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Bespoke spokes.

| Blog, Cycling Plus, Features | 30/01/2012 16:54pm

Heading your way in the summer, Cycling Plus will be looking into the world of custom bikes. We’ve picked frame builders who offer a variety of styles, materials, design, and finish. We’ll be checking out the services provided by Lynskey, Enigma, and Paulos Quiros. Technical editor Warren Rossiter has got in first and has already been fitted up for a custom carbon race bike from Parlee.

For my initial consultation I headed up to Bespoke Cycling in east London to meet up with their bike fit specialist Ben Hallam. Ben’s a former pro who completed the Tour of Britain. Unlike any bike fit I’ve had before the Bespoke experience starts with an informal chat about the type of riding, frequency of, and most importantly what I actually like from my bikes. Before the measuring and recording starts I have to perform a series of stretches and exercises under Ben’s watchful eye. It’s a case of assessing my flexibility (better than I thought), posture – that threw up some surprises, and history of injury (plenty) and any general aches and pains after or during riding.

Bespoke showcase all of their road bikes over three floors

I’m pushed, pulled, stretched and compressed on a massage table. Plenty of the information Ben gives me relates to the way my body has adapted over the years to numerous injuries. Like my twice broken left ankle’s inflexibility which is compensated for by my hip! From this assessment we then take time in looking at my cleat position. I, like most riders, set it on the ball of my foot and dead-straight. Ben’s advice is a repositioning of just a millimetre back from where it was but set a little more inboard to widen my stance, compensating for that inflexible ankle! Once we’ve been through an hour or two of this it’s finally time to get on the bike. That’s not before Ben demonstrates a few more stretches and exercises to help and improve my flexibility. It seems one of the muscles in my backside is quite tight. (Not the first time I’ve been called a tight arse).

Data recording sensors, and input from Ben helps you arrive at your ‘optimum’ position

I get on a bike that’s set-up to my basic position –  bar width, saddle height, stem length and top tube length I’m currently happy with. I’m then covered with sensors at all my major joints that’ll allow the mightily impressive RETUL system to get its data. Then it’s a case of riding and recording the data, where the fascination of watching my movements turned into a real-time pedalling stick man never fails to impress me (I’m easily amused). Over the next hour or so, we tune my position altering the angle of my back, reach, and saddle height. All of these elements have such an interaction with each other it really isn’t just a case of sticking the saddle up and off you go.

The Retul system records all of your geometry data

Once we’ve tuned the position it’s time to look at the way in which I pedal. This might sound rudimentary and pretty simple, but stepping back to the start of the process and my long standing ankle injury, we see from the way in which my legs spin that although my right side stays pretty much spot on with little or no deviation, the inflexibility in my left ankle means I compensate from the hip. My left  knee shows a rotation from side to side as I’m compensating at the top and bottom of my pedal stroke. This can be corrected with the use of custom foot beds, which can be sorted out at Bespoke too. But after talking to Ben about this, he informs me that it’ll be just as easy corrected if I remember to perform the exercises he’s shown me.

The stickman moves with you in real time

Once we are both happy with the position and set-up we’ve arrived at we’re done. The important word here is ‘both’ – Ben won’t insist that we simply obey the numbers as the bike has to be comfortable for me as well as  technically correct. That may involve an element of compromise, though I’d like to think I’m not a difficult customer.

The whole process takes from my 1.30 appointment start to 4.45. I found it hugely informative; it made me assess how I’m riding and not just the cadence and speed. I’m now thinking more about posture, my new cleat set-up feels great, and it’s even made me think about improving my flexibility off the bike to benefit my time on it. Bespoke don’t just offer this service to custom bikes – you can get it too if you’re buying a bike off-the-shelf and they currently offer TREK, Specialized, Parlee, Pinarello, Eriksen, and Firefly. They’ll run you through the same process to ensure you get a bike ideally suited and fitted to you. Bespoke’s bike fit lab is expanding right now, the builders were working around us throughout the day and they’ll soon have a physio centre, running clinic (for  triathletes), oxygen tent – for altitude training and VO2 max tests, and even a nutritionist as part of the service.

Hopefully we will end up with something as good looking as this.

This is merely the first step towards getting my custom built bike, of course, but if things progress as they’ve started it’s going to be an interesting test. I’m currently waiting on my full fitting report to be sent to me, as I’m intrigued to see how my current bike compares to Bespoke, Parlee, and Ben’s thoughts on how it should be. I’ve no idea if the method is the right one but I’m certainly going to experiment and find out if I can gauge any improvement. If Parlee and Bespoke can deliver on this promising start, then the process could well be worth it to the experienced rider.

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