Phil Burt Innovation
Bike fitting – The Phil Burt Experience 12/07/2018
Bike – Genesis Flyer 2016
Rider – An over ambitious amateur with delusions of grandeur
Words and photos by shop manager Ben
Getting to know you, getting to know me
Today I visited long time shop friend and customer Phil Burt at his headquarters at the Manchester Institute of Health and Performance (MIHP for short) to learn about and experience his Bike Fit process. Bikeshak is planning to work closely with Phil and his clients in order for us to deliver accurate fit set up’s based on Phil’s method and measurements. For us having one of the UK’s leading authorities on bike fitting on our door step it seems the logical option to send our customers who require a fit to see Phil and work together to address their fit issues.
Arriving at the impressive MIHP facility you are greeted with a dominating entrance that leads into a very well presented waiting area staffed by cheery receptionists who greet you on arrival with offers of coffee and tea whilst you await your appointment. The building compromises a wealth of fitness and medical facilities to assess athletes performing at world level with dedicated motion capture camera rooms, performance testing facilities, medical examination rooms including an MRI, even an altitude chamber to allow athletes to undergo tests in conditions parallel to wherever they will be performing in the world. The atmosphere at the top of Everest can quite literally be replicated at the MIHP.
Greeted by a cheery Phil we make our way into his consultancy room which is awash with technical fitting equipment. The whole environment projects a professional yet relaxed atmosphere, I feel like I’ve been let behind the curtain of Olympic level sport in this place, it almost feels like voyeurism peering into the world of the pro athlete, the bit you never get to see behind closed doors.
So I was surprised to find the start of Phil’s process was simply getting to know my riding history and injuries on a personal level, nothing technical just simply getting to the bottom of key issues I have on the bike that make sense to me. The point of this process is to establish a Goal. Phil is very much of the opinion that a fit for the sake of it is a pointless exercise there has to be a reason behind it, a purpose. This purpose will inevitably vary from client to client depending on the goal set down by them and Phil, for me it was to address long standing left knee pain and a tendency to sit skewed on the bike. I felt instantly validated in my complaints relating to my fit knowing that we had identified the issues that matter most to me and that we were going to take positive steps to solve them.
Next it was a physical assessment. Phil is a top class Physio Therapist with a very comprehensive understanding of muscular and skeletal anatomy and he used this knowledge to perform a number of tests on the client to build evidence to substantiate their fit concerns. This is very much the core principle of Phil’s fit process, changes to fit are only as good as the evidence that backs them up. This is how he achieves outstanding results by building a case for the rider as an individual rather than using a preset template of tests and exams as often set by the manufactures of bike fit equipment. The purpose of this process is to ascertain correct fit not just bike size.
What we quickly established is that I have some rather unique physical traits! For one my right leg is significantly shorter than my left and my hip sits higher (by quite a lot!) on the left to compensate for this, I also stand very much heel in with a wide stance with my right knee rotated outwards. A walking assessment and examination of my range of movement in my knees quickly established where the likely source of my knee pain was coming from! Seeing where the obvious physical problems are Phil performs a series of tests to ascertain my flexibility in the muscles and joints used for cycling, this is where the expert Physio background comes in, this is not something that can be done by your average bike fitter.
Now with a clear understanding of my unique physical attributes it was time to don the motion capture gear to see how these attributes are affecting my riding dynamically by capturing my data in real time using the infamous Retul hardware and software.
Retul – A beginners guide
Rather than being some technical tool to gain precious watts for the performance cyclist Phil uses Retul to further his case of evidence for my problems and begins the process of seeing where improvements or changes can be made to address them. Retul adds a real immediacy to the process and being able to see my numbers generated in real time is a little hypnotic! As Phil explains the key numbers that jump out at him are my ankle extension and lack of movement in my left knee. Basically my right leg is getting the full benefit of complete extension whilst my left leg is under extending due to my saddle being set lower than it should be. This is causing my left leg to work much harder and therefore put more strain on my knee because it never extends to it’s optimal angle and my right ankle is flexing far more than my left as it’s reaching full extension with every pedal stroke.
My saddle is set at it’s current height by design, I’m aware of the issues I have with my pelvis and leg length and I’ve arrived at my fit simply by going with what feels natural like I imagine most of you have done. What’s comforting is knowing the exact physiological reasons for why I’ve arrived at my current fit.
