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Keener Hasn't Lost His Fitting Touch

Published August 7, 2009

I'm working one day a week on the sales floor this summer. I try to sneak in as many bike-fitting episodes as I can. There’s nothing more fascinating than each individual cyclist and how they relate to their bicycle.

I had a business called KeenerFits back in ’85-’86. The store I managed, The Bicycle Outfitter in Los Altos, CA bought one of the first FitKits in 1981, and after I left retail, I kept doing fittings.

Fitting has come a long way since those days. Now I confine myself to advising beginner-to-intermediate cyclists and leave the micro-racer fits to the experts.

I’m a big believer in talking to fit-ees about posture and pedaling technique in the course of a fitting. The old adage, “Once you learn to ride a bike, you never forget how” breaks down when a rider is spending 4, 5, 6 hours in the saddle.

A fifty-something woman came in last week with a Trek Pilot for a fitting. Something was amiss. It looked to be about the right size for her, but there was about two inches of seatpost showing.

I was relieved that the regular fitter, a fit-and-fast twenty-something, was busy with a two-bike sale. I figured I could be more of a help in sorting out her problem than he could.

I put her bike up on the trainer and she climbed on. The seat was a couple inches too low. “They had it up way higher when I left the shop, but I had to move it down because I couldn’t reach the ground,” she told me.

I said, “Let’s get it in the right place for best pedaling efficiency, then we’ll go out in the parking lot, you can ride it, and we’ll talk about your reach to the ground.”

So we made the adjustments, went out for a test ride. It turned out that it hadn’t occurred to her to come down off the seat when she stopped. So we practiced stopping and starting that way for a few minutes.

Now the Moment of Truth: “So would you like to leave the seat where we have it now, or move it down some?” I was relieved to hear her say, “Let’s leave it here, it feels much better to pedal with it up higher.”

Every cyclist needs help to get faster or have more fun, whatever their priorities are. You can never go wrong assuming that they didn’t forget how to ride, they just never learned it all in the first place!

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