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Despite riding seriously -- about 6,000 miles/yr -- for over 20 years, I apparently have some kind of obsessive-compulsion thing about always fooling with my bike fit. (95 changes -- NOT a typo! -- last year alone.) Seems to get worse every year. Before resigning myself to this being a "mental" thing, anyone know if it's possible there may be a physical reason for this? For instance, I use the "hands-off" test to determine the seat's fore/aft; I find it very hard to believe that some "mental condition" could result in me being able to pass the test with a 6 cm -- tip behind BB -- setback one day, then a few days later, I can't pass it unless the seat is 9 cm back!!! And, yes, I've had several bike fittings. (It's soon after those that I REALLY went nuts changing things due to the resulting loss in efficiency and/or pain.) The fitters seem to be confused, too! The range of their fits includes:

seat height (BB-seat): 81-82 cm

seat setback (BB-tip): 5.5-9 cm

bar reach (tip-bar): 53-56 cm

bar drop: 5-8 cm

After changing positions, it feels much better for a few rides. Then, on one ride, the fit suddenly feels so screwed up, its as if I'm on someone else's bike! I then recheck things, discover something has to be changed by a centimeter or 3. Then it feels WAY better -- and is usually WAY faster -- until a few days later, when something is obviously wrong . . . and so on, and so on.

So, any ideas as to why -- besides the mental thing? Anything to try? If it helps, I'm 6'2" with an inseam of about 36". My torso is pretty short, relative to my legs, and I think my thighs are on the short side relative to my lower legs. (Guess I could average out all the fittings, and see how that works.) I realize I may need a sports psychologist more than a bike fit expert, but I don't have the time or money for that!

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Consider that your physical condition changes from day to day, and that will affect how much you can contort your body. Rather than attempting to find the "perfect" settings, why not just observe what appears "optimal" over a period of weeks and then pick a "happy medium"? –  Daniel R Hicks Mar 23 '12 at 1:02
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I wrote an answer, but would also like to comment: would you perhaps get ANOTHER bike? Having two or more bikes is a perfect way to have a bike for the days you want to go fast, and another for the days when you just want to roll around... –  heltonbiker Mar 23 '12 at 13:23
    
Also, by the way, how old are you? –  heltonbiker Mar 23 '12 at 13:23
    
I notice that how much I sleep, my hydration level, and how much alcohol intake the previous day can all affect my riding comfort and energy level. I'm fortunate to have a road bike, a cargo bike and a lwb recumbent, so I have plenty of different positions, esp when my back is acting up. –  memnoch_proxy Mar 24 '12 at 4:43
    
Also, what are you doing for a pre-ride warm up and post ride recovery...and are they consistent? As a commuter, I don't bother, but when I was increasing my commute for endurance extension, I would have benefitted from a quick jog, some stretching before the ride, and definitely stretching after the ride before I actually got home, where I wouldn't get distracted from doing that. –  memnoch_proxy Mar 24 '12 at 4:46
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3 Answers 3

Fit is a dynamic thing, but it's not so dynamic that it needs to be changed as often as you're changing it. I'm no psychologist, but I think it's safe to say it's a mental thing. Making adjustments feels better and faster because it feels new for a few rides and then you get used to it. Split the difference of all the measurements you listed and leave it that way for awhile. Be honest with yourself when you feel the need to make an adjustment and realize that once you're within the range of fit that works for your body, no small change is going to make a night and day difference.

If you've been making that many changes for years, you've basically conditioned your mind to react the way that it does and you'll never be happy because of it unless you just leave the fit of your bike alone, unless of course it truly needs to be adjusted. The challenge for you will be determining the difference.

This is not all that uncommon of a condition. I've seen people who do it with bike fit, bikes/components, diet, etc, always expecting the next change to be the one that makes the difference. Just remember that most of it comes down to the rider, especially his/her fitness and skill level, and those things only come with time.

