Endurance PDX and Annalisa Fish got a little bit of love from one of our favorites, Pretty Damned Fast. Check out the article below or click HERE.
Annalisa Fish, owner of Endurance PDX, is a physical therapist and bike fitter in Portland, Oregon. I met Annalisa when she interviewed me for her cycling podcast "We Got to Hang Out", co-hosted by the wonderful Abby Watson. If you haven't heard it yet, find it on iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts, or read this. Proper bike fit is an issue that's always intrigued me. I'm forever wondering if I could be more comfortable or get a little more power with a few tweaks to my setup. As a woman on the shorter end of the height spectrum, sometimes I question whether "standard size" equipment, which is probably made to fit the average-sized man, will ever work well for me. Like most cyclists, I've had my share of aches, pains, and injuries too. I was stoked to visit Annalisa at her studio, ENDURANCE PDX, and watch her in action as she fine-tuned a TT fit for Brenna Wrye-Simpson of LA Sweat. I wanted to ask a few questions about bikes and bodies, and find out more about her journey in fitting and PT. Here's what I learned:
PDF: Hey, so you're a doctor! You went to the University of Washington. Tell us about your training and educational journey as well as your background as an athlete.
AF: Yes, I have a clinical doctorate in Physical Therapy from the University of Washington. I grew up in a small town in NW Washington that was nuts about the sport of basketball. After high school, I went to a small college where I played basketball, studied exercise science and worked in the athletic training room. Following undergraduate school I was unsure of what direction my education and career would take me. I knew I wanted more school to feel confident in a trade, so I started taking more classes and working as a tech in a physical therapy clinic. I fell in love with it. For me it was more about the relationships with the patients and helping them problem solve their injury through activity and tissue work. I decided that Physical Therapy would be a great profession for me, so I applied, worked some connections and got in. During this time, I started trying my hand at endurance sports and even built up my first real road bike.
Following school, my husband and I moved to Austin, Texas and it was here that I reached out to a local cycling club as a way to make friends. For the next 2 years, I spent most every weekend with my friends on the Austin Flyers Women’s Cycling club. I was mentored by these gals on how to be a bike rider, racer and most importantly, an advocate for the sport. These ladies continue to be some of my best friends.
I started ENDURANCE in Bozeman, MT where we lived for a couple years. One of the main goals of Endurance at the time was to provide indoor cycling training to get through those long winters. At the time I was racing my bike a lot and traveling around the West attempting to hold my own in the professional peloton. After a couple years, we decided to move back to the Pacific Northwest and settled on Portland, OR. It is here I reopened the studio tucked away in a corner of the Sellwood neighborhood in PDX.
PDF: What can a cyclist expect from a bike fit? Take us through the steps in a typical bike fit.
AF: As part of the process, I think the physical assessment is a really important component. As a physical therapist, I begin with my assessment so I have an idea of who I’m working with. Next, I perform motion capture in 360 degrees followed up with analysis. This is followed up with changes to the bike based on what I see on and off the bike. Once we’ve come to a point where we both feel good with the changes made, the client will come away with some exercises to work on that will enhance their riding. I like to follow up within a month to check in and make any other necessary changes and to ensure they are satisfied with the outcome.
PDF: What are common fit problems that women have with their existing bikes when they come to you for a bike fit, and how do you help solve them?
AF: I see a lot of hip problems in the female cyclist. So often this is from a closed off hip position and quad dominance. This can wreak havoc on the hip and SI joint over time as the pelvis become misaligned. A proper fit can help as well as addressing areas of tightness and weakness. Often times this is in the form of addressing posture on the bike, fore/aft of the saddle and pedaling technique.
PDF: What is the most common coaching/biomechanic advice you give to your clients? Like, what is everyone doing wrong on the bike?
AF: Many seasoned and elite cyclists are NOT using their glutes! As we pedal more and spend less time in the gym or doing other sports, we, for whatever reason, start to become more quad dominant. This can lead to problems at the knee, hip and low back.
PDF: Saddles are such a hot topic. What are some pointers you can give women for finding the right one?
AF: A proper fit can help make a saddle more comfortable, but also finding a saddle that suits your needs. There are many different saddle shapes and ways to sit on a saddle, it can make this process overwhelming. Make sure your chamois is relatively new and a close fit to your soft tissue is also a must; a baggy chamois is a bad chamois.
PDF: For some women, labia reduction surgery is an option to achieve optimal comfort and performance in the saddle, when nothing else works. Can you discuss that process and the results women can expect?
AF: Funny you ask because I can speak to this, personally. Overtime, scar tissue can develop in a place of repetitive stress and the labia is no exception. For me, it got the point where I would develop abrasions every time I rode and it would affect my sexual life as well, because of excess tissue. It’s hard to say if this could have been avoided from a better fit or saddle from the get-go of my time riding.
This last fall on a visit to the OBGYN I asked her if surgery was a possibility and she said, absolutely. I had to go into surgery anyway for some polyp removal, so I thought it would be a good time. I am so glad I did. I was off the bike for 4 weeks and consistently riding again 6 weeks after a period of adaptation/desensitivity. Overall, I am so glad I had the surgery and it has affected my life in an extremely positive way.
