Cyclists are often accused of being self-righteous, and perhaps sometimes we are; but that's only because we're better and more ethically aware than other people. For instance, at CycleFit in Covent Garden the other day, in between having my legs measured with protractors and plumblines as I pedalled furiously, I asked Julian Wall what the rationale behind the business was: "Morally," he said, "we have to fit someone to their bike."
Other bikeshops do custom bike-fitting (some cheaper); but CycleFit is, as far as I know, the only one in Britain that has adopted it as its raison d'être, with three trained bike-fitters and a physio on their books.
They do sell bikes - vastly expensive Serottas from the US, and their own, more affordable Glider range - but a large part of their business is helping people make the most of the bikes they've already got. It isn't hard to see this as a moral mission once you've started watching cyclists around London: so many of them ride hunched up, knees splayed, elbows locked, looking desperately uncomfortable because their frames are too small, the handlebars too wide or too low or too far away, preparing a world of pain for themselves.
As attentive readers will have spotted, I have troublesome knees; I wanted Julian to sort out my bike and ensure I wasn't making things worse. First, you're videoed on your bike, with the back wheel on the "turbo trainer", so you can pedal hard without moving.
I had always assumed I projected calm majesty on a bicycle, but no, it's all chins and skinny calves. More importantly for Julian's purposes, it's clear that my saddle is too high, that I dip my right heel ludicrously at the bottom of each pedal stroke, my left knee wobbles all over the place, and my back is at an awkward angle. Also, the arms are too straight to be comfortable. Otherwise it's all good.
Next, you get laid out on a bench while Julian checks the tightness of hamstrings, whether legs are the same length (mine aren't) and how straight your pelvis is; he measures inside leg, shoulder width and, with a strange little protractor thing, valgus or varus, the tilt of the foot (valgus is when your feet tilt out, so that as you walk or run the outside of your foot hits the ground first; varus, much rarer, is the opposite). My valgus is off the scale.
After this, it's up on to the size-cycle, an adjustable bike frame that can be set up to suit precisely your proportions and riding style. There is a lot of hopping on and off as Julian observes, tinkers, dangles a plumbline from my knee to the pedal, and finally decides he's got my ideal bike.
I won't know for a while yet whether he got it right but after a few minutes it's undeniable that my knees are no longer rotating like merry-go-rounds, and I'm using muscles on the inside of my knee that aren't used to this.
After this, it's the shoes. Most of BikeFit's 3,000 or so clients are sporting cyclists - the run-up to the Etape at the Tour de France, the day the amateurs get to join in, is by far their busiest time of year: "Lot of midlife crises going on," Julian reckons. So cleated cycling shoes are de rigueur, and one of Julian's party-pieces is making customised footbeds for them. This is, I have to say, a lovely process, involving standing on pleasantly hot rubber as a machine produces a mould of your foot.
The whole process takes two hours, and isn't cheap - fitting plus footbeds comes to £199. If it works - if it keeps my knees out of trouble - it's an absolute bargain. And at least you know that your money is going to good people.
CycleFit, 11-13 Macklin St, London WC2, 020 7430 0083, www.cyclefit.co.ukReuse content