Bike-Fitting Session at Vincent Flanagan’s PedalForth Fitting in Kyoto
Getting Nowhere Fast “ Riding ” a bicycle posture-fitting apparatus, at PedalForth Fitting in Kyoto, Japan photo by Thomas Busch -- Pedalforth Fitting -- Copyright 2015 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D4 + Sigma 35mm F1.4 DG HSM — 1/160 sec, f/1.4, ISO 360 — map & image datanearby photos
Getting Nowhere Fast
Riding a bicycle posture-fitting apparatus, at PedalForth Fitting in Kyoto, Japan
photo by Thomas Busch

If you ride a bicycle for long distances, as I have been wont to do lately, you want to feel comfortable on the bike and ride with a posture that doesn't lead to injury. If something is so obviously uncomfortable that you notice it right away then of course you correct it or at least try something else, but it's the subtle poor riding posture that can insidiously lead to long-term injury.

I often get numbness in my fingers after a long ride, and my own brother had to give up cycling after a long ride left him with chronic pain. As I move toward more serious cycling and a more serious bike (and further into an age where injuries take a long time to heal if they heal at all), I thought I'd take the precaution to do things right by having a session at Vincent Flanagan's PedalForth Fitting.

Vincent is a former professional cyclist with an impressive resume... Australian National Mountain Bike Champion (1991), and two-time All-Japan National Mountain Bike Champion (1996, 1997). His non-cycling background is nursing and sports massage.

I thought I'd learn what size bike was appropriate for me, and perhaps how to adjust the seat and handlebar locations to best suit me, but I was surprised to learn so much more.

But first, let's look at some of what a bike fitting entails. German friend and ultra-marathon runner Thomas Busch, who cycles just to augment his run training, did a fitting just before me, graciously allowing me to watch and photograph.

I couldn't photograph (or remember) everything that went into it, but here are a few of the high points...

Initial Interview -- Pedalforth Fitting -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2015 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D4 + Sigma 35mm F1.4 DG HSM — 1/320 sec, f/1.4, ISO 320 — map & image datanearby photos
Initial Interview
Vincent jots notes as Thomas describes his cycling

First there's an interview where Vincent asks about your cycling history, equipment, goals, desires, relevant medical history, etc.

Thomas' Bike -- Pedalforth Fitting -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2015 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D4 + Sigma 35mm F1.4 DG HSM — 1/200 sec, f/1.4, ISO 100 — map & image datanearby photos
Thomas' Bike

Then Vincent takes an inventory of your current bicycle setup...

Preparing Thomas' Bike for Inspection -- Pedalforth Fitting -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2015 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D4 + Sigma 35mm F1.4 DG HSM — 1/320 sec, f/1.4, ISO 100 — map & image datanearby photos
Preparing Thomas' Bike for Inspection
Marking the Seat Setback so it can be measured and, if required, returned to its exact initial position -- Pedalforth Fitting -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2015 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D4 + Sigma 35mm F1.4 DG HSM — 1/160 sec, f/1.4, ISO 400 — map & image datanearby photos
Marking the Seat Setback
so it can be measured and, if required, returned to its exact initial position

The shape and construction of the bicycle frame apparently has a strong impact as to how it rides, but from a rider-posture point of view, only three things matter: the location of the pedals, seat, and handlebars. Those are the locations where the rider attaches to the bike, so nothing else really matters, from a posture point of view.

Everything is measured with respect to the crank axle at the bottom of the frame. From what I recall, for the seat the measurements include how far above and behind the crank axle, as well as its tilt and size and cushioning. For the handlebars, how far above and forward. For the pedals, how far from the axle and how they attach to the shoes. Of course, proper shoes and how they attach to the bike are also important.

Vincent takes an inventory of your current setup prior to making any adjustment.

