Posted by: Joe English | March 16, 2011

Triathlon — A Trip to the Bike Fitter Circa 2011

running-advice-bugIt’s been awhile since I’ve been fitted on a new bike. The last time was about six or seven years ago and that visit was a pretty standard affair — not much different than the first fitting I had done more than 20 years ago. At that time, my bike was set on a platform with a number of levels and angle measuring devices around it. I spun the pedals, the technician measured some things and that was about it. There were no computers or cameras involved. It was pretty low-tech.

Fast forward to 2011 and fast forward to high-tech. After hearing friends of mine take their bikes to the low-speed wind-tunnel in San Diego for fitting (those darn tri-geeks), I was not to be outdone. Or rather, I was OK being outdone, so long as I got the most high-tech fitting service around for my new bike — a Felt B2 Pro with all the aero bells and whistles.

Matt Magee prepares for a bike fitting

My trip took me to Sunset Cycles outside Portland, Oregon, where Certified Master BG FIT Technician Matt Magee was ready with my new bike. Matt would spend about four hours with me, measuring my flexibility, shooting video and making micro modifications to the bike to get it to just the right fit for me.

Why is bike fitting so important?
A long way from just standing over a bike to see if the cross-bar is too high, bike fitting today is about two complementary but sometimes conflicting ideas: getting the rider into the most aerodynamic position without sacrificing their ability to produce power on the bike. With today’s agressive aerodynamic bike designs, the rider is essentially leaning in a much more forward position than a traditional sit-up-in-your-seat bike. As the body moves forward, by rolling forward at the hips, the hip angle opens up which can be both a blessing and a curse.

On the one-hand, as the rider gets further forward, the hip angle can open so wide that the rider begins to lose power at the top of the pedal stroke. Imagine stretching your leg by putting one foot up on a stair. Now move it up another stair and then another. As you move up the stairs, eventually your hip angle will get so wide that it will start to be uncomfortable. If you were to set the rider up on a bike so that they were constantly outside a point like this, you can imagine either how painful or how counter-productive that would be. The flip side of the coin is that triathletes and duathletes tend to run better (more easily) after riding in more forward positions on the bike. Getting more forward tends to, as some triathletes will tell you, “trash their legs less” than a more standard position.

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