Tuesday, October 13, 2009


You can pay a lot of money to get someone to scientifically fit your bike to your body. I have not done this. But, I hear you ask, you have clearly established yourself as a science nerd of the first water, so why have you not done this? I’m glad you asked. Well, I’m glad I asked for you. The answer is, because I don’t want to. Now that we have that settled…

Some years ago when I moved from the trusty Trek 1000 to a new bike, I suffered what could be called some “discomfort.” I realize that this is a vague word which can be used to describe many things, and I have chosen it for that very reason. When I went from toe clips to clipless pedals, I experienced some “discomfort” that I wouldn’t try to describe in a family blog. When I switched bikes, the “discomfort” was a pain in my…um…legs.

So what do you do in such a situation? You ask somebody who knows. I asked several people, and, when I indicated the area of my legs that was trouble me, Jörg asked, “In the adductors?”

Well, now is the time to admit that I am a biologist with a woeful lack of knowledge of the musculature of the human frame. I am not necessarily proud of this lack, but the fact is that I am a molecular biologist by training (which isn’t anywhere near as glamorous as it sounds), and structures much bigger than a cell don’t really interest me that much, so my response was pretty much just to point.

Then Jörg, who was apparently making a habit that day out of asking questions that I had no idea how to answer, asked, “What’s your setback?”

Huh? (Actually, I don’t think my response was actually as coherent as that.)

Jörg kindly explained what “setback” was (and in case your ignorance is as vast as my own, it’s the horizontal distance between the bottom bracket and the front tip of the saddle) and how to measure it. This involved getting a plumb bob (the fact that I actually knew what that was did make me feel a bit better about myself) and a tape measure and getting to work.

Fortunately, the trust Trek was set up correctly for me (not that I had anything to do with that, you understand) so I could simply measure the setback of that saddle and then use that same measurement on the new bike. Simple. Well, it should be simple. For me, nothing like ever is simple, but I got it done in the end.

I mention all of this now because recently I’ve been back on the Trek while my other bike waited for tires. I got the new tires on and discovered that the saddle was waaaaaaaaaaay out of place. I put it back more or less where I thought it should be and went for a ride.

Apparently, more or less where I thought it should be wasn’t quite right, so I finally broke down today and remeasured the setback on the two bikes. It was wrong. (Yes, I know that a smart man would have written the numbers down the first time he measured the setback, but there you are. I didn’t do it. Draw your own conclusions.) I moved the saddle some more, and, pretty soon, I’ll go on a ride to see how it feels.

Wish me luck.

I’ll need it in the end.

See you on the road.

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