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I agree with jm2 about the "mental state" thing. I commute daily with more than one bicycle, and some days are just TERRIBLE, seems like I'm dying each pedal stroke. Other days I fly like an eagle zigzagging in traffic like I was 20 again (I'm 34 by now). And I have a "golden rule" regarding bike fit: once I find it during one typicl ride, I NEVER change it (except maybe saddle height), unless I need to replace some broken thing.

But my additional theory would be: try to act upon your body, not the bike.

For sure as we get old the body changes. When younger, I liked the ultra-sporty condition, with handlebar almost five inches below seat, and it was ok. Now I complain because the handlebar in one of the bikes is ONLY one inch ABOVE the seat, and I cannot rise it further!

What I realized, over the years, is that you need to get your body in shape. I was a student until 24 years old, then I was always riding the bike with no worries, no job responsibilities, and no household chores. Then your mind is always free and you never feel pain.

As you get old, joints get stiffer, recovering time increases, sometimes we sit in front of the computer for 10 hours a day straight, traffic is not that calm anymore, etc., etc. We end up needing more comfort, more "support" from the bike.

If you are having the trouble you described, I think you would benefit heavily from a physical enhancement program, be it with a physical therapist or with a personal trainer, focusing on improving flexibility and range of motion mostly, but also muscular tone and perhaps cardio fitness. Pilates, Yoga, and such, are what I would try first. I've done Pilates myself, only once a week, and heartily recommend it.

And don't forget, riding a bike will always be an effort to the body. Sometimes it's useful to have a bolder attitude and "attack" the bike with your muscles (more postural tone, more power, more bloodflow) than to be "attacked" by it (letting the body be shaken and compressed by gravity, road surface, contact points, and such.)

From the Rule N.6: "Free your mind and the legs will follow".

(and, if you want the aggressive viewpoint too, take Rule N. 5...)

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I thought that riding a bike is itself the 'physical enhancement program'. –  ChrisW Mar 23 '12 at 16:52
    
@ChrisW It is, but I think only if you have a compatible lifestyle. Sometimes the daily routine contributes to "burn out" a non-athletic guy who choses to commute by bike. I have these phases, alternating high fitness/well-being and periods that I feel very burnt-out, when the biking only makes it worse. That experience is the basis for the answer I posted, but of course it varies from person to person. –  heltonbiker Mar 23 '12 at 17:25
    
It has burned me a bit (age 50, one hour each way); especially in winter. Someone said there's just a thing as a 'training program': for people who cycle recreationally or competitively. And that a program would include some 'day[s] of rest'. And that older people need a more complete rest on their rest day. I'm currently thankful for the opportunity to work from home and to vary my work-hours. I find also the question of eating enough: not always easy with a full weekday work schedule and an energy-intensive commute, over the long run. –  ChrisW Mar 23 '12 at 18:07
    
@ChrisW yeah, that's why I mention flexibility and range-of-motion, and not the (commonly mentioned) endurance, strength, speed, etc. It is a well-being stuff, not a racing-shape stuff. And I can tell you, just the ten miles or less I get each day are enough to smoke a lot of younger fellows on group rides... Commuting by bike is A LOT of exercise... (sometimes too much, as we already know...) –  heltonbiker Mar 23 '12 at 18:45
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I suspect that the bar is too low on probably 80% of the adult bikes in the US, which is one big reason why so many bikes are just gathering dust in the garage. –  Daniel R Hicks Mar 24 '12 at 20:03
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I agree with all others stating your body changes day to day, but little. I also agree that your physical condition a the time makes you feel like wrong fit in the bike. So I throw you a bit of questions:

Are you riding the same trails every time? Maybe you are riding different trails and that contribute to the wrong fit sensation, as a position may be close to optimum for one type of trail but not for another.

Do your work or other routine change frequently? Recent activities can affect the way your body feels. Is not the same to ride after a week of office based, all time seated work, than after a week walking, carrying stuff back and forth. your body will be tired and strained from different muscles, thus affecting your ability to reach and sustain certain riding positions.

Regards.

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