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Female Bike Fit Issues: Brakes & Gears

Following on from our previous posts on female specific cycling issues, we thought we would speak briefly about what you might do to adjust your road set up to make braking and shifting gears easier. This applies to anyone really, but it is those with smaller hands that tend to have problems and not know how to resolve them.

With regard to the adjustments below, we are making an assumption that everything else is set up for you, otherwise it may invalidate these changes and explain why they don’t work.

To start with, I guess we had better show you what a brake hood is.

It’s one of these:



Or these:



Or these:


There are three main brands that produce them, Shimano, Campagnolo and SRAM. This affects how you might adjust the brake hood to make it more comfortable for you. We will talk about this in more detail shortly.


Problem 1 – “My wrists feel uncomfortable”

For  your wrist to be comfortable, and for you to be in the best position for your muscles to work to grip the hoods and use the breaks, you will probably need to make some adjustment to the set up.

You can adjust the hood forwards, backwards and sideways (remove the rubber bit and you should find an allen key adjust which will let you move it).


We generally find setting it up to approx. 25-30 degrees the optimal angle, and a slight inwards tilt makes it easier for you to grip the brake lever. However this may vary slightly depending on what you want to achieve and how you are riding your bike.

With thanks to


Of course if you have too much weight through your arms, or your bars are too wide/narrow, you are unlikely to find relief from this adjustment. Moving the saddle back will take weight off your arms, and bars which roughly match your shoulder width will promote normal alignment


Problem 2 – “I can’t grip the hoods very well”

If you have made the above adjustments and are still struggling, the groupset might not be providing you with the best contact point.

A groupset is a collection of components for the bike. A more expensive groupset has more refined design. Cheaper groupsets tend to come with bulkier grips, and the levers can be more cumbersome to operate. Just look at the difference in these two Shimano groupsets below:

Shimano 105 v Shimano Sora


If you are having problems with the size of the grip, it might be worth investing in a better groupset such as Shimano Tiagra (2016 onwards), Shimano 105, SRAM or Campagnolo.


Problem 3 “I can’t reach the brake lever”

Many modern systems now allow you to manoeuvre the brake lever into a better position so you can reach it when riding on the hood or on the drops.

If you have adjusted as per Problem 1 and still having problems reaching the brake levers, think about either moving the lever down a bit, or moving the lever closer.

Some Shimano systems require shims to be placed in between the lever and the hood system.


Some systems allow you to make an allen key adjustment or screwdriver to move the lever closer:



Unfortunately most Campagnolo levers don’t come with a good level of adjustment (although I personally find them naturally very comfortable), so you really have to rely on moving the hood to optimise the lever position, rather than being able to move other bits.

One of the consequences of having a poor brake and gear set up means you can get numbness, sore wrists, sore elbows, sore neck and back, and also struggle to maintain your position over longer rides. You don’t need to suffer in silence.


*Note* if you make any adjustments to the brake lever, please be aware this may affect your braking as the tension on the cable will have changed. If you are unsure how to make any of these adjustments please consult with your local bike technician or bike shop.


Fit Your Bike










Top 5 Bike Fit Errors For New Cyclists

As we have been fitting for several years now, we have seen a myriad of bikes and riders come through the clinic, and thus a wide variety of problems.

Here are the top five preventable problems for those who are new to cycling:



 1. Bike is the wrong size/geometry – it is so important to think about what you want to get from cycling, as the dimensions on bikes can vary so much. For example if you want to be comfortable riding over long distance then you might like to consider a sportive style bike. Those who have been riding for some time, and are confident on the bike and well conditioned might like to purchase something more aggressive. It is all down to you as a rider, what your build is like, and what you want to get out of cycling. 



2. Saddle too low – it’s perfectly normal when you are new to riding to want to set the saddle lower in order to get used to riding the bike, and feel safe when doing so. However the problems arise when you start to get serious about cycling and don’t ensure the saddle is set at the right height. This is when knee, hip and low back problems can start to develop particularly over high mileage rides. Top tip: as a rough guide only, set the saddle so that your heel touches the pedal with your knee fully extended (approx. 40 degrees of knee flexion).



3. Poor saddle choice – don’t be afraid to change the “stock” saddle that comes with the bike that you have bought. As these are an “add on” to the bike itself, not all brands actually supply a high end saddle that is fit for your needs. How you choose your saddle is dependant on many factors which we will go into detail on in another post.




