Ep. 17 Complex Asymmetry in Bike Fitting with Neill Stanbury


Ep. 17 Sponsor: G8 2620 Orthotic Insoles

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Complex Asymmetry in Bike Fitting

Physiotherapist Neill Stanbury from Australia joins the show this week to dive into his specialty which is complex asymmetrical motion patterns and injuries.  As a bike fitter, Neill encounters extremely difficult cases where cyclists have experienced significant pain, injuries, and developed issues and complications due to the asymmetry.  He discusses how issues manifest itself on the bike, the brain’s involvement in the process, and also his treatment methods. The episode is broken down into a few main topics:

1.) Body Asymmetry and the Impact in Cycling

2.) Treating Leg Length Discrepancies and Asymmetry (case discussions)

3.) Structural Leg Length Discrepancy vs. Functional

4.) The Bike Fitting Adaptation

Any person who is charging a decent amount for a high-quality fitting session should be spending a lot of their time ironing out asymmetries because that is really where the complexity comes into it.

Neill Stanbury

Neill's Bike Fit

THE DIVE: Ep. 17 Topics

Body Asymmetry and Cycling Impact

  • Neill’s history of injury leading him down the road to becoming a bike fitter
  • “If these guys can charge $300 and know nothing about what they are doing, perhaps if I can get better at this, this is something I could do.”
  • Cycling is a sport which demands the highest degree of symmetry
  • Every pain a person presents with is on one side.
  • The role of brain dominance in the protection mechanism that affects asymmetry
  • When compensatory strategies run out
  • A leg length discrepancy does not affect runners the way it affects cyclists
  • “No one sits too high on a bike and evenly overextends both legs at exactly the same amount.”
  • Compensation strategies don’t work for everyone
  • Each person responds differently based on unconscious compensation
  • 95% of Neill’s customers who seek him out experience pain

Treating Leg Length Discrepancies and Complex Asymmetry

  • The off-bike assessment
  • “If you’ve seen a million people with a million pains, you can kind of tell how they are going to ride before you even throw them anywhere near a bike.”
  • Problem hypothesis
  • The process of decompensation
  • The educated guess and check
  • Rider feedback
  • Establishing a starting point

Structural Leg Length Discrepancy vs. Functional Leg Length Discrepancy?

  • Femoral or tibial leg length discrepancy – why they are different
  • Eva foam internal shoe testing
  • Effective leg length different from other diagnoses
  • How some fitters miss asymmetry by only looking at a cyclist from a single side
  • The requirements and resolutions to functional leg length discrepancies
  • Structural difference = leg length shim forever

 Structural Leg Length Discrepancy vs. Functional Leg Length Discrepancy?

  • Cyclists experience neuroplastic adaptation after fitting
  • Warn customers about how they are doing to feel and what may happen after the fit
  • Some adapt instantly to changes and some may take time
  • Educated guesses on what will happen don’t hurt if you’re wrong.  Worst case scenario, a cyclist feels great after a fit
  • Riding is physical therapy

Neill is a Physiotherapist who specializes in cycling biomechanics and injury management. He has been fitting for around 10 years and has a special interest in complex asymmetrical motion patterns and injuries. His interest in bike fitting came about after suffering from severe knee pain on the bike and attempting to overcome the problem with conventional fitting philosophies. After struggling to achieve any improvement with three separate bike fits, he set out to solve his own challenging problem and became deeply interested in the complex biomechanics and problem solving involved in high-level bike fitting. After running his cycling-specific Physiotherapy clinic for a decade in Melbourne, Australia, Neill has just recently moved further north to Brisbane and is currently conducting fitting sessions by appointment out of Cam’s Cycling Collective in Bowen Hills. Neill has trained with world-renowned bike fitter Steve Hogg and specializes in all forms of complex asymmetries, as well as cycling overuse injury management.

If you have questions for Neill or would like more information, please see his website below.  Feel free to comment below and we’ll get Neill to respond!

Neill’s Bike Fit

Does Cleat Stagger Remedy a Leg Length Discrepancy?

Cleat Stagger

What is Cleat Stagger?

When the cleat on one bike shoe is shifted forward and the other one positioned to the rear, rather than symmetrically aligned (see the photo above).

We tend to hear more about cleat stagger when it accompanies a comment suggesting that a particular anatomical leg length difference is located at the femur. With that information in mind, many fitters and cyclists consider staggering the cleats. Is this the right answer?

Things to Consider:

  1. How can you be sure the leg length difference is only in the femur?
  2. Are you sacrificing optimum cleat fore/aft position with cleat stagger?
  3. What other aspect(s) further up the chain is/are compromised by cleat stagger?  Are you sacrificing too much in order to avoid a simple solution?

We noticed that by addressing almost all leg length differences as a leg length discrepancy, you will most likely discover the best solution: a Leg Length Shim. This also tends to minimize other complications from the foot up that can possibly occur via cleat stagger.  Some of these sacrifices can include injury, pain, imbalance or loss of power.

Cleat Stagger

Find our for yourself!  Try both a cleat stagger and a Leg Length Shim separately.  In most cases, a bike fitter or BikeFit Pro will be able to observe better symmetry from the rear view.  For the individual, you will likely feel a distinct difference between the two.  Which one felt better? In our experience the preferred solution usually, if not always, includes the Leg Length Shim as the primary adjustment.  Some cyclists expressed that the cleat stagger drives them absolutely bonkers (medical expression).

Lastly, remember with all leg length issues, it is best to have a bike fitter or BikeFit Pro check your posture on multiple shaped saddles.   Some different saddle shapes mask the potential asymmetrical movements often associated with a leg length issue. Only by checking your posture on a few different saddles can you assure you have indeed addressed the difference as well as possible.

At BikeFit, only after installing the shim is staggering the cleat ever-so-slightly a consideration we make in order to fine-tune.  Even then, it is rare at best.

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