When I bought my new Colnago I studiously got as much information as I could on its geometry (Colnago famously doesn’t give everything away) and stood it up against the Bianchi. What I thought I ended up with was a frame that was similar to the old bike in its main dimensions, with the top tube being .5 cm longer and the headset a tad shorter. Anyway, as close as I could get.
I set up the new bike as near as I could to replicate the old fit, but lo and behold, it wasn’t quite right. I remember going through this process with the Bianchi years ago, so it shouldn’t be a big surprise, but still, it’s a pain (normally in the back of the leg behind the knee).
What amazes me to no end are the near-infinite combinations of bits and pieces that all have to be just right to make my ride the joy I know it should be. Here are the big ones:
1. Saddle height. The most important measurement, I suppose, and one that you’d think would be simple to get. Think again because it’s not, at least for me, and is not an isolated measurement, but contingent on how you have #2 set up. If I get this off it’s either pain in the tendon under the patella or a burning sensation behind the knee. If you think there is a universally accepted measurement for this baby, try Googling ‘saddle height fit’, but make sure you’ve brewed a big coffee first. You’ve just entered a black hole you may not escape from soon.
2. Saddle set-back. This is the horizontal distance from the bottom bracket to the either the tip or the back of the saddle, measured by dropping a plum line down. This one is crucial for my knee and I find that just a few mm on the ‘wrong’ side, either way, will lead to unhappiness.
3. Saddle-Handlebars. This one is controversial, it seems. It is the distance between the tip (or back) of the saddle to the middle of your bars. It is not horizontal, but the actual distance, therefore not taking into consideration #3 below. If I get this wrong it can lead to wrist, arm, back and shoulder blade pain.
4. Saddle-Bars Drop. The vertical distance between the top of the saddle and the top of the bars. You determine this by measuring from the floor up to both of these places, then subtracting the difference. My bike shop doesn’t like this one, preferring a measurement from the hub of the front wheel to the middle of the bars, which should transfer from bike to bike, I guess. I’m not sure about the ‘right’ position here. It’s not like the saddle position, where my legs will hurt no matter what. This one, I can say from experience, can be brought down, spacer by spacer, and for me at least, the pain in the neck you get goes away after a few rides. I have no spacers on either bike.
I mentioned my amazement above. Now that I have written all this I’m even more freaked out that until 2010 I put more or less ZERO thought into any of this, even though I had cycled (slowly) extensively for years. I guess I was younger, more flexible and with better knees.
The tweaking continues…