4. Lack of suitable clothing – if you don’t feel confident riding clipped in then that’s fine. However not purchasing suitable cycling shorts with a decent chamois in our opinion is a bad decision. Once you get used to wearing lycra, you honestly won’t want to go back to your baggy shorts! Joking aside, it really can help cushion soft sports in your pelvis that otherwise don’t like too much pressure. Combined with a decent saddle and bike fit, then you are onto a winner.



5. Cleat set up – if you are thinking about riding clipped in then make sure you get the right shoes, the right cleat system, and set it up to match you. Not everyone can ride with the same system or float, so think about if you want to be able to walk in your shoes vs riding with a larger cleat system. This will help you decided whether to ride Shimano MTB, road cleats or Speedplay (or other variants on these styles).


Of course there are also many other things you can do such as stretch, and condition yourself for cycling to minimise the stress through your body. But this is something we will talk about in detail another time!


If you have any questions feel free to contact us & thanks for reading.


Fit Your Bike



Saddle Issues for Female Cyclists


As I am a female bike fitter, we tend to get a lot of female cyclists come in for a bike fit, with their primary complaint being saddle comfort (with numbness and soreness being the top issues within this). It is unfortunately normal for cyclists to think that saddle discomfort is something that needs to be tolerated, but this is simply not the case. In extreme cases cyclists report pain or difficulty urinating for several days post ride! Of course the exception being long distance cyclists or cyclists whom may not have “acclimatised” to spending periods of time in the saddle.

The saddle is the one of the most fundamental things to get right on the bike, and without this all other adjustments will be less than optimal.

You might ask yourself, what signs and symptoms should I look out for which tell me that my current saddle choice or set up isn’t right for me? Some of these might be:

  • Numbness
  • Lack of sensation when passing urine during the ride or after the ride
  • Soreness, whether this is in the genitals themselves, the perineum or the tops of the thighs
  • Saddle sores
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Deformity to soft tissues

As a result, we have compiled a brief list of things to look out for and consider changing in order to make your cycling more comfortable and alleviate those unwanted pelvic symptoms.





As we mentioned, some of the most common problems arise from the saddle itself. A decent saddle is worth its weight in gold. We have found that there are many factors that dictate which saddle will suit you best.

  • Saddle height – too high and you will rock on the saddle which will lead to possible chafing and friction
  • Saddle tilt – some saddles are actually designed to have a slight nose down tilt i.e. ISM. Others are supposed to be set up according to the middle third. As a result a lot of the saddles we see are often far too nose up!
  • Saddle fore/aft – too far forwards and too much anterior tilt can place a lot of pressure on soft tissues and thus shoulders. Consider moving the saddle further back to allow a neutral pelvic position and optimal load transfer through upper limbs
  • Riding style – if you adopt a more upright riding style you may want something slightly wider to support the contact points of your pelvis. Conversely, those who ride in a more aggressive position will need something that maximises pressure distribution otherwise soft tissues will take most of the weight
  • Sit bone width – this is more relevant for the recreational and upright riders, but women often have wider ischial tiberosities which may mean a wider saddle will help load bony prominences rather than soft tissue
  • Saddle “cutout” – many clients find relief from a small channel cut out which reduces pressure through the neural and soft tissues within the pelvis
  • Soft tissue anatomy – Cobb cycling have a very good article on “innies” or “outties”. It’s true that if you have more soft tissue exposed this will dictate what kind of saddle you will prefer.
  • Brands that we tend to find alleviate these problems are Cobb, Selle SMP, Specialized. It’s not that we don’t like other saddles, but when client’s have problems these tend to be the ones that resolve the issues




If you have asymmetries in your pelvis (functional, leg length or you over pronate or supinate), this can lead to changes in how your hips and knees track. As a result this could cause chafing on one leg, or make you sit to one side. There are a variety of ways you can resolve these issues:


  • Cleat wedges – these are small angular pieces of plastic which will change the angle of your foot. They can be stacked or layered to stop the foot over pronating or supinating, or to address small leg length discrepancies
  • Cleat shims – these are thicker pieces of plastic that can be stacked to reduce the severity of the leg length. produce very good products
  • Insoles – to help the knee track and thus reduce compensatory strategies at the hip
  • Combination of in the shoe adaptations e.g. heel wedges and forefoot wedges – however these are space occupying so can be an issue
  • Cleats too far forward may also change your tipping point and cause you to come further forward on the saddle





Now the cranks are a widely overlooked aspect of bike fitting. It would be difficult to discuss them in great detail during this article, but what we do know is that the standard cranks that come on a bike aren’t always suitable for the rider on the bike. For example, we had a triathlete in recently who was approx 5ft 5 but running 175mm cranks! There are many reasons to pick cranks;