Next we move onto what Phil is probably most famous for in the bike fitting world which is saddle fit. Using an incredibly clever bit of equipment by GebioMized Phil attaches a pressure sensor pad over the top of my existing saddle so my pressure points can be mapped in real time as I ride. Not only will this help in identifying the correct size and shape of saddle but also add to the Retul ride data to build a picture of what my short leg and wonky hip are doing to my undercarriage as I ride! As it turns out I am getting elevated pressure on the left side of the saddle which is not surprising considering this is where most of my saddle sores originate.
With all the assessments and tests over Phil now has enough data to come to a conclusion and present solutions to solve my specific issues. He explains that my low saddle height is as such to allow a comfortable extension of my shorter leg and my skewed hip is only adding to the problem causing me to sit slightly twisted on the bike causing elevated pressure on the left hand side of the saddle. The under extension of my longer left leg combined with my heel in stance is causing my knee not only to under extend but oscillate slightly as I pedal putting strain on the joint and robbing me of power.
The cure for all my ills
Phil has an extensive understanding of cycle products relating to fit having worked with many manufactures to aid their design and is quick to recommend the parts and adjustments I need to make in order to allow the bike to fit me. Firstly fitting Speed Play pedals will allow the float needed to cope with my inward facing heels as well as the ability to add spacers under the right hand cleat to correct the discrepancy in leg length effectively leveling me out on the bike. This will in turn allow a higher saddle height giving correct extension in both legs and proper rotation in both knees.
Phil is even able to recommend specific variations of products including Speed Play pedals with a longer spindle to accommodate my wide stance as well as referring me to Specialized shoes which offer a greater range of foot support for my fallen arches. The end result is empowering knowing I now have fit data that is entirely mine with solutions tailored to address my problems. There is no one solution fits all with Phil Burt it is very much a holistic approach tailored to the individual.
This is where Bikeshak comes in! The next step is to implement these changes, Phil openly admits he is no bike mechanic so refers clients to his recommended bike shops to make the adjustments necessary. Clients are given a report with a lot of data and it’s our job as the ones setting up the bike to interpret this data correctly, it’s also important that we understand Phil’s notes and have a clear idea of what he wants to achieve for the client. Phil only recommends trusted shops to deliver the end point of his service correctly and at Bikeshak we are immensely proud to be counted among them.
For me I’ll be making the recommended changes and as per Phil’s advice reporting back to him as a follow up so he can advise further is necessary, expect a full report back from me to let you all know how I’ve got on with my new fit!
I didn’t know what to expect going into MIHP, whether it would be intimidating, overly technical or just plain baffling. I’m well aware that I’m in an institute that caters for world class athletes and questioned whether perhaps for a mere average cyclist is this a step too far? But what Phil achieves is a service on a very personal level using the technology and knowledge available to him to delivery something truly bespoke. Much like we benefit as riders from racing developed equipment we can equally benefit from professionally developed methods of fitting which is something often overlooked by many.
Post fit ride
The commute to work – 14/07
Following on from Phil’s advice he kindly lent me a pair of Speed Play pedals with longer pedal axles which I fitted for my ride to work, well, what a difference. The most surprising thing was that it all felt incredibly normal, I spaced the cleats on my right foot as instructed and raised the saddle height to where my brain has been telling me it needs to be forever. What I found was that, unlike before when I raised the saddle I suffered no numbness or uncomfortable sensations in the groin. I also found that I was getting what felt like a good extension from my left leg whilst retaining it in the right. I also noticed I wasn’t leaning the bike over to the right any more and that my knee didn’t make a peep. Normally it’s a little sore after riding but this time not a jot – it was a joy to experience.
This I feel is just the beginning, as with most things physiological anatomical problems are often interconnected. I found upon removing my cycling shoes and fitting my normal work shoes that immediately felt like I was falling over to the right! It would seem the corrected stance I gained on the bike was something my body has been crying out for to correct my wonky hip, to suddenly loose it and go back to normal felt like a bout of vertigo. So I shall be investing in some pedals and visiting a podiatrist soon as this is obviously something my body needs especially if it helps my knee.
I think the following skit from a very famous cartoon called ‘Rick and Morty’ sums up beautifully the experience I’ve had this morning. Phil Burt dabbles in precision and today I experienced for the first time true level. You too need not be lambs to the slaughter of bike fit pit-falls, If there’s one thing to take away from all of this it’s that a good bike fit will benefit anyone, in more ways than you may think.
For more information about Phil Burt and his practice Phil Burt Innovation and of course to book yourself for a fit he has a great website:
It’s also worth following him on social media with frequent updates about his service:
Written on July 14th, 2018 by Ben Othen