We ex­plain why you re­ally should con­sider a reg­u­lar bike fit

Cycling Plus - - CONTENTS - Words Robin Wil­mott Im­ages ASDe­

A pro­fes­sional bike fit ses­sion can trans­form the way you ride. We try out Trek, Guru and Selle Italia’s ID Match.

Youth­ful mess­ing about on bikes be­came se­ri­ous com­pet­i­tive cy­cling for me in 1988. My first race-wor­thy bikes weren’t what I later re­alised was my ideal size, and my rid­ing po­si­tion was de­ter­mined by a com­bi­na­tion of trial and er­ror, sage club­mate advice and study­ing magazine pic­tures of the pros. Luck, train­ing, plus all the in­for­ma­tion I could glean saw me through years of rac­ing on and off-road with few prob­lems, save for two over-use knee in­juries, but age brings as­sorted nig­gles to the fore, and six years ago I had my first bike fit.

Ap­ply­ing biome­chan­i­cal and anatom­i­cal knowl­edge to try and max­imise cy­cling ef­fi­ciency and com­fort, and pre­vent in­jury, is un­der­rated, and many rid­ers don’t think they need one un­til a prob­lem arises. My orig­i­nal fit cre­ated some po­si­tional in­for­ma­tion that I’ve tried to ap­ply ever since, but life­style changes, in­juries and new is­sues made me keen to see what might have changed.

What we’d term as a con­ven­tional bike fit, with you rid­ing on a turbo trainer while be­ing ob­served and man­u­ally mea­sured by a fitter, has al­ways en­gen­dered im­pres­sions of black magic and more com­pli­ca­tion than some rid­ers think nec­es­sary. “I don’t need that, I’m not a pro­fes­sional...”, is a com­mon point of view. But the rise in mod­ern semi­au­to­mated sys­tems should go a long way to ad­dress­ing this, and make hav­ing a bike fit as ac­ces­si­ble to any rider as buy­ing a new pair of shoes. Cy­cling’s much more fun when you’re com­fort­able.

With edi­tor-in-chief, Rob, be­ing put through the Retül fit process in is­sue 339 with Spe­cial­ized, my quest to test three more of the best took me to Yeovil, Lu­ton and Mil­ton Keynes. Who says this job is all glam­our?

Neatly set out in one sec­tion of the cav­ernous Tri UK store in Yeovil, the Guru sys­tem’s DFU (Dy­namic Fit­ting Unit) has au­to­mated sad­dle and han­dle­bar move­ments, and can repli­cate the po­si­tion of any stock bike model con­tained within Guru’s data­base. Bar and sad­dle can be swapped in mo­ments, crank length is ad­justable, and you’ll ride your own ped­als. In front is a Kinect scan­ner, which gen­er­ates rider di­men­sion data, and is used to help as­sess rid­ing ef­fi­ciency and po­si­tion.

To be­gin, Tri UK’s John Harfield asked about any pre-ex­isit­ing prob­lems I had, such as in­juries, aches, pains and any bike-re­lated dis­com­fort. Then he en­tered my cur­rent sad­dle height, and we chose an ex­am­ple bike’s stan­dard setup (Can­non­dale Su­per Six Evo) as a start­ing point. After warm­ing up at 90-100rpm, John watched my ped­alling ac­tion from the front and side to as­sess if I had any un­wanted quirks. He then asked how the po­si­tion felt, and as I ped­alled, he in­cre­men­tally al­tered the han­dle­bar po­si­tion as I fed back any changes in ten­sion through the arms, shoul­ders and hands.

From the control con­sole, John made the sad­dle too low, be­fore rais­ing it sev­eral mil­lime­tres at a time while I ped­alled, un­til it passed the point of be­ing com­fort­able. Low­er­ing it again brought us to a po­si­tion that seemed the right bal­ance be­tween leg ex­ten­sion and ef­fi­cient ped­alling. Feel­ing dy­namic changes in this way, while ped­alling makes them more eas­ily no­tice­able and can save time. The fitter also sees the dif­fer­ences in real time, and the DFU can save

John watched my ped­alling ac­tion from the front and side to as­sess if I had any un­wanted quirks

un­lim­ited po­si­tions that can be tog­gled be­tween for com­par­i­son.

