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.