  • Leg length – it is suitable to pick cranks that roughly match the leg length of the rider NOT the height
  • Hip/knee flexibility –If this is lacking (or albeit even if it is not!) it is best to look for shorter cranks which allow you to pedal in a smooth motion, otherwise this movement often tracks back to the pelvis, where excessive rocking can cause shearing forces through soft tissue and thus pain!
  • Closed hip flexion positions lead to strains through pelvic floor musculature which can also impact on negative sensations and experiences





The handlebar position can have a HUGE impact on symptoms at the pelvis.  If the reach is too short you may round your pelvis and put yourself in an suboptimal position, too long and you may put too much pressure through soft tissues. Too low and you will end up with the same problem, it might not be an issue for 30-60 minutes but over the course of a long ride this is when problems can manifest. You might also want to consider shallow drop handlebars to reduce the pressure when riding on the drops.




  • Seatpost – Believe it or not, changing the seatpost can be a VERY good way to help reduce pressures through the saddle. If you are especially sensitive consider a carbon seatpost or something with shock absorption to help dissipate the energy that would otherwise end up in your pelvis


Specialized CG-R
Specialized CG-R. Cyclocross Magazine
  • Chamois cream – anecdotally clients whom have had pelvic pains report that chamois cream helps immensely, particularly when their mileage has significantly increased or they have started doing longer riders


  • Decent chamois – do not underestimate the benefits of a decent pair of shorts! A well designed chamois will help reduce friction and pressure through sensitive areas. Personally I find something with a little extra padding more comfortable, but less padding suits others. It’s worth spending the extra money, believe me! (Just made sure you put them on the right way round!!!!)



As this is just a basic outline on bike issues, we will be publishing articles that address each bike component separately.

If you have any questions for us feel free to email or contact us on Facebook

If you are interested in booking a bike fit, we operate clinics in Birmingham and Essex, and our fitter is female so perfectly placed to empathise with any pelvic issues you may be having!

*Press Release* Fit Your Bike – Birmingham Clinic

Hello everyone!

We are pleased to announce that we have moved our bike fitting clinic to a more central location in Birmingham.

Physiokinetic in George Street, situated with the Jewellery Quarter will be our new home.

We will be working with Mike Gosling who is the owner of Physiokinetic, and he has extensive experience working with runners and swimmers (which will tie in nicely with helping our triathlete clientele).

We are still ironing out the details, but should you be interested in this clinic then please contact us on:


Or visit our website




The Fit Your Bike Team.



Matt Saunders – New Kit



Matt is a local rider who has used our bike fitting services.

He has ramped things up for next season and bought a smashing new bike with Di2, and upgraded his kit to errrr pink!

What do you all think?

Bike Fitting – What is bike fitting and why should I get one?

What is bike fitting and why should I get one?

Bike fitting is a relatively “new” concept, although it was much more popular in America before transitioning over to the UK.

In recent years it has become much more scientific, with companies looking to transition what they learn about anthropometrics into bike frames and geometries.

Essentially, “bike fitting” is the process of setting up a bicycle in relation to the cyclist who will be riding it. This may take into account previous injuries, current injuries, style of riding and adaptability of the bike and may vary over time.


Do I need to get a bike fit?

We find that some individuals are able to set their bike up relatively well through either previous experience or by problem solving using the various products that are out on the market.

However sometimes the problems that someone is experiencing are too complex and need an outside view – which is where the role of a bike fitter comes in.

This could be saddle discomfort, problems clipping in & out on the pedals or for performance.


Why should I get a bike fit?

Essentially you should get a bike fit if:

  • You are having discomfort e.g. pins and needles
  • You want to improve your performance


If you have any questions, please email or tweet us!




The Fit Your Bike Team.



Matt Saunders – End of Season 2015

The 2015/16 season has been what I can only describe as a season that has made me realise that effort, motivation and the desire to want something so bad can really come true.

Just recapping on the 2015/16 goals:

10 mile TT under 23.30 Done @ 21.15

25 mile TT under 1.05.00 Done @ 55.02

Winter Club TT – Under 24.00 Done @ 23.45

Summer Club TT –  17.00 Done @ 16.02

Club Hill Climb – Go for the win ( Joint 1st place)

The season started pretty bad with a nasty crash on the first club summer TT of the year, luckily nothing broken other than the 3 spoke wheel and a ruined skin suit and some confidence.

MattSaunders3 MattSaunders2

The early season form was there from the off with a nice PB on the E2/10 my position wasn’t the lowest of positions but Bianca @ Fit your bike was addressing some glute issues that I had from the previous season.