Look­ing for more im­prove­ments, the sad­dle was swapped from a Fab­ric Scoop to a Fizik Antares then Prol­ogo’s short Di­men­sion, which when pushed back 20mm and tilted down by 2.5 de­grees was far more com­fort­able to ride in a rac­ing tuck. John moved my cleats back by 4mm, and although the road po­si­tions felt com­fort­able, there was too much stress in my tri­ceps when get­ting low. Switch­ing my stan­dard 42cm wide bar for a 40cm one solved that, and I could main­tain a tuck with my el­bows locked in for much longer, with­out the right one flap­ping out­wards un­nec­es­sar­ily. The fit was com­plete in 90 min­utes, and all data was saved and e-mailed to me for ref­er­ence. Guru ex­cels as a de­ci­sion mak­ing tool, al­low­ing cus­tomers to feel how dif­fer­ent bike sizes and mod­els will fit, and dis­play­ing which mod­els are suit­able and what setup changes should be made to achieve your per­fect fit. It’s not spe­cific to road rac­ers ei­ther, as it’ll work equally well for moun­tain bik­ers, cy­clo-cross, triathlon and recre­ational rid­ers.

The DFU can save un­lim­ited po­si­tions that can be tog­gled be­tween for com­par­i­son

Selle Italia backed Er­goview to de­velop the id­match Bike Lab sys­tem, which is mainly de­signed around sci­ence-based bio­met­rics rather than sub­jec­tive fit­ter­centred opin­ion. It’s ca­pa­ble of cre­at­ing a fully au­to­mated rider fit, which can be as use­ful for the novice rider as an ex­pe­ri­enced one.

Stand­ing in front of a con­cave back­ground on three marked po­si­tions and bend­ing as re­quired, a 3D scan­ner and its clever soft­ware as­sess your body shape and po­si­tion with­out the need to stick any mark­ers on to you. Zyro’s Neil David­son ex­plains that this saves time, and thanks to the soft­ware’s so­phis­ti­ca­tion, in­creases the ac­cu­racy of joint lo­ca­tions.

A huge set of mea­sure­ments is cre­ated from the scans, which are the ba­sis for the ma­chine’s ini­tial rid­ing setup, also sug­gest­ing a han­dle­bar and sad­dle choice, which can be quickly fit­ted from the wide se­lec­tion avail­able.

Your shoe cleat po­si­tion can be set up be­fore jump­ing on the bike. A Bran­nock De­vice is used to mea­sure foot length, width and dis­tance from heel to the first metatarsal bone. A jig holds the shoe so the cleat can be aligned within a spe­cific frame, and cen­tred with a laser line to en­sure it’s ac­cu­rately po­si­tioned. An­other jig can as­sess foot tilt/pronation/ro­ta­tion when rock­ing for­ward on to the ball of the foot.

The ma­chine has dou­ble-sided ped­als fit­ted, which ac­cept Shi­mano road and SPD, plus Look road cleats, or your own ped­als can be used, but the cranks have a wider than av­er­age Q-Fac­tor [dis­tance be­tween the pedal at­tach­ment points on the crank arms], which can make sad­dle po­si­tion as­sess­ment trick­ier.

I put a Ly­cra over­shoe with a target on, and a re­flec­tive wrist­band, on my left side for the scan­ner to sense, then was told to pedal at around 75rpm. The re­sis­tance can be ad­justed to help you main­tain this, and once you’re

A jig holds the shoe so the cleat can be aligned within a spe­cific frame

ped­alling smoothly, the ma­chine starts to make ad­just­ments to your po­si­tion. All as­sess­ment is done while on the drops, as the test bars don’t have levers fit­ted. The the­ory is that if you can ride com­fort­ably in the most ex­treme po­si­tion you’re likely to use, then rid­ing on the hoods won’t be dif­fi­cult.

