By Christopher Cudworth
Sometimes the threads of destiny are thin and tenuous. Other times they appear in the signature of an email.
Such was the case when the announcement for a local group ride showed up in my Inbox. At the bottom of the email appeared the words: Karrie Ozyuk. Certified Master BG FIT Technician.
I’d met Karrie several years ago when she ran a different bike shop closer to my home. Her new shop in Crystal Lake, Illinois is called Lucky Brake, and the group ride from there was a little too far away to attend.
But the bike fitting part of her communication intrigued me. I remembered from talking with Karrie a few years ago that she had an eye for detail and an obvious respect for cyclists of all types. So I called her up and scheduled a bike fitting.
When I rolled my Felt 4C into the shop she asked, “How’d you hear about me again?”
“Your email signature,” I laughed. “Sometimes it’s the little things that count. Good marketing.”
She spent time interviewing me about riding habits and any problems on the bike. Then she put me through a happy little battery of tests to test for physical flaws. I knew she would tell me I’m a little crooked due to a longer leg. The pedorthist Shelley Simmering with whom I consulted on orthotics told me the same thing.
Karrie identified that longer leg and then her mind went to work figuring out how that was going to affect my position on the bike. It only makes sense that when you have a longer leg your pedaling and position on the seat is going to be affected.
And that’s exactly why I went for a bike fitting. You can’t figure these things out on your own. I can’t, anyway. One should much prefer the objective eye of a trained bike fitter for the plain reason that you can’t effectively measure your own physical flaws. It’s that simple.
Promises made and kept
I’d quizzed Karrie on what was involved in the fitting and this is what she wrote in the email:
Body Geometry Fitting is $175
Expect to spend 1-3 hours
We will go through a pre fit assessment, get you on the bike and align you properly to your bike. We may try saddles, stems, bars etc… Also, we may add footbeds (cycling orthodic) if needed. You will leave in a neutral riding position.
Getting a bike fitting is really a personal endeavor. It involves a degree of personal taste but you must also “buy in” and be ready to change what you’ve been doing, or why make the investment at all? I decided going into the bike fitting that I would be both a willing student and make whatever changes were recommended. After all, what good does it do to hire an expert and then fight their advice? That’s too common a tale that leads to failed expectations.
It’s true: Bike fitting is an investment. The process requires you to spend some money in exchange for a potentially better riding experience. That was my first priority.
For the last 8 years I have not moved the seat post position from the day the bike was set up for me when it was purchased. Only recently had I pushed the seat back an inch upon realizing how scrunched up I felt while riding. For a long time my riding position hurt the shoulders, sometimes the hands. My back suffered on really long rides, especially during high winds. All that should have told me a change was needed. Ultimately it did.
My bike position was dictating poor biomechanical efficiency. That is what needed to be changed.
Brake in the action
There was just one problem that cropped up during the bike fitting process. Karrie had done all her physical measurements and had me up on the saddle pedaling away and stopping for measurements when it came time to consider adjusting the seat height. Only it would not budge. For 8 long years the carbon fiber seat post on my Felt had stayed in one position and was now fused together with the metal gripping it at the frame head. Both of us tried pushing and turning to see if the seat post would loosen. No luck. Karrie sighed and told me she’d need to get her other mechanics working on it. So the first bike session was a case of Fittus Interruptus. No go on a Wednesday. Come back on Friday.
So I collected the signed Vanderkitten Cycling Club pictures Karrie gave to me as a consolation prize for not finishing the fitting that night. Then I drove the 30 miles home to Batavia and waited a couple days for the call that would let me know if the seat post was fixable or f*****.
Turned out it was f******.
“I’m sorry,” Karrie told me over the phone. “We tried everything. But in the end that post was too stuck to save.”
That meant we installed a new white Specialized seat post with Zertz inserts. Then on a whim I picked out a new white saddle to boot. My original saddle that came with the bike had originally been exchanged for a Specialized saddle with a split up the middle. That saved the “unit” from going numb. That saddle still worked, but it turned out my appetite for a new feel with the bike included a new saddle, and a new look. A little narcissism is part of the bike scene after all.