PDF: "Women's" Geometry vs. Unisex frames and specs: what is usually different and is it helpful/necessary?
AF: The trend with women’s specific geometry is a shorter reach and a taller headtube. This is because women tend to have a shorter reach than our male counterpart and a “tendency” to want to be more upright. So this why you’ll see more of a sloping top tube. It can be helpful for women looking for more of an “endurance” road bike. They are making bikes with similar geometries for men now too and marketing them as the endurance road bike.
PDF: Crank length! Do us shorties need 165’s?
AF: Short cranks are definitely a hot topic in the cycling world! As a fitter, I find them to be very useful to open up the hip and to help prevent hip and knee injury. For smaller bikes and riders, I do wish 165mm cranks were on more stock bikes. And even as a slightly taller rider, don’t be afraid to ride shorter cranks, it doesn’t affect power output at submaximal levels. That’s why you’ll see a lot of time trial and triathletes going short.
PDF: What is your favorite part of working with cyclists?
AF: As a physical therapist, I love the completeness of working with cyclists both on and off the bike. The bike fit is a biomechanical puzzle that usually has more immediate results. Off the bike, I get to experience continuity of care that requires trust and building a relationship with the patient through the healing process of injury. I pretty much have the best job :)
PDF: Tell us about Hawkins, your canine counterpart.
AF: He’s the clinic greeter and often the one that clients go to first for emotional support.
words and photos by Jen Abercrombie
THE GLUTE! If you have been in to see me, you know this is what I preach. "Use your glutes!" I now get heckled at cyclocross races by my patients and clients who say, "How are your GLUTES!". I can't help but laugh, but am also pretty stoked the message is getting through. I work with patients and clients every day who don't use their glutes on the bike and they suffer as a result. Do you?
"My hip flexors feel soooo tight!"
"I've got this sciatic thing going..."
"My knee hurts here and here."
"My hamstring cramps..."
"My quads feel like they are on fire!"
"My low back kills me when I climb."
Sound familiar? How can the glute possibly be related to all these injuries, you ask? Oh, its possible and here's why. The gluteus maximus acts as a knee straightener when your foot is fixed (as it is when your foot is on the pedal). Most people use the quads and hamstrings in the pedal stroke, thus denying themselves of many precious watts that are dormant in the glute. Over time these pedaling mechanics become troublesome for many reasons such as quad overuse, knee cap tracking problems, the thigh diving inwards toward the top tube, etc etc.
I'll continue to write more as we progress towards the season, but in the meantime if you want to learn how to use your glutes and stay injury free on the bike, come see us :)
My buddy Abby and I went to Waterloo, WI this last week/end to meet up with friends, colleagues (and race bikes!) at Trek Headquarters. I started the week a tad reluctant to go for a variety of reasons but mostly had something to do with the guilt of being a small business owner and taking off work in the traditional sense...
After a bit of a flight delay, we made it to Madison and were welcomed by our lovely friends, Emily and Andrew. And at that moment, I knew it was going to be a fantastic weekend.
Thursday we started the party with a ride to Trek and an employee only cyclocross clinic with Sven Nys and Ellen Van Loy. I walked around Trek and was amazed at the campus, the bikes and got to see some pretty cool stuff in the works. They make some rad stuff in Waterloo.
Friday, we went for an easy spin and did some openers to prepare for the races ahead. Highlight of the day for me was checking out the Trek Fit Studio and learning more about their process and pressure mapping.
The bike racing started Saturday. I had a great start and then faded hard about half way through. I can laugh about it now as I don't quite have the fitness I did after a road season last year, but at the time I was hurting pretty bad. I got to cheer on the Elite race and watch my friends meet personal goals and witness some amazing athletes own the course that just owned me.
Sunday, I was pretty relaxed as I knew I could do better than the painful race that was Saturday. I didn't have any USAC points so I started in the back and slowly made my way forward. I was able to finish midpack and really, about the same placing as Saturday. It's funny how much your experience can change day to day depending on your approach and attitude. It was a great lesson for me to race my own race especially when lacking fitness. Fun was had.
The elite race was a battle and with Katie Compton breaking her chain with a couple laps to go, Kaitie Antonneau was able to come away with the win. Ellen Noble once again came in second, which was great to see.
Huge thank you to Emily Bremer for her hospitality and letting us interrupt her work day as the head of Women's Marketing at Trek Bikes. Trek you pulled off a stellar event this year. I shall be back for the next!
-Annalisa Fish, DPT
"Hey Alex, you're Canadian... What would be a good place for a bike tour in Canada?"
It was with this question that the seeds of our adventure in the Okanagan Plateau in British Colombia were sown.
Briefly, the Kettle Valley Railway is a rails to trails project located between the Kootenay Mountains and the Cascades in Central BC. The original railway was completed in 1915 at the hands of chief engineer Andrew McCulloch and was considered quite the engineering marvel in its day.