By May time I had racked loads of PB’S and felt that all the training over the winter months had really started to pay off, I was averaging about 2 Mph more than on last years tt’s. With June fast approaching the coach turned his attention to gearing the training around doing my first sub hour on a 25 mile TT.

My first attempt didn’t go to plan! On the way to the E2/25 the rear disc wheel tyre exploded in the car, not only did this leave me with no disc wheel but thinking this must be a bad omen……Needless

to say the 22 mph headwind to the turn didn’t help my cause but averaging only 21.5 mph was not going to get me the magical 25mph I needed. The return was very fast but I finished in 1.02.02!

It wasn’t the end of the world as I had another chance to sub hour in August just a month away!

In the meantime I had to try and make sure I got the win on the Summer Club TT, having had 20 seconds taken out of me leaving me in 2nd place a few weeks back. I decided to drop the front end and see how the glutes managed!

It was one of them nights when it looked good for it, warm, humid low pressure the air felt light. It all feel into place and managed a  16.02 which was enough to take the summer series and the club record. New position below.


Now back to that very important milestone! The sub hour!

Now I have yet to be refused to ride at CTT event but it happened, I never made the cut on the E2/25 Metrow Foods in August, too slow in previous rides. What, I can’t have that I have worked and trained so hard for this, so I decided to go up and ride it! It’s a public road, and off I went.

It was a better day nice and warm with a little tailwind to help me home, I started of at around 80% of my FTP and was holding some back for the return leg. I t hit the Turn at 26 Mph I had that feeling this is possible! A tail wind on the way home could get me back even quicker. Every mile that went by my mind was thinking don’t puncture or have a mechanical…..

I was into the last mile and I was averaging 27 + Mph and finally finished on 55.02 It won’t count in CTT events but I know that I have done it, now it will be how much will I break the hour not will I.

SPOCO Events have been ticked off all season and it’s getting towards the end of the year with only a few events left. I have been sitting in 14 place which is 2 places outside a bronze medal! The Colchester Rovers 25 mile event was on the cards and it was good to me last year with a pb of 1.08.00 and 1st in class, so that was it I had to ride it. It was a great ride for me and I knocked off 4 minutes on the course PB plus with the added bonus of joint 12 it gave me the extra points needed to get in 12 place.

Picture below is just before the Colchester Rovers 25 mile TT start.


So now with a couple of events left I had to hope for results to work in my favour! It was on the E1 where I managed to secure my 12th place! I needed the maths to work in my favour! Sadly is wasn’t to be and I ended up coming 14th place overall, not to be sniffed at for my first year of being in the SPOCO. I have learned a lot about the courses and next year will be my year for sure 🙂

So the season is now drawing to a close and I had one last chance to get a good 10 mile TT pb before the season ends. So it was off to the E2/10 for a blast. It was a perfect day for the E2 not a drop of wind and about 24 degrees, thank fully it was a day to remember and I crossed the line on 21.15 averaging over 28.2mph, something that had someone would have told me at the beginning of the season I would have said NO WAY 🙂 Pic below at the roundabout on the E2.


So now my attention is drawn to the Club hill climb in October. With 4 weeks to get back on the road bike and start to train around short hard intervals for the 1.2 mile climb.

A week before the event I came down with a cold! Typical, it’s always the way you train for an event and then you get sick! I had nothing to loose and trained all week, it was a tapering week so the intensity wasn’t as bad.

The day arrived and it was a nice morning with a 7mph head wind up the climb. I was number 8 to go just behind the man who won last year Paul Turton who was probably the only rider there that could upset the standings! I started well and the first climb wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be. Half way through I started to get a build up of lactic in the legs and decided to spin a bit faster to clear it. The final climb came and it flattens a little at the top, I went to change it into the big ring and my finger slipped! Had another go and it went over, and I finished on the line@ 4.26 344watts

Paul had finished and we returned to the car park for the results, what a final event of the year, we had the exact same times! It was a great way to end the season sharing the hill climb title with Paul.

King of the Mountain 🙂 Not really but it felt good, will have to share the socks with Paul LOL!


So to recap and some STATS

Raced 48 time trials this season

12 PB’S

29 Course PB’S

10 mile PB 21.15

25 mile PB 55.02

FTP Jan 245 W October 284 W

SPOCO – 12th Place

Goals for 2016

10 mile TT Sub 21 minutes

25 mile TT Sub 55 minutes

Gateway Summer TT inside 15 mins

Gateway Winter TT Inside 22mins

SPOCO top 10

Ride a CTT National 25 mile TT

To make the Amateur World Time Trial in Perth, Australia In Sept 2016.


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