Monday, May 18, 2009

Tale of the Tape

My NOS Cannondale CAAD 8 is now a bit over three months old. I'm really enjoying the process of growing into it, observing subtle differences in ride and fit.

The last couple of weekends, I did longer distances with a lot of climbing, and they involved some pretty steep 20- to 30-minute descents. Wow -- I really like descending on this bike. It's very, very responsive at speed, yet very stable, too. My Giant is more of a touring rig, and it's quite solid at more staid clips. The CAAD just wants to go fast; the more speed, the better it handles. I'm still getting the subtleties of going at an average pace; slight glances over the shoulder make the front wheel swing a bit, where the Giant would just plow on, ruler-straight. I like the difference, the challenge of being a more attuned rider. I'm getting better.

However, there's been one difference I don't like so much. After a couple weeks of heavy-duty climbing and intervals, I started developing a pain behind my left knee. I spent Sunday morning diagnosing the (mis-)fit, doing research on-line and in books, and comparing the CAAD to the Giant, for which I've dialed in the fit quite well.

After long stretches of measuring, reading various (and often contradictory) fitting approaches on the Web, pondering the lessons I learned from the master fitter I worked with when I lived in the Boston area, and simply sitting on the bikes and feeling the differences, I made a couple of small changes, moving the saddle about a centimeter lower and a centimeter forward. I went out for a ride, and lo and behold, my new-ish bike felt more... fitted. More me. How sweet to be able to bring to bear the fitting knowledge I've been able to gather in a couple of years of riding, to make my body more comfortable on such a lovely machine.

It's like buying a nice suit off the rack: You buy one with lustrous material and an appealing style, but it's still not quite... right. You take it to a trustworthy tailor, and when you try it on after he's done... wow. It's your suit. The next time you step out in it, you feel a certain relaxed confidence.

I can't wait to go out for a longer run tomorrow and see if that feeling holds up.

Of course, I still have to get used to the biggest difference on this bike: The standard gearing. After the triple rings and outsized cogs on the Giant, this one makes me feel weak on the hills. But I'm getting there over the weeks. Hopefully a better fit will transfer a little more power!


Bilko said...

Please do not discount the importance of the foot/pedal connection - as small misalignments there grow as they move farther up the leg to the the hips/back.

Velosopher said...

Point well taken, Bilko. I had some trouble on that score with my Giant a couple years ago, which led to chondromalacia (you can read all about it on this blog, just search for chondromalacia). That's when I started working with a pro fitter. He set up my pedals and saddle over the course of months, and that's the set-up I'm more or less duplicating on my new bike, so I should be in good shape.

Suitcase of Courage said...

Glad you're still lovin' it - and even more now! Looking forward to riding with you soon.

Velosopher said...

As soon as you're done with your work rush, we're eager to meet up!

No One Line said...

Yeah, it's great to hear that you're settling in to it.

I always think of fit as something that takes weeks or months or more to work out.

It's always tricky because it's not just about seat tube and top tube length, it's not just about stem length... but also the type of saddle, where it seats you over the pedals, and the type of handlebars... all this stuff has to be taken into consideration and then, even when you get there, different bikes are just different and ride differently and lead you to mount them differently and then you've got to retool the fit all over again.

And so: begone knee pain so you can keep on enjoying those 20 to 30 minute descents! That's much longer than anything I've descended. I look forward to hearing about some good places to ride up in the valley...

Velosopher said...

NOL, you're always so kind. Thank you!! And you're right about the "personality" side of bike fit.