Thursday, April 19, 2012

Bike fit is a moving target

I'm obsessed with bike fit.  Many of us are.  The biggest reason for my obsession is the leg length discrepancy of my right leg, or should I say, what I thought was a discrepancy.  I've mentioned the car accident I had in 2008 which resulted in my right leg being half an inch shorter than my left.  The last several years have, in part, been spent working on getting my balance on the bike back.   This has been quite a process and I've have learned many things. 
The latest revelation has been very recent.  It turns out that I don't have a leg discrepancy at all.  My legs are actually the same length.  What I have/had was an injured leg with massively compromised functionality.  Basically my body was hiding/tucking everything away from the injury giving me a crooked posture.  This was not visible at a glance so it was hidden from me but the condition was there & it shortened the flexibility range and stress mobility of all the ligaments & muscles in my right leg. 

Regardless of my situation, leg length discrepancy is fairly common. I just heard that part of the reason Eddy Merckx was such a freak over his bike position was that he had an undiagnosed leg length discrepancy during his racing days.   Yeah, I guess he only found out about it after his son Alex discovered that he had a leg length discrepancy and they measured Eddy (35 years after the fact) to see if he had one too and sure enough he had a large one.

So; how do you know if you have a leg discrepancy?  Or like me, a leg that is compromised in some way forcing it to function as if it was shorter?

I was able to determine my issue (after many years of trial and error) by an examination of my core muscle strength. I'm not talking about the 8 pack glamor ab muscles.  I'm talking about the small stabilizing muscle deep down inside under the glamor stuff.   For lack of the technical word I'll refer to these as girdle muscles.  The girdle muscles, I have come to learn, have everything to do with 'balanced posture' (on and off the bike) and have to be worked in a very isolated and specific way.  I discovered my imbalance through Pilates instruction.  Yeah I know that sounds kind of Fem-bot but hey...'what ever gets you there'.

Anyway Pilates is a good place to start.  Hey don't get me wrong I'm strong.  I can do sit ups like Balboa but the isolated movements of Pilates displayed that my girdle strength was weak like Adrian.  I've been doing Pilates for the past 4 weeks and have seen a noticeable lengthening of my injured right leg and a return of muscle balance.  So much so that I am in the process of slowly removing the shim lift in my right shoe entirely.  Take what you want from that.

I am going in for my second fit analysis of the year on May 19.  I do two or three bike fits a year as my fitness, strength and flexibility all change with conditioning and weight loss.  I do this because as my fitness changes, so does my optimized position and I like to feel good on the bike at all times.  I'm interested to see the indexes of this report are going to be after doing the Pilates.

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