When I got back from Panama in early February I went up to Cycle Neron in Montreal to have a bike fit done with Geoff Farnsworth and Andy Froncioni. This was the first step in my mission to optimize my aerodynamics on the bike. The next step will occur next week when I go onto the velodrome with Alphamantis.
I should first say that I absolutely hated my TT position on the bike. I hated it so much that I rarely ever rode in it. If I went 10 straight minutes in the TT position, this was a major accomplishment. It was very uncomfortable. I was scrunched up quite a bit, so it was difficult to breathe while in the position. The bars were also very low in the front, putting a lot of stress on both my hips and my upper body. Additionally, I was very far forward, so much so that it felt like I might fall off the front of the bike, so I was constantly expending energy to hold myself up. I thought that this was a bypoduct of having an aggressive position, and thus a prerequisite to good aerodynamics. The first thing Geoff and Andy told me was that they were going to try and make me more comfortable on the bike, not less comfortable. Here are a few pictures of my old position from various races:
Oceanside 70.3 (Photo Cred to Slowtwitch.com):
Mont Tremblant 70.3 (Photo Cred to Triathlete Magazine):
Kona (Photo Cred to Slowtwitch.com):
Ironman Arizona (Photo Cred to Slowtwitch.com):
I ran really well in 2014, recording three sub 70 minute half-marathons off the bike in 70.3 races (Raleigh, Syracuse and Racine). One thing I did do in 2014 that I did not do in 2015 is all of my bike training in the TT position. In 2014 I literally did all of my riding in the TT position; the reason being that I found it significantly more comfortable than riding on the hoods. For some reason in 2015, the changes I made to my position made it significantly less comfortable, and as a byproduct I did very little biking in the TT position, nowhere near as much as I did in 2014.
The first thing Geoff and Andy did was move my seat back. In fact, Geoff commented that he had never seen someone so far forward on the bike. This is my new seat position, my old one had the seat slammed all the way forward on the post, as well as the rails:
With some biomechanic testing Geoff concluded that I didn’t have great flexibility in the hamstrings. In the past I was riding 172.5mm cranks, but out of curiosity we tried 165mm cranks to see what happened. Almost immediately my side to side sway, and hip/head bounce improved markedly. Our theory for the reason why is that at 172.5mm I was at the very ends of my hamstring flexibility, and so to get the pedal over the top I had to move my hips up and over a bit. Going to 165mm cranks allowed me to get over the top of the pedal without having to move my hips as much.
With the biomechanic testing Geoff also concluded that I have naturally wide hips. I have had a knee tracking problem on the bike for as long as I can remember, with me knee coming out very wide at the top of the pedal stroke. Geoff put some spacers in between my pedals and the crank arms, and once again, my knee tracking problem improved markedly without any conscious effort on my part.
The next thing we did was move my arms out. In the past I have felt very scrunched up, and felt like I was falling off the front of the bike. We moved my arms out a long way from where they were. Every time Geoff moved me further, it felt progressively more and more comfortable. In fact, I got so far out, that Geoff had to say “that’s far enough!” I moved so far out, that I had to get an oversized 130mm stem from HED in order to replicate the new position on my bike:
Next, we moved my front end up. I was a bit reluctant to do this, because I thought it was going to make me less aero. If anything, I was hoping to get more aero with the bike fit. Geoff assured me that in fact, I might get more aero by moving the bars up. My flexibility in my mid-back is quite poor. There is close to no movement there. It appears that my bars were so low, that I didn’t have the flexibility to relax on them comfortably when in the TT position, so I actually had to “reach out” to get into the position, thus increasing my frontal area. By moving my bars up, this allowed me to relax into the position, bring my shoulders back, and drop my head. Additionally, my pads were very wide, mainly as a byproduct of the bars I was using (they wouldn’t go any narrower). We moved my pads in a bit, and this continued to decrease my frontal area. In order to replicate this on my bike I switched to the HED Corsair E bar, which gave me more adjustibility than I needed:
I have to say, I was a bit skeptical of getting a bike fit prior to this experience. What I didn’t understand is that when you are properly fitted to your bike, you will be more comfortable, more aero and more powerful. Upon getting all of these changes set up on my bike, I was almost instantly able to do all of my riding in the TT position. In fact, the only riding I have not done in the TT position in the last three weeks are my high end Vo2Max intervals, mainly because I don’t ever intend on having to be able to produce this kind of power in the TT position.
Geoff told me that one of the tell tale signs of a bad bike fit is a large power discrepancy between the TT position and riding on the hoods. My discrepancy was about 30w. In other words, I could usually push about 30w more when riding on the hoods then I could while riding in the TT position. With this new bike fit, the discrepancy almost disappeared. In fact, in my first workout in the position, I was able to do multiple 10 minute intervals in the TT position at over 370w. I had produced that kind of power in the TT position in races before, but never in practice.
The other tell tale sign of a bad bike fit is more obvious: not being able to spend time in the TT position. In my first week of riding with this new position, I was able to do my 4 hour ride, completely in the TT position, with no desire to stop. One of the things that has perplexed me is why I have been able to ride well in 70.3s but not very well at the full Ironman distance. Usually I could make it to about 100km riding well, and then almost instantly my power would drop significantly and I no longer could produce it anymore. The problem wasn’t nutritional because I was able to run well after. It’s now starting to make sense to me: the position was so uncomfortable and stressful that my body said “enough is enough” and basically shut off.
The best part of this bike fit is that I am enjoying riding the bike again. You don’t know how much you are dreading something until you are no longer dreading it. I’m now looking forward to riding the bike. Here are some pics of the position in its current state, along with a video:
Bike with no rider:
Bike on CompuTrainer in Florida (Photo Cred to Ken Milner):
Slow mo video in Florida (Video Cred to Gary Hutchinson):
Next up, I will be headed to the velodrome next week with Alphamantis to continue to hone my position and aerodynamic choices.