I've got three "primary" road bikes, each that I love a great deal. Hours have been spent on getting them "dialed in". Yet, with each there has always been one or two very small annoyances in terms of comfort and performance. This past weekend with a bit over nine hours of work, I've finally eliminated all the annoyances from all three bikes. If you're interested in how this was done, read on.
The bikes, as mentioned, are all road bikes. One is a full CF, the other a classic 90's lugged steel, and the third a full alumn. I realized over the past two months that each one has some small feature that I don't quite like and they are not the same on any of the three. I started by taking each bike out for a one hour ride over the same route. I took along a digital recorder I use at work for dictation. I rigged it with a mini microphone and set it to voice activation. Any time during the ride that I became aware of some discomfort, I made a note of it. After three hours of riding (I know, life's hard... ) I had a record of what I didn't like about each bike. I then started to tackle each. As examples: For the CF bike I found that there was a slight twinge in my right knee with seated climbing. With the lugged steel, there was a slight discomfort with the lower back, when in the drops, and I wasn't quite comfortable with my hands on the hoods for more than 10 minutes unless I moved them around a bit. I noticed on the alumn. that my right hip would get a bit of a pang every once in a while.
Next I measured each bike, and I mean I measured about everything you could measure... top tube length, chain stay length, seat post height, bar angle, etc. To do some of the measurements (like seat angle or handlebar angle) I used one of those lasers that people use to make sure their pictures are hanging straight. I also placed each bike on the trainer and took digital video of me riding it. I could then look at things such as where my knee and the pedal axle were in relation to one another, the bend in my arms and back, etc. Once I had noted all of this, I started comparing the slight differences and found the following: The CF's seat needed to come forward about and 1/8 of an inch. The lugged steel needed to have the brifters moved in toward the center about an 1/8 inch and up about 1/4 inch. Of all things, the alumn. had a bottom bracket spindle that was 109mm while all the others have one that is 110 mm. So, two very thin washers between the pedal spindles and crank arms fixed this.
The last step was to take each bike back out for another one hour ride on the same course. While I was expecting improvements, I was shocked at how much improvement there was. Each bike was much more comfortable, and I couldn't find anything that annoyed me about any of them. To me the moral of the story is that a bit of time really examining my bikes and riding position helped improve the ride for all three. Who needs a fit kit?