Muddymoles mountain biking in the Surrey Hills and Mole Valley

Expert bike fitting from Sound Coaching

Posted by DaveC | May 16, 2011 | 16 comments so far

It’s happening to an increasing number of Moles. Baggies are being dropped and the lycra that resides underneath is coming out into the air. Road bikes are the new MTB.

Sound Coaching Bike Fit

The last time I threw my leg over a road bike in anger would have been while I was at school and technology has moved on a long way in that time. STI shifters and carbon forks even on the most basic models.

One aspect of road riding I was worried about was you spend much more time in one position when compared to mountain bikes. Given I am prone to lower back and hip pain I decided that I need to get the bike set up properly.

Cycle-Fitting is the meticulous understanding of the intricate human interaction with a bicycle, with the specific aim of gaining efficiency, power and comfort for every rider. Because we are concerned with optimising human movement that is being applied to complex machinery, cycle-fitting readily draws upon from the disciplines of ergonomics, bio-mechanics and kinesiology.

Luckily for me a rider who has been out with us in the past happens to be a Personal Trainer/Instructor/Bike Fit expert and I was able to engage his services for this activity. I’ll put a little bio for Nick at the end of this post but for now lets concentrate on the bike fit.

One option that Nick offers is a home visit. If you have a suitable space at home, large garage etc., he can come to you with his laptop, turbo trainer and camcorder. Nick set up my bike on his trainer with various sensors all coupled back to his laptop. I started to pedal and get warm while Nick took some brief details including details of any on going issues or pain. Next he explained what the readouts showed on the laptop and it was obvious I was doing very little pulling up of the pedals so my power stroke was quite “peaky” and not flat as it should ideally be. This was exaggerated when he asked me to unclip one foot and try to pedal with one leg as I was unable to keep up with the pedal on the up stroke.

Next up was some video of my pedal stroke to show how my knees were moving in a less than ideal way. This probably indicated a need for some wedges in the shoe to support my foot. As I use MTB shoes and pedals this is a large in-sole type of wedge although Nick did have some wedges that fit under the cleats. Just makes sure you can shift the cleat bolts!

Next up were some on the bike measurements. Two seem critical, one is the knee, the other the saddle/pedal relationship. Both of these are linked and hence when you change one you need to change or at least check the effect on the other. Using a goniometer Nick measured the angle of my knees with each foot in a dead bottom position and then using a plum line the knee over pedal position, ensuring cleats were also in the right place.

With these measurements, Nick then set about some quite minor adjustments to saddle position, both height and fore/aft position, as well as taking a level to the saddle and adjusting that horizontal. Off the bike Nick also checked my leg length to see that both legs were the same length.

With adjustments made it’s a case of checking the angles again, pedalling some more and seeing how it feels, remeasuring and makings small adjustments. Nick again watched my knees and shot some video to show the different in pedal action.

So, how does it feel out on the road? Well it’s still early days for me and it does take me a long time to “melt” into the bike and get comfortable but after what I found to be a gruelling, hilly ride of some 30 miles I got home and felt great. It’s just about getting out there and riding now but I know the bike is set up well and I can concentrate on spinning and keeping my heart rate in the range I want.

Here’s a bit about Nick from Sound Coaching

Nick has been a competitive Triathlete since 1991, starting as a junior at East Grinstead Tri Club, and has since raced at all distances from sprint to Ironman, and mountain bike racing. He is a member of Addiscombe cc, and RG Active triathlon clubs, is a level 3 British Triathlon Coach, Level 3 Personal Trainer, and Sports Therapist, Spinning Instructor and a Master Coach with Training Bible Coaching UK.

He has been a triathlon coach since 2003, quickly rising to become the Head Triathlon Coach at East Grinstead in 2004. Nick has worked as a Regional Development Coach for the South East and currently runs Novice courses for clubs in the south east region. He has worked with GB & Elite athletes, and with physiotherapists & chiropractors involved in injury rehab at Ashtead Hospital, Esher Physiotherapy in core conditioning for personal training and sports massage therapy.

“I have cycled all my life, and this is my passion in training, racing, coaching, bike fitting and with Power meters. I am also a registered Racermate Computrainer coach and also have a wealth of knowledge in the subject of power meters, coaching, dynamic bike fitting and power meter analysis.”

You can contact Nick via his Sound Coaching website or email

Filed under Tips in May 2011


About the author

Dave's been riding seriously since about 1997 and is one of the founding Molefathers — along with Matt and Mark — that came up with the idea of a MTB website for Mole Valley riders.

He's had several different bikes but it's now mainly 29ers in Dave's stable, apart from an Orange 5.