Lasers ( it's difficult to see in the photo, except where the laser is painting a red line across Vincent's hand ) -- Pedalforth Fitting -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2015 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D4 + Sigma 35mm F1.4 DG HSM — 1/160 sec, f/1.4, ISO 320 — map & image datanearby photos
Lasers
( it's difficult to see in the photo, except where the laser is painting a red line across Vincent's hand )
Checking Left/Right Balance if the distance to each brake lever is the same, the handlebars are balanced -- Pedalforth Fitting -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2015 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D4 + Sigma 35mm F1.4 DG HSM — 1/160 sec, f/1.4, ISO 200 — map & image datanearby photos
Checking Left/Right Balance
if the distance to each brake lever is the same, the handlebars are balanced
Exact Seat Location -- Pedalforth Fitting -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2015 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D4 + Sigma 35mm F1.4 DG HSM — 1/160 sec, f/1.4, ISO 360 — map & image datanearby photos
Exact Seat Location
Rite of Measurement laughing at my comment that he looks as if he's about to bless the bike -- Pedalforth Fitting -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2015 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D4 + Sigma 35mm F1.4 DG HSM — 1/160 sec, f/1.4, ISO 280 — map & image datanearby photos
Rite of Measurement
laughing at my comment that he looks as if he's about to bless the bike
Pedalforth Fitting -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2015 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D4 + Sigma 35mm F1.4 DG HSM — 1/160 sec, f/1.4, ISO 360 — map & image datanearby photos

After taking inventory of the current setup, Vincent takes inventory of some important body characteristics that influence what kind of riding posture is appropriate...

Hip Flexibility -- Pedalforth Fitting -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2015 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D4 + Sigma 35mm F1.4 DG HSM — 1/160 sec, f/1.4, ISO 560 — map & image datanearby photos
Hip Flexibility
Core Strength measured via plank -- Pedalforth Fitting -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2015 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D4 + Sigma 35mm F1.4 DG HSM — 1/160 sec, f/1.4, ISO 1100 — map & image datanearby photos
Core Strength
measured via plank
Seat Width special seat shows where your seat-contact points are -- Pedalforth Fitting -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2015 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D4 + Sigma 35mm F1.4 DG HSM — 1/160 sec, f/1.4, ISO 900 — map & image datanearby photos
Seat Width
special seat shows where your seat-contact points are
Single-Leg Squat gives insight into the strength of the foot arch -- Pedalforth Fitting -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2015 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D4 + Sigma 35mm F1.4 DG HSM — 1/160 sec, f/1.4, ISO 500 — map & image datanearby photos
Single-Leg Squat
gives insight into the strength of the foot arch
Back to Basics checking shoe size with a Brannock device -- Pedalforth Fitting -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2015 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D4 + Sigma 35mm F1.4 DG HSM — 1/160 sec, f/1.4, ISO 360 — map & image datanearby photos
Back to Basics
checking shoe size with a Brannock device

Finally it's time to measure posture on the bike...