Our 200 mile, 3 day route only traversed a small portion of the railway, but if you include the main Kettle Valley Line and all the adjacent and connecting rails to trails routes, one could easily put together a several week trip. The now out of print, "Cycling the Kettle Valley Railway," by Dan and Sandra Langford, is your guide to this great system of trails.
After arriving in Oroville, WA we spent the night in the minivan/camping rig and woke up to bright, sunny skies on the shores of Osoyoos lake.
After breakfast fuel at Eva's Diner and Bakery (great if you like awesome blueberry pancakes, hanging with old men in overalls, and Fox News) we saddled up the steeds and made for the hills.
From the first pedal stroke, the scenery did not disappoint. We meandered from Oroville, across the border to Osoyoos and from there through Inkaneep, Oliver, and on to Okanagan Falls. Part of the route took us on some amazingly beautiful, paved, very small roads through land belonging to the Osyoos Indian Band.
Once we hit Okanagan Falls (or OK falls if you're local) things got interesting. On paper, the gravel road that was to take us from Okanagan falls up to Idleback Lake (70 miles in and our camping spot for the night) looked doable enough. However, in actual fact it turned out to be pretty damn challenging. Put it this way... In a 70 mile route, with the first 40 on relatively flat pavement, and the last 10 down hill on buff gravel, we averaged under 10 MPH on the day. Yeah.
Thankfully, when we arrived at the lake, the scenery did not dissapoint. We slept well.
After a hearty camp breakfast of coffee out of our Ride Nomi mugs and bacon and eggs, we set off to continue. Day 2 started by meeting up with the railway proper about 20 miles in. We intersected the railway just south of McCulloch Station and Hydraulic Lake Reservoir. This part of the trail must be at a bit of a low point because we almost immediately encountered several, very large, very wide, and very deep puddles spanning the entire width of the trail. I think we kept the axles above the water. However, our feet got wet and I spent the next few hours worrying about trench foot.
The highlight of the day, though, was the section of trail through Myra Canyon. This section includes amazing scenery of Kelowna and the valley bottom and involves cycling across no less than 18 historic wooden trestles, and three tunnels carved out of solid rock.
Shortly after this beautiful bit of scenery, we descended into East Kelowna. The descent was mostly paved and incredibly fun, though both of us couldn't help but think that we had to climb back up again to make our camp spot for the evening.
After a resupply in Kelowna and a brief stop for a sink bath at a public park, we began our ascent out of the vally bottom. Incidentally, a sink and some Dr. Bronners is pretty unbelievable when you are as sweaty and smelly as we were.
The first 1000 feet of the 3000 foot climb started easily enough, steep but paved. We mighta paperboy'd a little but whatever. Then we hit the dirt. Then things got hard. Again. I think the last 2000 feet took us about 3 hours. We hiked our bikes more than we actually rode them. Not only was the road steep, it was rocky, rutted, loose, and gnarly. Anna kept muttering something about cyclocross while I just muttered expletives.
Finally, after what seemed like hours (oh wait, it was hours), we met back up with the railway and crusied into Chute Lake. This was after the second flat in two days within 3 miles of our campsite.
Despite the mosquitos, it felt so good to arrive, get camp set up, and have a whiskey ginger. Or two. Woulda been three except the third got spilled. In the tent. We won't say how.
We woke up on the morning of day three to steely skies. It was the first time the weather evenlooked remotely questionable. We started with an easy jaunt down a -2.2%, 25 mile stretchof the buffest gravel you've ever seen. Much easier than yesterday. Right?
After lunch in Penticton, the rain started. And didn't let up. All day. We had already made the decision that day to just knuckle up and ride that last 70 miles back to the car and get home a little early. The rain definitely sealed that deal. No way we were going to set up muddy rain camp.
Even though the riding was much easier the last day, the rain definitely made things challenging. It was just cold and wet enough to be uncomfortable. Oh, and did we mention the third flat within 3 miles of home? However, we perservered and finally arrived back at the car. After a quick shower and some dry clothes and snacks, we were on our way back home.
All in all a great trip. Challenging, but great. Attitudes and morale stayed up, and when they started to fall a bit, one of us would inevitably help buoy the other we back up.
New pieces of kit we tried out on this trip did not disappoint. The Rapha + Apidura seat pack and handlebar pack were functional, stylish, and worked great. One could get out for a fast and light easily with just those two packs. We decided that high volume, low pressure, supple slick tires would be the way to go for the varied terrain of the trip. Each of our bikes were shoed in Soma Supple Vitesse EX tires by Panaracer for Soma. I rode the 700 x 42mm tires which John, at Rivelo PDX was able to order for me. Anna had the 38mm version. Wow. Let us just again confirm the virtues of a high volume, low pressure, high thread count tire for this type of riding.
At the end of the day, this route was 50% gravel, not all of it easy, and passed about 1000 wineries and orchards. So if that's your thing, you can't really go wrong riding around this area. Another good one in the books. Until next time.