“I’m the best bar taper you’ve ever seen…”
We also exchanged my original handlebars and installed a new 10 degree stem in place of the 24 degree stem I’d installed way back in 2007. Karrie smiled at the new black bar and said, “I’m the best bar taper you’ve ever seen.”
I thought she’d just said, “I’m the best bartender you’ve ever seen.” So I smiled nicely and then laughed, realizing my mistake as she pulled out the white bar tape.
Overdue at the bike shop
I had a different body back when I bought the bike. That was 20,000 miles ago. I didn’t really know at the time how to position myself on the bike, or to keep up the core exercises to ride right.
So it was time for the change. All I could think about of late is how many rides there have been where it felt like my form was literally giving away energy up hills and into the wind, much keeping pace during criteriums.
And while I’ve aged 8 years from time when I first started riding seriously, my overall leg strength and endurance has compensated and improved in many ways. Better form on the bike was still the missing component.
A better way to go
The Body Geometry Fit system made a ton of sense. It was the clinical touch that convinced me, and the objectivity.
For example, Karrie used a mat that showed the outline and height of the arches in my feet. She also checked the degree of flexibility or range of motion in my foot, which was admittedly not good. We ended up adding some varus tilt and some shims in the forefoot to put that part of my body in better alignment. That felt much better than the dress orthotics I’ve been shoving in my shoes for 8 years.
According to the Specialized website, the BG Fit Process includes:
- the Pre-Fit interview
- the flexibility assignment to get an accurate picture of the “geometry” of the body
including spinal curve, foot structure, knee position and other factors
- viewing the rider from the side to plumb and measure angles
- a front view to watch the motion of the rider’s knees and legs as well as upper body position
- The Prescription.
Actually, I made that last one up myself. Because that is what’s really taking place. When you’re done with your bike fitting it’s rather like getting a prescription. When I took the bike out for a ride it felt completely different. Really, it was a marked improvement.
My first couple rides have resulted in a little twinge in my calf but that’s to be expected. There’s a lot of new angles at work. I didn’t ride 4 mph faster or anything crazy like that. But it sure felt better. The speed will come with increased training and pace from being more comfortable on the bike.
Like the serious cyclists say, if you want to ride better, then ride more.
Fruitful and fun
It was fruitful, and it was also fun getting a bike fitting with Karrie Ozyuk. It so happens she has a great personality for the job. She asks lots of questions. Studies the issues at hand, sometimes literally. The certificates on the wall from Specialized make you feel a bit like you’re at the doctor’s office. In a manner of speaking, you are. A Dr. of Bike Fit, she is.
I’d budgeted for the process and knew I wanted a new saddle at least. The seat post was a surprise and cost a little, as did the new handlebars. Some might have said “You should have just bought a whole new bike” but that was never my intention. That Felt and I have been through a lot together. The carbon frame is still good, survivor of a difficult crash last fall. The components are decent. The Dura-Ace derailleur still shifts like butter. So we’re sticking together, the Felt and I.
Karrie asked at one point if it was okay if she referred to the Felt in the female gender. I told her I wasn’t in the habit of that, but it was fine by me. Then I realized, she’d probably seen something in me that I had not. A bit of devotion.
In other words, my bike fitting turned out to be about Bike Love, not Bike Lust. Karrie Ozyuk played yenta by setting me up for years of more riding with the Red Rocket. That’s what the bike was called when it was named Bike of the Year by a cycling magazine back in 2006.
Appropriately, we shared a Fat Tire beer when all was said and done. Then I shook her hand and wheeled my happy new bike out the front door into the light of the setting sun.
It has sat in the garage ever since.
Ha ha, just kidding. The bike rides great and is worth every penny of the bike fitting.
The way I look at it, I’d rather invest in better form than lose it all on an uphill.