The former often sarcastically suggest the latter just ride more, but champions like Armstrong, Indurain, LeMond, and Mercx have all been fanatical about fit (the best rarely leave anything to chance). So it was with great interest that I received a "FitStik" bike position setup tool from CycleMetrics of Eugene, Oregon.
In essence the FitStik is an assembly of rulers and gauges that can be attached to a bike, used to measure the relative positions of the pedals, saddle, and handlebars, then used as a jig to duplicate that setup on other bikes.
The same can be accomplished with a yardstick, plumb-bob, and level, but it's a job that often gets short-changed (especially by busy shop or race mechanics, or those who just want to ride) because doing it right takes skill, time, and patience, which are often in short supply.
Once familiar with the FitStik, measurement and jig setup can be done in minutes. If nothing else, ease translates to increased probability that you'll actually do it, and get it right.
The FitStik consists of two main parts, a vertical ruler, centered on the bottom bracket, and a horizontal ruler used to measure reach to the handlebars, saddle setback, and the angle of both in relation to the vertical ruler.
Vertical height is measured from the intersection of the two rulers to the height of the shoe's insole above the pedal spindle. This is accomplished by adding an effective crank length (crank length minus insole height) to the intersection-bottom bracket distance. Adjustments for crank length and insole height match the FitStik to the bike being measured or setup, effectively making the measured vertical height a function of the rider's mechanics as distinct from the equipment.
Unfortunately this distinction doesn't extend to saddles. While the FitStik will help get a different saddle's height, setback, and angle in the ballpark, minute differences in saddle design can disproportionately alter where a given rider sits, so saddle changes may require fine-tuning the position. The best bet is to find a saddle that's comfortable and stick with it.
Attaching the FitStik to a bike is accomplished using Velcro straps combined with two fixtures: a clever adapter which aligns the ruler to the center of the crank bolt without removing the bolt (let alone pulling the cranks), and a padded bracket which stabilizes the ruler against the top tube. Top tubes of virtually any shape, angle, diameter, or position are accommodated. A bubble-level allows the stick to be made vertical.
I didn't subject the FitStik to rigorous accuracy tests, but repeat measurements on the same bike agreed within a few millimeters and fractions of a degree. When used as a jig, the FitStik shows where to place the saddle and bars to duplicate a given position with more than adequate precision.
Ironically, now adjusting the saddle to the desired position often takes far longer than determining what adjustments are needed. Some seatposts (particularly those without micro-adjustability) make precise position setups all but impossible.
It took some effort, but for the first time in my cycling career my position is accurately dialed-in on all my bikes. This gives me optimal position and pedaling mechanics under all cycling conditions. No, it won't make me a world champion. But it's one less thing to prevent me from achieving my best. Attention to details is what scientific training is all about.
That, and riding lots.
The FitStik is priced at $119 and is available from CycleMetrics 877-703-7733, or check out their web site at www.cyclemetrics.com.
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