Chris Hall spent the day with CycleFit’s Phil Cavell dialling in Jam Ambassador, Fiona-May Aylward. Here he recounts the on-bike fitting and how Phil helped Fiona with her troublesome back.
I have always been a massive advocate of a bike fit. As someone who has experienced the pain of not having one and then seeing the difference it makes, really had me sold on the idea of it. I used to suffer badly with knee and back pains until my first fit a few years ago. Since then I have regularly been getting my fit tweaked and tested, just to make sure.
With that in mind, step front and centre, Jam Ambassador, Fiona. She has often struggled with back pain on the bike, which has massively limited her functionality and ability to push as hard as she would like. Fiona, no stranger to racing and big miles, has some serious goals for 2018 and we at Jam want to make sure we support her as best we can.
After some initial conversations, we decided to make an appointment with Phil Cavell of CycleFit. Phil has worked with Andy Schleck, Elinor Barker and Fabian Cancellara to name just a few of the riders that he has helped dial in. Sharing front-line cycle-fitting duties with Julian and Jimmy, Phil's significant other string is developing and propagating the intelligence of fitting. Phil heads up the lecturing and teaching duties at CycleFit. Phil suffered a life-changing spine injury in 2011 and has subsequently had two rounds of fusion surgery. As a consequence, Phil is never happier than when helping a client who is suffering from back pain on the bike. We thought this the perfect ‘fit’ for Fiona.
Phil started off by looking at Fiona’s existing position. Even as a non-fitter, I could immediately see some problems. Fiona was very stretched out and slammed. With a huge long stem on the bike (following the aesthetic that many of the pro teams have, which isn’t usually good for most people) and a saddle set right back on the rails. It looked as though she may have been attempting a bit of a superman.
Flexibility was the next point that was addressed. As Fiona is a very active person, with a history of running and currently doing yoga and bouldering, we knew she would be flexible; therefore, Phil had no concerns that she would be able to ride a more aggressive position.
Contact points are super important on the bike. Contact points are the areas where your bike touches your body. So, saddle, handlebars and shoes (cleats). Most people tend to have too-wide handlebars and need some form of cleat alignment. Fiona was no stranger to this, with her current bars measuring 380mm (centre to centre) and her fit proving she was much more comfortable on 360mm (centre to centre). One of the things that CycleFit spend a lot of time on is foot bed correction, providing Fiona with custom insoles and adding a wedge inside each shoe and a 3-mm stack to her left shoe. All of this sounds like a lot of work, but it helps with repositioning Fiona to be level on the bike, resulting in more stability and comfort. The key thing in a bike fit.
Being on the jig at CycleFit means it was easy for Phil to make and test little tweaks to her position; so, we played with her reach and saddle position in comparison to her current fit, finally settling on something efficient, comfortable and, hopefully, resulting in less back pain.
Thanks to Phil and CycleFit for being so accommodating to Fiona and myself coming in to photograph. Following a fit, it takes time to get used to the new position, but I’m certain Fiona will really start to see the improvements and gains from her time with one of the best fitters in the UK.