Rachel Wills of Velosmith
By Jasmin Welter
Anne Barnes (of Live Grit) and Rachel Wills (of Velosmith) are two Chicagoland ladies that can make your bike rides better - and faster. As professional bike fitters, it is their job to perfect the union of bikes and their owners. A properly fitted bike can make or break the experience of cycling: Even small changes can make a world of difference in comfort, speed, and ride efficiency - making a bike fit an interesting option for commuters, semi-competitive riders, racers and randonneurs alike.
Anne Barnes of LiveGrit
Anne and Rachel left their corporate careers to dedicate their professional lives to bike fitting. Neither ever really planned on a career in the cycling industry but are happy to have made the move. Both agree that the job of a bike fitter is not only a technical but also a social one that brings extremely rewarding feelings by helping create positive experiences for people on bikes.
How do you know if you need a bike fit?
While all cyclists can benefit from a fit, one of the most urgent reasons to schedule an appointment is pain, numbness or general discomfort when riding. Even minor aches and pains can lead to more serious injuries down the road if left unaddressed. According to the Bike Fit Institute, back and knee pain are the most common injuries among customers. The primary cause of the problems is the saddle, followed by the shoes. And even if there are no acute issues, a bike fit can have a positive impact, increasing aerodynamics, or improving the power economy.
Janet Fidanze's bike fit with Rachel
Cyclist and Ironman triathlete Janet Fidanze says “After my hip surgery, I felt I needed to readjust my positioning on the bike. Getting a fit after surgeries is as important as the initial fit. Subtle changes like shortening my crank length made a huge difference and relieved the hip pain I was experiencing. Comfort truly is key if you're going to be on your bike for hours.”
What does a bike fit entail?
A bike fit is a process to establish the optimal position for a rider to achieve the goals they wish to accomplish. It is intended to
- increase comfort
- prevent injury
- maximize efficiency
An average bike fitting session lasts for roughly 2 hours. It starts with an interview process to define a rider’s status quo, goals, limitations, injuries, pains, and more. It allows the fitter to get a detailed overview before matching the cyclist with their bike. The actual fit is done on an adjustable fit bike. A fit bike has movable axes and allows to adjust all touch points of the rider-bicycle interface, including pedals, saddle, and handlebars. The fit includes a detailed look at the foot/shoe/pedal interface, where power is transferred with every pedal stroke. Then, the height and position of the saddle and the position of the handlebar are adjusted while pedaling. Separate measurements of knee and elbow angles in different positions add to the holistic picture to find the optimal position for the rider. Anne and Rachel agree that most often the bike fit will correct improperly set saddle height, the wrong size stem or bars that are too wide or too narrow. While the changes made during a fit session may be significant or incremental, they are likely having a positive effect on the ecosystem of power between the rider and their bike. After the ideal fit is determined, the dimensions are transferred over to the actual bike - and the rider is off to a new and improved way to enjoy the beauty of cycling.
LiveGrit | Anne Barnes | 1010 W Monroe St, Chicago IL 60607 | 312.436.2400
Velosmith Bicycle Studio | Rachel Wills | 801 Ridge Rd., Wilmette, IL 60091 | 847.920.9360
About the Author:
Jasmin Welter is a dedicated commuter and competitive cyclist and triathlete, riding her mostly pink bikes around Chicagoland year-round. Jasmin is an Ambassador for The Chainlink and is involved with several other initiatives and brands to get more women on bikes. Jasmin writes regularly about new products, women cycling, commuting and more. Follow her on Instagram: @tri.heart and @princess_layup.