I got some fabulous bike advice from a gent who is at least 75 years old. I say at least because I’m too scared to ask him. He looks a bit frail and I’m scared that if I hold an extended conversation with him the wind from my voice may blow him over. I probably shouldn’t have worried since as he dispensed the advice he was unstrapping his helmet after riding a 500cc Suzuki around the velodrome for nearly 2 hours.
His sage advice? “I think you’ll go better if you put your seat down 3mm” 3 frigging millimetres. An eighth of an inch. What’s the point? But I didn’t want to hurt his feelings so I did it. And I checked that seat height against my other bikes and changed them all accordingly.
I may be brash and arrogant but this guy is Harry Shaw. I didn’t know anything about Harry a few months ago other than the fact that he is the personal adviser/trainer for Ron Boyle. The fact that Ron trusts him is enough for me because my mum knew Ron’s name when I talked about him. But more importantly, the article I’ve linked via Harry’s name tells me some interesting things. A 71 year old taking a World Championship Silver Medal against people 6 years younger is astonishing. The fact that he’s been doing similar things on a bike for over 50 years is just incredible.
So I’ve found my bike guru. I described the dusty old bike shop guy in a comment over at fatcyclist.com last year. Someone asked a generic question about bike set up and here’s my comment:
If your knees became your enemies it is not because of the bike but because you didn’t find the hallowed "old guy" that is often collecting dust in the back corner of the local bike shop (not local as in locality-but local as in owned).
He will suggest (never tell) changes to your bike – little changes – bizarre changes that you wouldn’t think mean anything. Move the seat up/down 1/4 inch. Wear 2 socks on your left/right foot. Change breakfast cereal. Take you other foot out of the clips first.
One week after you finally pay attention to him you will be riding 20% faster and further with 20% less effort, and you will have your knees back. It seems like witchcraft but the old codger probably won an Olympic medal in the road race 50 years ago. Every great bike shop has one.
The anti-example is my holiday last June to the Gold Coast (Australia). With my choice of 3 finely tuned machines at home I had to go for a ride with the kids while 200 miles away… on the hotel supplied base model wreck. No tools. Rusty chain. The seat pointed to the right by 15 degrees, downhill like a ski slope and about 7 inches too low. Any wonder Joe Average thinks bike riders are equal parts stupid and gifted for riding any great distance. 5 miles ruined my back, knees and most of my sensitive contact points.
Get your bike set up properly. Then find a dusty old codger and get the fine tuning done.
I may have found him at a velodrome instead of a bike shop, but Harry is my dusty old codger.
I’ve since raced on my road bike with the adjustments made and I give full credit for the extra power I found at the end of the race. Extra power that saw me finish 4th in the sprint compared to 12th’s and 8th’s in previous races against the same competitors on similar courses.