James Daley: The Cycling Column

All gain, less pain: thanks, cyclelift!
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Indy Lifestyle Online

If you do a lot of cycling, it's important to take care of your body as well as your wheels. While you can pay a few hundred pounds to get even the worst of your bike problems fixed, it gets harder and harder to iron out any damage you do to your body as you get older.

I should confess, however, that I'm saying all this with the benefit of a bit of hindsight, and a visit to Europe's only cycling ergonomics centre, Cyclefit (www.cyclefit.co.uk).

Cyclefit works to ensure that your positioning on your bike is as perfect as it can be, minimising impact on the knees and other joints, while aiming to ensure that you're getting the maximum performance from your body relative to the effort you put in. Although you'd think that the majority of their clients would be world-class athletes looking to shave half a second from their next time-trial (and some of them are), most of Cyclefit's customers are leisure cyclists like me, who have heard about the service on the grapevine, or have been referred on by their doctor or physiotherapist.

A full review of your bike position along with all the relevant changes that need to be made costs 150. If you put in a lot of miles each week, that seems like money well worth spending.

During the three hours I was there, I was measured up, filmed both on my bike and on a special test bike (pictured above), fitted with a personalised set of orthotic inserts to go in my shoes, and observed and analysed by technicians.

It all proved utterly fascinating. I'd been suffering from a few recurring aches and pains on my bike for well over a year but, like too many British people, had never bothered to get it checked out.

After a couple of hours examining my posture and my bike's set-up, however, Cyclefit were convinced they could help. As well as some problems in my bike position and posture, they said the cleats on my shoes were apparently in the wrong position, forcing my foot into a position that was not natural.

On the test bike, it was fascinating to see how the torque in each of my legs changed as I altered my posture just a fraction. Perhaps unsurprisingly, keeping my spine in a neutral position proved a far more efficient way of cycling than slouching and arching my back.

Although several changes were made to my bike's set-up before they sent me on my way, the team did not seem quite satisfied that they had got to the bottom of some of the problems with my knee. As a result, I have been referred on to a specialist physio in Clapham, called Balance. I'll keep you updated on progress.

In the few days since the changes to my bike, I've certainly felt good on my commute to work, and it's made me think much harder about my posture. Cyclefit insist that after some work with Balance and another reassessment of my position, I'll feel better still. Here's hoping.

Have you visited The Independent's cycling blog, Cyclotherapy? (www.independent.co.uk/blogs)


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