The Spoke April 22, 2012

Golf, Cycling Fairy Godfathers and Saddle Height

Golf. Bare with me, readers, as I seamlessly segue from that apparently irrelevant opening to something more relevant over the next couple of hundred words.

Yes, golf. Now my golf is a lot like my cycling, except that I am much, much worse at golf. I have actually banned myself from playing golf. The first time I played golf, I hired a set of left-handed golf clubs at great expense before realising on the first tee that I play golf right-handed. Things have gone downhill from there. But one thing I do know about golf is that if you tinker with your swing, it can be the start of a slippery slope from which your game might not recover. I never actually had a golf swing, more a frenzied scythe at fresh air, but I have decided that the cycling equivalent is to start adjusting the height of one’s saddle, in the mistaken belief that it would not end in tears, frustration and melancholy.

This all began some weeks ago. I can’t remember exactly when or why, but at some point I raised the height of my saddle ever so slightly. It felt comfortable enough to begin with, but then everything started to unravel.

At this point, I should point out that I have a cycling sort-of-fairy-godfather. Or I am stalking a fellow cyclist; it’s definitely one of the two. He is a gentleman slightly older but in much better shape than me, with whom I share a large part of my commute. We encounter each other several times a month, with the same outcome: clad largely in the colours of the Astana team, he will come steaming past me; I will put my head down and try and stay on his wheel for as long as I can and eventually he will leave me behind. This can happen very quickly or very slowly, depending on whether the traffic lights are feeling friendly (by friendly, I mean turning red as he approaches, allowing me to catch up and have a rest). He first popped up during my preparation for RIDE24 2011, and was very useful in allowing me to get something useful out of my regulation cycle to work.

Up until a couple of weeks ago we had done no more than share a knowing nod of the head - I assumed this was to indicate I know that that he is much faster than me and he knows this too. Then, somewhere near Stockwell he pulled up alongside me at the lights and told me he thought my saddle was a bit high, that my leg was coming down “too straight”. I had already begun to wonder about the wisdom of my adjustment and this sealed the deal – the saddle was coming back down. I thanked him, and was on my way. Alas, it was too late. I played football two nights later and it emerged that the burden on I had placed on my left foot in raising the saddle had led to an injury.

Regrettable, but not too much of a problem, right? Just put the saddle back to where it was, don’t be such an idiot in future, world keeps on turning, right? Wrong. When I put it ‘back’, it didn’t feel right. Nor did the next adjustment. 

As the old saying goes: “when life gives you lemons, Google* them.” The trouble is, Google* gave me this: http://www.bikeradar.com/fitness/article/technique-how-to-get-your-seat-height-right-14608/

It is informative, it is useful and, if I had any idea what I was doing, it was probably the answer to my problems. In reality, it nearly led to a nervous breakdown. Returning to the golf swing analogy, I had probably reached the equivalent of strolling up to the first tee, throwing all your clubs down the fairway before lying down on the grass sobbing.

Two weeks on, and a thousand adjustments later, I think I’ve cracked it; the foot is on the mend and my RIDE24 2012 training can begin in earnest. Just to be sure though, I have started adjusting the time I leave the house in the morning in the hope I come across my sort-of-fairy-godfather and he will endorse my saddle height. If he has any sense, he has probably quit his job and moved to Peru in order to avoid such lunacy, but we live in hope.

There is probably a lesson here and that lesson is that I am an idiot. But then, you probably knew that already.

* Other internet search engines are available. But they’re not as good.

Sources - bikeradar.com

Words - Lukey

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