Initial Visual Assessment -- Pedalforth Fitting -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2015 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D4 + Sigma 35mm F1.4 DG HSM — 1/40 sec, f/1.8, ISO 100 — map & image datanearby photos
Initial Visual Assessment
Pedalforth Fitting -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2015 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D4 + Sigma 35mm F1.4 DG HSM — 1/20 sec, f/2, ISO 100 — map & image datanearby photos
Checking Hip Balance -- Pedalforth Fitting -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2015 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D4 + Sigma 35mm F1.4 DG HSM — 1/20 sec, f/2.5, ISO 100 — map & image datanearby photos
Checking Hip Balance
Preparing for Video Analysis -- Pedalforth Fitting -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2015 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D4 + Sigma 35mm F1.4 DG HSM — 1/160 sec, f/1.6, ISO 320 — map & image datanearby photos
Preparing for Video Analysis
with the application of crash-dummy dots
Pedalforth Fitting -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2015 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D4 + Sigma 35mm F1.4 DG HSM — 1/160 sec, f/2.2, ISO 500 — map & image datanearby photos
More Measuring -- Pedalforth Fitting -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2015 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D4 + Sigma 35mm F1.4 DG HSM — 1/160 sec, f/1.6, ISO 720 — map & image datanearby photos
More Measuring
Clip Adjustment ( why do we still call shoes with pedal clips “ clipless ” ? ) -- Pedalforth Fitting -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2015 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D4 + Sigma 35mm F1.4 DG HSM — 1/160 sec, f/1.4, ISO 560 — map & image datanearby photos
Clip Adjustment
( why do we still call shoes with pedal clips clipless? )
Pedalforth Fitting -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2015 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D4 + Sigma 35mm F1.4 DG HSM — 1/160 sec, f/2, ISO 1000 — map & image datanearby photos
Video Capture the camera is off to the right, facing Thomas square to the side -- Pedalforth Fitting -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2015 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D4 + Sigma 35mm F1.4 DG HSM — 1/160 sec, f/7.1, ISO 3600 — map & image datanearby photos
Video Capture
the camera is off to the right, facing Thomas square to the side
Analysis -- Pedalforth Fitting -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2015 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D4 + Sigma 35mm F1.4 DG HSM — 1/40 sec, f/1.4, ISO 100 — map & image datanearby photos
Analysis
Discussion -- Pedalforth Fitting -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2015 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D4 + Sigma 35mm F1.4 DG HSM — 1/160 sec, f/1.6, ISO 180 — map & image datanearby photos
Discussion
Seat-Pressure Analysis -- Pedalforth Fitting -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2015 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D4 + Sigma 35mm F1.4 DG HSM — 1/400 sec, f/1.6, ISO 100 — map & image datanearby photos
Seat-Pressure Analysis
More Lasers -- Pedalforth Fitting -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2015 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D4 + Sigma 35mm F1.4 DG HSM — 1/160 sec, f/1.4, ISO 360 — map & image datanearby photos
More Lasers
Final Tweaks -- Pedalforth Fitting -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2015 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D4 + Sigma 35mm F1.4 DG HSM — 1/160 sec, f/1.4, ISO 400 — map & image datanearby photos
Final Tweaks

In the end, an experience cyclist may end up finding out nothing more than your current setup is good, and if that's all you get for the $200 fee, it may at first seem steep, but I look at it in the same way as insurance: you do it because you don't know the result ahead of time. I spent $1,000 on travel health insurance for the family's RV trip across America earlier this year. We ended up not needing it, thankfully, but that doesn't meant it was a $1,000 waste.... it was a prudent hedge against uncertainty.

After Thomas' fitting, it was my turn. Thomas kindly took a few photos along the way...

Checking Leg-Length Balance -- Pedalforth Fitting -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2015 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D4 + Sigma 35mm F1.4 DG HSM — 1/160 sec, f/1.4, ISO 280 — map & image datanearby photos
Checking Leg-Length Balance
Rummaging Though Insoles -- Pedalforth Fitting -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2015 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D4 + Sigma 35mm F1.4 DG HSM — 1/160 sec, f/1.4, ISO 320 — map & image datanearby photos
Rummaging Though Insoles

I have very flat feet, with no arch in my foot whatsoever. When I did the single-foot squat test, most of my energy was not spent on lowering my body, but instead on trying to stabilize my body above my foot/ankle. A normal person with a normal arch wouldn't have to waste that energy. Vincent then placed a small folded towel under my arch to provide makeshift support, and the single-foot squat was suddenly much easier.

This revelation was shocking to me, as I never gave a thought to the mechanical problems caused by flat feet. Until now, I thought it merely impacted shoe-fit comfort.

I'd done that single-foot squat test a week prior when I'd stopped by to make and appointment (and ended up chatting for an hour), so when I came today I brought a box of various arch-support insoles that I'd accumulated over the years. I didn't have any cycling shoes at the time, but Thomas lent me his for the fitting.

(As I write this, I'm visiting my folks in The States, and through the magic of Zappos.com I now have two pair of cycling shoes of my own. It seems that European sizing is used for cycling shoes regardless of where you are in the world; my pairs are size 48 from one company and 49 from another.)

