Iv suffered a strange radiating neural pain in my left leg for around 14 months now. It started as a strange hamstring-like twinge, then moved down to my calf, then manifested itself in a numb foot and a general feeling of discomfort right the way from my hip joint down to my toes. Having being in physiotherapy for quite a few months, they suspected the problem was actually due to disc issues in my L4/L5 spinal section, that was putting pressure on the main sciatic nerve, and in turn creating these incredibly painful, but phantom, leg pains. Its worth noting a later MRI indeed confirmed these issues.
So after around 8 weeks off the bike due to work commitments during the summer, I returned wanting to address my on-bike comfort issues. I was determined to tweak my position and get some advice so that I can alleviate as much discomfort in my leg as I can and ensure Im getting the most possible out of my riding.
So with this in mind I decided after reading a few glowing reviews of the Cadence Sport bike fit I would like to give it a punt. The price comes in at £100, which seems pretty good for a bike fit, I believe Specialized BG fits are a shade more expensive, with a full Retul system fit proving an even bigger hit on the wallet. The great part about the price, is that Adrian is currently doing an offer to which I snapped up, offering not just a comprehensive dynamic bike fit, but also a pair of customized heat-moldable Sidas footbeds to boot (insoles on their own weigh in at £40, so its a cracking deal on paper).
For those of you not familiar with Adrain Timmis, Cadence Sport head honcho, id suggest you should have supreme confidence in his advice and fitting, given that Adrian is an ex-pro of massive pedigree, riding for the iconic Z-Peugeot team and also Raleigh-Banana. His palmares includes finishing the Tour de France, racing epic classic such as Gent-Welgevem, Amstel Gold, winning stages of the Milk Race and even Cross & MTB wins at national level. He has worked as masseurs for national teams and coaches to a really high level, currently coaching pedigree riders like Graham Briggs on Rapha Condor Sharp.
The bike fits take place at Adrian's home just off the A38 near Derby. Having been up visiting my folks in Adrian's old training ground of Sheffield, I found a window in my diary that looked perfect to head and have the fit. The sat-nav guided me there with great ease, unlike the traffic which seemed to taunt me (maybe I just noticed it more as a cyclist and very-rarely car driver).
Adrian greeted me and we headed into the working area. A turbo was set up, with all manner of exciting insoles, cleats, saddles and other goodies attached up on the wall. I couldn't help noticing a wicked photo on the wall of him on the Champs d'Elysée with non other than the legend Fignon in the frame... instantly impressed :-)
First we sat down and had a good old natter, about my riding, my back/leg issues and Adrian's unfortunate collarbone incident. I instantly felt at ease and as if I was catching up with an old cycling buddy, supping coffee whilst eagerly listening to riding tales.
Firstly I had my Sidas moulded insoles made up. Adrian recently supplied the very same insoles to two of my favorite riders, the very classy Downing brothers. So I guess what works for the big boys might actually help me a little! The insoles are constructed of a few different pieces of material, differing in density and thickness. They were laid on some strange inflatable platform and I had to assume a funny ski like stance to allow them to corrrectly mould to the riding shape of my feet. The stand then inflated and deflated, perfectly shaping the insoles to the contours of my feet, ensuring they had the fit of a dainty slipper. Check Deano out having them done, looking ever the pro!
I purchased after market oven-moulded insoles from SOLE at the beginning of 2010, and I have to say they were the biggest waste of £35 I could have imagines. They were hard, felt very uncomfortable and worst of all, added so much thickness to my sidi's that they actually caused them to be far too small for me, crushing my feet. So its fair to say I didn't expect much from these insoles.... and I have to say I couldn't have been more in the wrong. Adrian told me they seemed to fit Sidi's really well. They slipped into my Genius 6.6 shoes like a dream, being super low profile they made no difference to the fit. The top of the insole is made out of some kind of soft suede like material, and I have to say for how hard the underside felt to touch, they were extremely plush when pedaling in them. I was so impressed with them, so much so that I transfer the insoles out into my mtb SPD Sidi's when commuting throughout the week.
So with the insoles in place our attention turned to the cleats. I ride Speedplay Zero pedals, meaning I have free float on my cleats, a great feature should you a) know how to tune it or b) need it in the first place! I showed Adrian that I had a tendency to quite badly over pronate on both feet, a little more so on the left. He removed the cleats and wedged them with a LeMond purple wedge, aligning my knee and hip more-so.
I then took to the trainer and warned Adrian that my right leg would go crazy at the bottom of the pedal stroke, its something I became acutely aware of on the Hell Of The North ride, when someone pointed out to my friend riding behind that my right foot was 'Going Mental'. It did indeed go berserk at the bottom of the stroke, twisting in a really OTT manner. This was actually solved by locking out the float on my right leg completely. After sorting the cleat into its natural position, by locking out the float my strange little 'disco-dance' of my ankle was completely eliminated. The float was then adjusted on my left leg (weirdly have quite a bit on the left in contrast to the locked out right leg) and my pedaling definitely seemed less labored and a little smoother.
Adrian then got out some big protractor-looking type things and set up some super cool looking lasers shining in lines across my knees, in order to track angles. My saddle fore/aft was moved forward and conversely my saddle was raised almost 2 centimeters. Things were starting to fall into place now, and it definitely felt a more natural position.
My handlebar tape was then unravelled and then and Adrian moved my shifters up the handlebars. This was probably one of the biggest revelation to me. Suddenly I found I wasn't outstretched in the bars at all, and holding the hoods was such a comfortable position. It really did make a massive difference, and certainly in conjunction with sorting out my pedaling, it really felt like another part of the jigsaw falling into place.
Adrian warned me not to overdo it on the bike and to ease into the new position with more smaller rides to allow my body to adjust to the changes he implemented. The next day I went out for a very relaxed 50k or so. The feeling was incredibly. I found myself pedaling with a much needed efficiency, and the power I was able to turn in the gears was significantly improved from before I visited.
I was massively impressed for the price paid. I paid more than this for another fitting service in London, which my cleats were adjusted beautifully, but several key issues on my bike weren't looked at. I think the value is incredible when you factor in the insoles and the comfort they will provide. I mean £100 these days is what we would happily throw away on a nice winter cycling jersey, so why not use that money to invest and enhance your comfort and enjoyment on the bike.
Adrian can be found online on twitter, his website Cadence Sport, and also he is offering some excellent training tips and advice on his new Cadence Blog. Its not often you can get fitted by someone who knows so much about their craft because they rode at the highest level themselves, and id heartily recommend the fitting service for riders of all levels, whether your seeking more power for racing, or like myself, more comfort on those longer weekend chaingangs.