Monday 18 January 2010

Having a fit in Ottawa

Although I have been happy with my road bikes, I have always felt that my time trial bike was not set up correctly.  While this is a sad excuse for why I don’t seem to have been getting any faster, I felt that I have not been putting out as much power as I should be and from photos I did not look especially aerodynamic compared to, well, the somewhat faster Dave Zabriskie, for example.  My friends at had done a comprehensive story about bike fit and this was food for thought.  My Marinoni had been built to measure and I simply transferred a lot of the measurements to my other road bikes and this seems to have worked but I had been mulling over a professional fitting for the Leader and when I saw Ace Custom Cycles was having a January sale, I decided to act.

I met Richard Coburn today at his bike studio.  For those unfamiliar with the bike studio concept, there was a good piece in Bicycling a while back here.  The focus is on personal attention, and it usually revolves around correct fitting and high-end bicycles.  Richard, with a background in mechanical engineering technology and formerly a Product Designer at Ottawa's much-loved Lee Valley Tools, set up shop in 2005 and handles Serotta and Guru bicycles, as well as a range of specialized parts.  He offers different levels of fittings and I had requested the Level 4 fitting, which is a comprehensive one for an existing bicycle to improve aerodynamic efficiency.

Ace Custom Cycles is very discreet (no sign) and you find yourself in Richard’s living room, which my wife thought looked like every cyclist’s dream living room, with two Serottas and a pair of posters autographed by Magnus Backstedt to admire.  In addition, Richard’s Black Lab seemed delighted to see me, as was the curious cat.  Richard and I chatted a bit about cycling in general and then work began in earnest.  He reviewed my cycling goals and health issues that could influence my riding.  He then took measurements to determine my flexibility, including hip flexion and hamstrings.  Although I had been afraid that even among cyclists I would be considered humiliatingly inflexible, this turned out not to be the case.  Richard, who had been trained at Serotta as a fitting specialist, then took measurements of my Leader time trial bike (noting the extremely odd angle of the seat, which I can only attribute to my zombie-like training state).

He then set up the bike on a trainer and I got on board.  He did a video of me cycling in the aero position and it was clear that I really was not very aero.  Richard measured the angle of my leg extension, as well as the position of my knee relative to the pedal axle.  It was apparent that my seat was too low and too far forward and he gradually changed its position, noting that when you change one thing, a lot of other things need to be adjusted.  After each adjustment he checked the leg extension angle with a protractor, and then used a plumb line from my knee to determine if I was correctly positioned.

In the end, he raised my seat by a quite astonishing 6.5 cms, moved my cleats forward and raised my stem (I had left my fork uncut for this purpose) by one spacer.  He thought that the position of my hands and elbows looked good from the front as a “V” shape is desired to slice through the wind.  He then videoed me again and the difference from where we started was quite obvious.  I now have a flat back while on the bike, but I still am comfortable looking ahead.  Pressure on the elbow rests is not noticeable and my leg extension is totally different.  While spinning, my knees do not interfere with my chest, which should allow better breathing and greater power.

The New Me!

The whole session took nearly three hours (with some diversionary chat, a hazard of cycling enthusiasts!) and I am very anxious for the roads to clear in order that I can determine the difference in speed compared to the old, haphazard position.  Richard was very knowledgeable and quick to answer my numerous questions.  I think that to maximize the biomechanical benefits of cycling, a professional fitting is a very reasonable investment and would encourage anyone who has not done so to look into it.  Of course, with this fit and my new, correct and hopefully speedy position on the bike, I have one less explanation as to why I am not Dave Z. fast.  Let us see what the time trial season brings!


Koz said...

How much was the fitting?

Sprocketboy said...

The January special was $195, plus tax. Normally it is $295, but if you check Richard's website you will see the different price levels for different fittings.

Bob T said...

Seems like a bargain, given the adjustments made. Nice kit!!

Anonymous said...

Loved reading your post on bike fit. Will definitely be considering having this done in the very near future.


Carol said...

Loved reading your post on bike fit, thanks.


Lily on the Road said...

Isn't that great! Wow, 6.5 cms, you'll be ready to tackle Calabogie or the Gats without being (too) winded.