I’m hoping anyone with some bike-fitting expertise can chime in here.
TL: DR – has anyone had success with a position that’s lower and shorter than ‘standard’ or orthodox?
Full version (long post warning):
So for a long time now I’ve had 2 recurring issues: niggling high hamstring tendinitis (which I can keep under control with exercises) and lower back pain on longer rides.
For reasons that’ll become clear, it’s worth knowing that I’m average height (177cm), but have slightly shorter than average legs for that height (80cm inseam) and slightly longer than average arms.
Anyway, I thought I’d address the issues, and shortly before Xmas arranged a bike fit with a very highly regarded bike fitter. To cut a long story short, he fitted a heel wedge in one shoe, increased saddle height slightly, increased setback slightly, dropped the bars 5mm and suggested a longer stem. This was to take some weight off my hands, get some better knee extension, and to make my relatively long upper body and arms ‘less cramped’
He also pointed out that my hamstring flexibility was poor and that was most likely the root cause of both my problems. He gave me some exercises to work on.
All of this sounded perfectly sensible.
So 6 weeks on, I’ve done the exercises diligently. There’s been a slight improvement (but not a huge one) in the back pain. The dodgy hamstring is just about coping with the new position. But all isn’t quite right and I have booked to go back for him to have another look (as it’s included in the original price.)
The current query
To cut another long story short, someone I know who is the same height as me (but with more conventional proportions) is selling his custom bike. His bike (custom geo) is set up with the bars approximately 15mm lower and 25mm closer to the saddle than mine; of that 25mm difference, about half is less setback.
I thought it wouldn’t work and was going to pass, but the seller encouraged me to take it for a short test ride (15 mins) and to my surprise it felt really good. I left saying I’ll think about it.
This weekend, I set up the winter bike as close as I could to the same position, and for the first 2.5 hours it was really surprising: more power, more connection with the saddle, and less back pain. I didn’t feel more pressure in my hands as I was expecting to, and I got better glute engagement.
However, at about the 3 hour point the back pain kicked in quite quickly, and by 4hrs (when I finished) I was suffering a bit. I felt I ended the ride in kind of a similar situation to usual, but felt that I’d had a better first 2.5 hours, if that makes sense.
So: at the end of all that, what, if anything, can I deduce from this?! I’m most interested in the fit implications rather than the potential purchase.
Any suggestions gratefully received!