Current Bikes: Orange 5, Salsa Spearfish and Kona Big Unit

There are 16 comments on ‘Expert bike fitting from Sound Coaching’

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  1. Dave says:

    As an appendum to this article, which in fairness I wrote a couple of weeks ago, I set about looking at the saddle position on my mountain bikes. I paid particular attention to the saddle relative to the cranks, taking into account slightly different crank length and also the need on an MTB to move about a bit more.

    In practice I found that providing the saddle was not too wide I was able to get off the back even with the saddle at optimum height. Obviously a dropper post adds some reassurance here.

    Interestingly the more comfortable mountain bikes were pretty much set up the same as the road bike anyway but having made some tweaks to the others I can feel the benefit in more power and less aches.

    All in all a well worthwhile exercise.

  2. Kc says:

    As I ramp up some of the longer rides I decided to make sure that my position on the bike was as comfortable and efficient as possible. Dave had just come off a bike fit with Nick so I decided to give him a go too. He did the fit on his turbo in my garage and all up spent close to 2 hours with me.

    The next ride was a rather curious affair. I felt comfortable for sure but got off with more aches and pains than I remember. The following Saturday I did a 60 mile road ride and relaxed into it as it was a blustery day; no records would be set on this ride, or so I thought. When I rolled in to home I was pretty surprised to see it was completed at 18mph, nearly 1 mph faster than before.

    One ride does not make a trend, and fitness, weather and equipment can all affect the figures, but in my opinion the bike fit did improve my power and efficiency.

    Oh, and the aches and pains soon went when I got used to the position Nick had set up.

    So in summary, I would say that if you want to check out your riding position on road or MTB, and also benefit from some cool technology and a great chat with Nick on all sorts of fitness related topics, go for it and keep him talking!

  3. Andy661 says:

    How much for all this wizardry?

  4. Dazzler says:

    Road Bikes, what’s going on!
    Bin the baggies for lycra, Next it’s going to power taps……
    Then Shaved legs. NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO

  5. Dave says:

    Andy, drop Nick an email, mention my name….errr..or if you want a decent price don’t ;oP

  6. PaulM says:

    I reckon thats gotta be essential to get right if your going to choose to sit in the same position on a wedge for many many miles.

    Still seems to me like the next level of punishment up from all day in an office chair though 😮

  7. DaveW says:

    In fairness this isn’t just for road bikes. Getting the set up right on any bike is essential for effiency and to avoid aches and pains isn’t it? Most of us find something comfortable by trial and error, but is that the most efficient set up? I will be interested to see how Dave and Keith get on longer term, especially if they apply the setup to their mountain bikes.

  8. Dave says:

    I’ve done this to all the bikes now Dave. This varied a fair bit from almost nothing (the SS) to about 25mm saddle movement on the Five. I also ended up shortening the stem on the Spider.

    It’ll take a few weeks to get an idea how well its worked as you point out.

  9. Hi, as a lot of you ride mountain bikes more than road bikes, you’re probably wondering what can be and generally needs adjusting on a mountain bike, what also applies to a road or hybrid bike, and what is going to be different.

    Depending on whether you prefer to ride with your weight over the front or rear wheel, this will affect the level of reach needed, and hence your balance on the bike, and positioning your centre of gravity, so that if the tyres do lose traction sideways you’re able to pull the bike back under control faster, and not fall off! The same applies for other aspects of MTB riding, plus also going downhill / cornering on a road bike.

    Other factors for MTB fitting are saddle height, which is different to a road bike, as you’re going to be off the saddle a bit more, on trails or singletrack, hovering over the saddle is better, so the knee angle is slightly slacker at 35 degrees, (from 30 degrees for a road bike), saddle fore and aft position, cleats / pedal fore and aft position in line with your kneecap, what sort of position / riding you want / do, ie

    more aggressive and twitchy for racing / singletrack
    more for comfort / longer rides etc

    There’s a few things that are the same as a road bike such as seat being level, or slightly down, the fore and aft measurements of the saddle, checking leg length discrepancies, the functional testing of your legs, and checking for forefoot tilt (like pronation in running trainers) to see if you need any wedges to support your feet more.

    Hope that’s useful and enlightens you somewhat, my MTB is set up just as precisely as my road race bike.



  10. DaveW says:

    With regard to Dave’s comment about pulling up on the pedals, I’ve got to thinking about my SPD set-up.

    I’ve always found SPDs cleats fit too loosely in the pedal to effectively push/pull through the whole rotation. I still do it when pedalling hard, but the cleats click and move up and down in the pedal.

    On my road bike I have Look pedals and these fit snug and you can easily work the full rotation.

    Is the movement in SPDs an inevitable by product of the additional float allowed for mountain biking, or can they be adjusted to reduce the amount of up/down movement?

    Any thoughts anyone?

  11. DaveW says:

    It may not be up/down so much as back/forth movement.

    I’ve not tried Time pedals, but recall a similar thing with Crank Brothers Eggbeaters.

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