Fitting Machine -- Pedalforth Fitting -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2015 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D4 + Sigma 35mm F1.4 DG HSM — 1/160 sec, f/1.4, ISO 560 — map & image datanearby photos
Fitting Machine
Seat-Height Adjustment -- Pedalforth Fitting -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2015 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D4 + Sigma 35mm F1.4 DG HSM — 1/160 sec, f/1.4, ISO 360 — map & image datanearby photos
Seat-Height Adjustment
Video Analysis -- Pedalforth Fitting -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2015 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D4 + Sigma 35mm F1.4 DG HSM — 1/200 sec, f/1.4, ISO 100 — map & image datanearby photos
Video Analysis
Power Test -- Pedalforth Fitting -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2015 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D4 + Sigma 35mm F1.4 DG HSM — 1/160 sec, f/1.4, ISO 220 — map & image datanearby photos
Power Test

The bike-fitting machine includes the ability to monitor the power output of your pedal stroke, and that data, along with much else, is displayed on the computer display...

Currently Putting Out 317 Watts -- Pedalforth Fitting -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2015 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D4 + Sigma 35mm F1.4 DG HSM — 1/160 sec, f/1.4, ISO 400 — map & image datanearby photos
Currently Putting Out 317 Watts

The machine went up to 450 watts, which I could do easily for a short period. The pros can do that for long periods, which is why they're pros and I am not.

In the end I got lots of good tips about posture and shoes and riding styles, and detailed specific information about what size bike is appropriate for me. I'm in the process of ordering a real bicycle now, which hopefully will be waiting for me when I return to Kyoto. Then I'll go back to Vincent to put the fitting's results to practical use in final adjustments on the new bike.

( Update: I did get a new bike and did have Vincent set it up for me. )

Overall it was a great experience and I learned a lot; if you are near Kyoto and ride often, I highly recommend it. His web site is currently in Japanese only, but of course he can conduct the fitting in English as well.


All 5 comments so far, oldest first...

“special seat shows where your seat-contact points are ”

What – he didn’t just have a big office copy machine?

— comment by Marcina on August 10th, 2015 at 4:19am JST (1 year, 10 months ago) comment permalink

Great article Jeffrey – now I wish I lived in Kyoto (I’m in the UK) not only for the great cycling but also for Vincent’s fitting service!

— comment by Alastair Merrill on August 10th, 2015 at 5:35am JST (1 year, 10 months ago) comment permalink

Do you wear shoes a lot, or do you go barefoot a lot (eg. in the house)?
From what I heard if you wear shoes all the day this tends to weaken the arch in the foot, while going barefoot will rebuild it.
Maybe this could help strengthen it?

I was raised in the countryside and ran outside barefoot all the time, but I’ve had flat feet since I was born. I also have extremely thin feet… petite girls have wider feet than me. I’m just not anatomically correct. On the plus side, I should be able to ski barefoot. —Jeffrey

— comment by Sam on August 10th, 2015 at 5:51am JST (1 year, 10 months ago) comment permalink

I”m right there with you with the flat feet. Supposedly that would help us swimming. (this sounds like old wives tales BS)

Sadly I’m also right there with you with the “oh hey my XYZ really hurts” Me and my kid got the crazy idea to ride 22 miles round trip from our town to another cool town in North New Jersey called, Glen Rock He’s riding a Schwinn from Toys R Us and I’m riding a Raleigh hybrid I purchased when I lived in Brooklyn. I noticed in the 2 days of riding that the heels of my hands are in searing pain.

As I was reading your post “I’m thinking “Oh boy, 1st world solutions to 1st world problems” but seriously, all that for $2 Hundy? That’s money well spent. Very impressed with that ‘Portlandia’ level bike fitting you have in Kyoto. Here’s hoping I can find something like that around New York City for less than a mortgage payment.

— comment by Ron Evans on August 10th, 2015 at 12:46pm JST (1 year, 10 months ago) comment permalink

Weird – I found the site claiming arches could be build. He states everybody is born with flat feet.
http://corewalking.com/flat-feet/

But if you’ve been running a lot barefoot they probably should have build arches, so you seem to be correct, your feet are special.
I’ve got thin feet, too (a pain to buy shoes, they are all too wide), but additionally I have a very high arch, so I need shoes which are thin but high. Not easy to get.

— comment by Sam on August 10th, 2015 at 2:05pm JST (1 year, 10 months ago) comment permalink
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