Earlier this week, I agreed to post my experience with getting professionally fit on my bike. I had the appointment today, so here goes:
The fitting was done at CycleCraft in Parsippany, NJ. The guy who did the fit was Mike. He's really knowledgeable, patient, detail oriented and thorough. Also totally non-judgmental about a 59-year old overweight guy with a retro road bike. He made me feel like I had every right to be there, and took me totally seriously.
First off, the bike: It's a mid 1990s Bianchi Eros. My year (I think it was '96) was the last these frames were built in Italy, so the bike is sort of a rarity nowadays - a lugged CroMoly Italian frame. The components are all fairly high-end (for their era): Campagnolo 8-speed Chorus pretty much throughout, except that the crank is the Campy triple that they were using at the time. It's important to understand the bike.
I put quite a few thousands of miles on that bike back in the day, before I stopped riding about 14 years ago. It sat in a shed since then, until I cleaned it up and started riding it again a few weeks ago.
I explained my issues: Pain in the knee joints, but only with the clipless pedals (late '90s Look pedals), a lot of pain in the neck and shoulders from having to extend my neck to see the road (stenosis and arthritis in the neck, badly healed rotator cuff tears in both shoulders), riding on the bar tops with my fingertips a lot to try to relieve the pain in my neck; never using the drops. Pain in the butt around the sit-bones, and also in the perineum, even with bike shorts.
After a thorough interview to figure out what I was looking for, what kind of riding I expected to do, what my experience was and what my issues are, Mike had me sit on the butt-o-meter, or whatever it's called - the thing that measures your sit-bones.
That was the first surprise. I was using a pretty narrow racing saddle. It turns out my sit-bone spacing is 148 mm, which is pretty wide for a guy. So the first thing to go was my old saddle.
Mike then leveled the bike on the trainer, using a laser level, and had me sit down and start pedaling. He observed my pedal stroke for a while, asked me about where the pain was, and then adjusted my cleats to allow more float (I had them set at the factory setting, which was in the middle). We did a little more pedaling, and there was still some discomfort, so he looked at my shoes and adjusted my cleats. Pain gone.
Next was the handlebars: My bars were an old-fashioned style that I guess was popular when people on road bikes weren't old Freds like me - sloping at the top, so the hoods were a good 1-2 inches lower than the tops, and deep drops that I never used. My stem was 90mm, with a negative angle (i.e. the stem pointed down.) My bars were pretty narrow - narrower than my shoulders. I think this was the fashion for racing back when the bike was made; there may be some aerodynamic advantage to the narrower profile.
Mike said the objective was to get me set up so that I could use and be comfortable on all parts of the bars, including the drops. That meant (1) wider bars, (2) raising the bars, and replacing the old style bars with modern ones that are level going from the stem to the hoods, and that have much shallower drops.
We were at a point where more major surgery was going to be needed on the bike. He asked me if I wanted to keep it enough to put some money into it, because the next steps would involve replacing the stem and handlebars. He explained the store's trade-in policy, and said that I could put the trade-in towards the cost of a new bike. We discussed the amount, and his estimate of how much the upgrades would cost including labor, and I decided that I'd never get another Italian-made steel framed bike like that again, and wouldn't get anything remotely comparable for the sum of the trade-in and the cost of the upgrades, so I gave him the go-ahead to hack away.
Then it turned out that my steering tube diameter was 22mm - apparently a nearly impossible to obtain "French" size, and so none of the quills or adapters they had in stock would work. However, they'd had other cases where they could take 2mm off the diameter by just sanding off the powder coating below the insertion point, so they did that and were able to make a standard 22.2 mm quill adapter work. We experimented a little with various stems, and the best candidate right now is a 90mm with about the same upward angle as the old stem had downward angle.
By this point, we had spent 2 hours (Pug - you mentioned lack of attention as a problem with this shop. That was certainly not my experience - I had Mike's undivided attention for 2 hours, as well as attention as needed from the mechanic who found a saddle post bolt to replace the one that I had that was stripped and who did the hand-sanding of the coating of the quill adaptor to make it fit.)
They needed more time to wrap the new bars, re-mount my brifters, and finish up the work on the quill adapter, and I needed to get back to work, so we made another appointment for this coming Tuesday. At that point, we do the final selection of a stem and complete the fitting. I figure, by the time I'm done, they'll have devoted over 3 hours to fitting me on my bike. Not a bad way to spend $100.
Now, to be fair, I'm going to wind up spending nearly $300 in parts and labor for the new saddle, new handlebars, quill adapter, stem, bar tape and cleat covers. But I'm really optimistic that this work will bring back the enjoyment I used to get from that bike, and it will fit me better than it did even when I was younger - all for less money than it would cost to get a bike anywhere near as good.
All in all, I'm a happy customer.
I'll give a (hopefully shorter) update after next weeks completion of the fitting.