The id­match fit was the least hands on (by the op­er­a­tor) of the three I tried, but cre­ated a gran fondo-style po­si­tion for me that is quite sim­i­lar to my ex­ist­ing po­si­tion in a very short time. The cleat po­si­tion­ing was es­pe­cially im­pres­sive, as shift­ing them back­wards proved to be a re­cur­ring theme, and the sad­dle and bar se­lec­tions worked well, although I’d switch the rec­om­mended round drops for an ergo bend that my wide palms can grip bet­ter. The fi­nal pdf that’s sent out dis­plays the most rel­e­vant fit in­for­ma­tion clearly, and makes a good ref­er­ence point to com­pare fu­ture fits. It can be ap­plied in store to ge­om­e­try data stored about bikes and com­po­nents from over 300 brands, to help se­lect your most suit­able op­tions, and repli­cate as nec­es­sary.

The id­match fit was the least hands on (by the op­er­a­tor) of the three I tried

Trek’s Pre­ci­sion Fit sys­tem has been de­vel­oped by a host of highly ex­pe­ri­enced bike fit­ters and biome­chan­ics ex­perts, and the sys­tem re­quires a highly trained fitter to op­er­ate it. Fit­ters need a strong un­der­stand­ing of rider biome­chan­ics and anatomy and how al­ter­ing rid­ing po­si­tion can af­fect the body’s per­for­mance.

It’s very much hands-on, start­ing with an in­ter­view cov­er­ing your sta­tis­tics, types of rid­ing, goals for a fit, and on or off-bike phys­i­cal prob­lems, and con­tin­u­ing with man­ual mea­sure­ments and as­sess­ments of foot size, knees, hips and pelvis, pos­ture, and some body di­men­sions. Trek’s Jez Lof­tus then asked me to hold a plank po­si­tion for 90 sec­onds, some­thing I’d never done, but it went okay. After that the range of mo­tion in my ham­strings and hips were mea­sured.

It’s al­most the po­lar op­po­site of id match, re­ly­ing wholly on the fitter’s skill and knowl­edge, and adding stick-on mark­ers to ma­jor joints. Sev­eral ver­ti­cal laser lines and mo­tion cap­ture video cam­eras were used to as­sess foot and body po­si­tion while sta­tion­ary and ped­alling, and my knee and hip an­gles were reg­u­larly mea­sured by hand. Jez recog­nised that my right heel wasn’t drop­ping dur­ing the pedal stroke, and no cleat or fore-aft po­si­tion ad­just­ments would change it.

The step-by-step process saw my cleats shifted back by around 14mm, and my sad­dle set­back re­duced by 34mm (from 80) to try and al­le­vi­ate reg­u­lar calf tight­ness. Although slightly less on my left side, my flex­i­bil­ity is good, help­ing achieve the ag­gres­sive per­for­mance fit we aimed for, I need to utilise my core strength bet­ter to get low with­out

Ver­ti­cal laser lines and mo­tion cap­ture cam­eras were used to as­sess po­si­tion

bend­ing from the spine only. Most in­ter­est­ingly, after much ad­just­ment, Jez ended up with my orig­i­nal sad­dle po­si­tion, but also rec­om­mended a 40cm bar for in­creased sta­bil­ity.

Sad­dle map­ping and or­thotic footbeds can be a part of the fit, but there wasn’t the need for the lat­ter on this oc­ca­sion, as my Shi­mano shoes worked well. Trek says its sys­tem con­sid­ers both per­for­mance and pref­er­ence, and that was cer­tainly the im­pres­sion I left with.

Tiny ad­just­ments can be made as you pedal

Guru ex­cels as a de­ci­sion mak­ing tool, al­low­ing cus­tomers to feel how sizes and mod­els will fit

Robin’s ped­alling ac­tion is as­sessed

The bike rig makes ad­just­ments as you ride

id­match mea­sures foot pronation, sta­bil­ity and more

I need to utilise core strength bet­ter to get low with­out bend­ing from the spine only

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