I’ve always been a late adopter.
Masturbation, for instance. I didn’t start until I was fifteen. Now, all you guys out there are rolling your eyes, but it’s true. My brother was an early adopter; he started when he was five and always encouraged me to give it a try, but I never did. Not even once.
Then, one day when I was fifteen, I gave it a pull. Still remember it like it was yesterday (well, it might have been yesterday, too, but that’s not the point). Like every guy, once I got the memo, I quickly became an expert. What I lacked in experience I more than made up for in vigor and repetition, and in between the evening hours of seven and nine you might as well have hung a “Do Not Disturb” sign on the bathroom door.
It’s not something that people talk about much, but as an integral part of every man’s life, it kind of makes you wonder why they don’t ask it on Leno and Letterman and Oprah and such. “So, Mr. Nicholson, tell the studio audience about the first time you choked it, would you?”
I was a late adopter of beer drinking as well. I didn’t begin to drink alcohol properly of any kind until I was 25. And despite fits and starts that have included sobriety periods and drunken ones, beer never really figured prominently in my life until recently, when I fell off the wagon and began drinking, you know, “good” beer.
How acute is my conversion zeal? On the way home from work today I stopped at BevMo, bought a case of Lagunitas IPA because Pablo relentlessly posts photos of it on FB, and lugged it all the way up Crenshaw to Indian Peak to home. I almost didn’t make it when, on the final 22% ramp up Ravenspur, my chain slipped on the cog while I was out of the saddle and almost flung me headfirst — with my precious cargo — onto the pavement. Only world class skillz and refusal to break even a single baby kept me upright.
But when it comes to coming late to the party, nothing tops my late entry into proper bike fitting.
The Fit Kit
It’s not exactly true that I’ve never been fitted. In 1984, shortly after getting my Campy Super Record Picchio Rigida, Phil ushered me into the back of the shop. He had a big steel box that looked like a high-end guitar case, and opened it up. “This, dude, is a Fit Kit,” he said. “And we’re going to get you fitted.”
I don’t remember what was in the kit except there was a big wooden stick. And I remember that when we finished, I was set up on the bike the way I was set up before, and the way I remained for thirty years: Slung back on the saddle, super low profile, and stretched out like Eddy.
Various people in the Modern Era tried to “fit me,” but to no avail. The only person who came close was Steve Bowen. He hated my San Marco saddle with the rivets, and it made him eat his liver when, after selling me my first plastic bike, I made him strip the Specialized Toupe and replace it with my beat-up Regal.
He would always hint that my set-up wasn’t optimal. “Why don’t you let me fit you one day? See if you like it…we can always change you back.”
He even got me as far as mounting his electro-compu-scien-digi Specialized Masterfit System. The minute I climbed aboard, alarms started going off and the computer spat out reams of data which, to summarize, said “This dude’s all fucked up.”
I never implemented any of the recommended reforms. My pedal spindles stayed four or five feet out in front of my knees in the patented Duckpaddle Pedal. My back stayed rounded and scrunched in the Wankmeister Hunch. I continued to be happy in my set-up, and resistant to change.
Then, one day Lauren Mulwitz appeared on the scene and became an apprentice bike fitter at Bike Effect. Before long all the South Bay crew were getting fitted by Dialed In, her fitting company. Guys like Eric Anderson, Josh Alverson, and Peyton Cooke were setting new KOM’s on legendary climbs like the PV Switchbacks. Veteran wankers like Wankomodo were plowing through the Belgian Waffle Ride and SF-to-LA AIDS ride pain-free…word on the street was that this girl was good.
I wasn’t really buying it. My philosophy has always been that I suck, and no amount of equipment purchases or technique adjustments will ever get me out of suckiness and into radness. Moreover, the people she’d fitted were for the most part people who could kick my ass anyway. It was a stretch to think that their awesomeness had anything to do with being fitted.
But then, when Eric was telling me about the part of the fit where you have to lay down and have Lauren check your various flexibilities, it occurred to me that there are worse ways to spend an afternoon than getting touched and measured and palpated by a smoking hot chick while prostrate on the floor.
So, with zero expectations, I signed up for the Dialed In fit. With a couple of reservations.
Planning to fail
First, I let her know that I wasn’t ready to change anything yet. Second, I let her know that I wasn’t ready to replace any of my current equipment. Third, I let her know that I would do anything she recommended as long as it wasn’t different from anything I already did.
She took it all in stride, and we got down to business.
“Business” began with an intake.
“Do you have any aches or pains?”
“Every cyclist has some aches or pains somewhere.”
“What about your junk?”
“That saddle is like a piece of plywood. Your parts are mashed up against them like grapes on an ironing board.”
“They’re bigger than grapes, actually.”
“You get my point.”
“No. They feel fine.”
“Okay,” she said and completed the intake. Then she started measuring. “Your right foot is a size 45.”
“Yep. I wear a 45.”
“Your left foot is a 44.”
“Yes. One full size smaller.”
“No wonder all my right shoes tear a hole where my big toe is.”
“You mean you’ve lived your entire life and no one’s ever told you your feet are completely different sized?”
“Okay. Touch your toes.” I bent my legs like I was squatting and touched my toes. “No,” she said. “Touch them with your legs straight.”
I laughed. “You’re kidding, right?”
“No. Do the best you can.” My “best” was getting my fingertips to mid-shin. Now she thought I was just playing around.
“That’s it?” she asked.
“Okay,” she said, and made some more notes on her clipboard. “All right, now get on the bike.”
The Duckpaddle Pedal
After taking a couple of measurements she looked at me. “Your knee isn’t over the pedal spindle.”
“So you’re pushing the pedals out in front of you, like a recumbent. You’re losing huge amounts of power by being so far back on your saddle.”
“You’re the first person to ever suggest that I have ‘huge’ amounts of power, lost or otherwise.”
“Since you don’t want to change anything or do anything different, we’ll just move your saddle up a touch. Okay?”
“Sure. Jam it all the way forward if you think it will help.”