Bike fits are everywhere. They range from high-tech Retül affairs, to lo-fi setups that wouldn’t seem out of place in a Rocky movie, had Stallone wanted to be a pro cyclist rather than a pugilist. That is to say, there is significant variation between bike fits, why they're done, and what's included.
With that in mind, as we roll out our bike fitting service as a standalone offering, we thought it might be a good idea to introduce the person who will be in the directeur sportif's chair, along with a few details about what you can expect from your bike fit session. So step forward Dr Jessica Grubaugh PT, DPT, OCS, an orthopaedic-certified specialist, physical therapist, cyclist and Bay Area resident.
A few days before her inaugural fit session at AC, we got on a call with Jess to chat about all things bike fits, the whys, the wherefores, and what she does differently.
Hey Jess! OMG, this is early.
Hey Pete! Yes, sorry about that. I have a bit of a crazy schedule.
That's okay. It's nice to see the stars. So, diving straight in, why bike fits, and why now?
I've always had the bike fitting thing in the back of my mind. As a physical therapist, one of our gurus is Shirley Sahrmann. I went very early in my career to one of her seminars, and she just planted this seed which was, "Hey, as a physical therapist, as an expert in movements, you should know how to do a run analysis, and you should know how to do a bike analysis."
Because they're primary pursuits everyone should be able to do?
Exactly. People should be able to run, and people should be able to ride their bikes comfortably and without any type of pathology.
So while I've been interested in doing bike fits as a service for some time, I wanted to get my deeper credentials in physical therapy first. I'm an orthopaedic-certified specialist, which sounds like just a title, but it's actually really hard to get!
And what does it mean?
It's one of these secret titles nobody cares about, except if you're another physical therapist, you'll be like, "Oh yeah, okay. That means something."
If we sat next to each other at a dinner party, how would you tell me what you do without me falling into my prawn cocktail?
I'd say that I'm a physical therapist. In other words, a movement specialist. On top of that, the orthopaedic-certified specialist part means I'm current, and I know what I'm talking about on the latest research. In most medical professions, it takes seven to twelve years for the research to catch up to clinical work.
The starter is saved. How long have you been riding?
I've been cycling pretty seriously for at least eight or ten years on and off because I live in the Bay Area, and it's the biker's paradise! And during that time, I've seen the evolution and the trend of everybody getting on bikes. Back in the early 2000s, the roads didn't have lanes, and so it was really like, you go out once a month with Critical Mass, and then some of us who are a little more hardcore tended to go in packs to the Marin Headlands and do the whole circuits that now everybody's doing. I've definitely seen that trend.
And you've done some elements of bike fits before, but never the whole enchilada, so to speak?
Absolutely. I've got my bike fitting credentials, and last year I ran a cycling symposium that included ex-Olympians, amateur cyclists, and nutritionists. I've even done casual, scrappy Zoom calls to get you people fitted on their Pelotons during the pandemic. And I've sat in on hundreds of bike fits over the years, so I'm keen to offer the benefit of my experience to Above Category's client base.
Pele.. what? Just joking. As we hinted in the intro, there's quite the spread of bike fit services out there, some of which seem solely motivated to get you on a new bike at any cost. What's your take on the scene?
Speaking from personal experience, taking something like the Retül system, which provides a lot of data, fitters can end up relying solely on numbers without seeing the person. Too much of a focus on "the machine says it's right", so you got a good fit.
Then on the other end of spectrum, you've got someone like Craig Upton, who, although no PT, does know coaching, and he sure knows the bike! He brings his huge skill to bear on the fit, and the result is great. So yes, to answer your question, the market is pretty disparate.
When someone comes to you for a bike fit, what would you like them get out of it?
My approach is holistic and will vary depending on the customer's needs. I'm looking at their goals and going from there. It will be very personalized. Are you looking for a new bike? Are you mountain biking this certain way? Are you mostly climbing? Basically, how are you riding? Do you have any pain? Even if you don't have pain, how can we get you more optimized on your bike? And that could be a combination of the movement analysis and the physio part of it, and then also bike optimization, too. I'll probably send you home with things like, "Hey, I'm finding this strength and balance opportunity..." It'll be curated for the exact person. No bike fit will be the same!
To book a fit with Jess, head over to our dedicated Bike Fitting page.