worked like a charm.
I’ve been riding with the new fit for a week now and so far, so good. The true test is just around the corner when ‘cross season kicks into full swing with CrossVegas on the 19th. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that we did truly hit the nail on the head. If not, Colby and I will revisit some of the changes we made to figure out where we can tweak things until we get it just right.