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Road to Cape Epic: Collyn gets her bike fitted before heading to South Africa

Road to Cape Epic: Collyn gets her bike fitted before heading to South Africa

The 2012 Contessa Spark bike is like the big sister bike to the 2011. The plum and lime colour scheme is slightly more subdued from the pink and orange, the SID forks are an upgrade and the frame lines have been significantly cleaned up with more room on-board for a water bottle. Generally it looks a bit more sophisticated.

As I ride a small size, it still looks like a toy bike next to what most of the guys ride. However, as I passed most of them on the trails this weekend, I don’t have a problem with that. 

But a new bike is a new bike. And along with its muddy christening through the Surrey Hills this weekend, it required a proper bike fitting. So I took her into Scott dealers – Pretorius Bikes in Shoreditch.Here, Eryn Nolan, the better half of Jean Claude Pretorius, is a bike fitting expert.

I stripped down to some vintage Condor knicks while Eryn set up the workshop fit-bike. Looking a bit like a cross between Frankenstein’s machine and a 1970s cruiser, the Size Cycle is a contraption which allows minuscule measurements to be taken and changed. It is setup with a camera and digital measuring system so Eryn can make sure I’m not only sort of in the right place, but to the millimetre in exactly the perfect position.

The first thing which struck me was how upright my riding position has been to-date. I didn’t change anything about the 2011 bike when it arrived, save knock the seat up an inch or two. So this doesn’t surprise me. I struggled on steep climbs as my weight was so far back on the bike I practically had to kiss my stem to stay on the mountain. Not only was my old position helping me fall backward off the trail, it was far from being a racy position. As my priority for the Absa Cape Epic is on survival over fastest possible speeds, my new position isn’t a racy as it could be. It’s a good balance of aggressive and comfort, keeping in mind there will be days in the saddle pushing 8 hours.

To rectify the situation, Eryn switched my 80mm stem to 100mm (I’m told this is totes old school), and positioned my seat further back on the seat post. On the trail, this results in a slightly more stable ride, with less twitchy turning. It also means I can ride most of the 25% rocky climbs I’ve previously been forced to walk. I have to also be wary of steep descents as well (not really a new thing for me), but now I’ve got to make more of a conscious effort to really drop off the back and keep my balance evenly weighted while I roll over cliffs.

I won’t lie; my arms are pretty sore this morning… a situation I might have tried to avoid, but it’s mostly because now my arms are taking more weight while I ride. I’m more balanced and I know this will pay off in the long-run. Thank goodness I’ve been doing all those push-ups and bicep curls for the last few months… ahem.

As it turns out, I have a slight hip rotation in my right hip. The culprit is my constant crossed-leg sitting position at work, and well, everywhere. I didn’t know this before. And now everytime I catch myself heaving a leg over, I get pangs of guilt that this really isn’t the pro thing to do. Sally wouldn’t do it.

Yesterday proved an effective test of the new bike. Fitted out with tubeless Maxxis tyres suited to the punishing dry conditions of South Africa, they didn’t really take to the 4 inches of slippery Surrey mud, but the bike handled like a beauty. It’s definitely lighter and has the added effect of making me feel like I have to earn the right to ride it. I might still look like a roadie on the trails, out of place in every possible way, but at least my bike fits like a glove.


  1. Soren Svendsen

    How can you make a proper bike-fit with a narrow drop road bar, when the actually bike have a wide flat bar? That’s not serious!
    Even the wide of the bar is part of calculating the stem length. The wider the bar, the shorter the stem .. if you want to sit in the same position.

  2. simon booth

    this is total nonsense.

    Yo dont ride a MTB like a road bike, so setting it up like a road bike is a classic error.

    Saddle height between a road bike d MTB is not normally he same. MTB would normally be 3 mm lower than road bike too.

    P.S. your saddle is way too far back, which will slow down your pedalling and make it difficult for steep climbs.

  3. Paul

    I’m no expert unlike Soren and Simon obviously are, but I can see any reference in the write up to Collyn’s MTB being set up “like a road bike”. Neither have I read anything that seems to be “total nonsense”, all of what’s written and being shown in the pictures seems correct to me, the jig used has one gear and a single 20″ wheel so the fact it has drop handlebars is neither here nor there when it comes to taking measurements.
    I doubt you’d find may frame builders/bike fit experts with jigs set up with flat bars.
    At the end of the day, the proof is in the pudding, and Collyn’s parting paragraph seems to sum it up nicely.

    1. Soren Svendsen

      Paul, I’m no expert .. I just wonder!
      If you look at the second picture, they define the angels of Collyns arms and back, and Collyn holds her hands on the drop bar in a way, that’s not possible to transform to a flat bar. In my opinion that results in a different position on her mtb.
      A dropbar is normally 42 cm wide, a flatbar is somewhere between 60 and 68 cm, and that will certainly influence! My guess is about 2 cm on the stem length .. if you want to have the same angel on your back.
      The size of the wheel has no influence, it’s just there so you can get some resistance in the pedals. The interesting are the 3 contact points; pedals, bar and sadel.
      If bikefitters don’t have flat bars as a possibility, it just shows that the are not serious about mountainbikers.


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