Attaining your ideal cycling position is important. By ideal I mean a position that will not cause short or long-term discomfort or injury, and will contribute to optimum performance. You can DIY if you have good advice, time on your hands and a scientific mind to assess the incremental changes you make. Steve Hogg’s article on page 68 is the first in series of articles that can help you correct different aspects of your bike fit.
If you don’t have the time or inclination to do it yourself there is an increasing number of positioning options backed by the big names in cycling. Specialized has their Body Geometry system, Shimano has just released their Bikefitting System and Cannondale has the Guru Fit Experience. Then there’s Retul and a number of independent professional bike fitters like our regular contributor, internationally renowned positioning expert Steve Hogg, who have made their careers by providing expert positioning services and advice. Trek has come to the party as well in recent days and is rolling out their Precision Fit system in participating dealers across the country.
I met with Ian Stewart at Simple Cycles in Wollongong to go through Trek’s Precision Fit process myself. Ian has been fully trained by the Precision Fit boffins and appointed to train Australian Trek dealers in the art of bike fitting. The decision to install the Precision Fit system is up to individual dealers, and the expense is significant so you may not see it at your local dealer immediately. (If you can’t wait, you can pick up one of the Fit Bike Pro jigs for the spare room for $10,900 USD from Purely Custom. Trek’s software package would be extra.)
It’s a small room but set out with computer screens, video cameras, tripod mounted lasers and the impressive looking jig. “This is a pretty elaborate system, Ian. I see you have the machine that goes ‘bing’ here too. What’s the basis and motivation for developing and implementing such a high tech service?”
“The jig is made by Purely Custom in Idaho, USA. It’s the best out there, so the design is not owned by Trek but it’s the best there is. The whole system is based on three key drivers; the knowledge base of our fitting and medical experts, the best hardware and the Trek developed software. These expert staff include long-term and well respected bike fit professionals Mark Timmerman, Phillip Cavell, Julien Wall and Paraic McGlynn.”
Trek see Precision Fit fundamentally as a customer service, and one that meshes with their ‘Cycling Inform’ philosophy of good fit and good performance. Stewart said, “The more you ride the more likely to incur injury due to poor setup. Cycling is low impact but even so, if you are not set up correctly you can see problems arise. If you think about spinning at 90rpm for a couple of hours your legs will turn a lot of (10,800) revolutions, so even if your set up is marginally out, you can incur some level of discomfort or injury.”
“Who is your typical customer?”
“Well I don’t like to generalise but I’d say our typical customers are mostly middle aged men. When you’re young you’re more flexible and you will just do things without thinking of the consequences—and you will get away with it when you are young. As you get older you lose flexibility. Better fit improves recovery. For people who are after performance, better fit leads to more efficiency and that will usually lead to more power. We don’t focus on increased power during the fit, though the system does show left and right-side power output, and the early changes that occur during the changes of the Precision Fit process.”
“How do you draw the line between setting up for comfort and speed?”
“One of the most important things in this process is to find out what the person being fitted actually wants, be it a better crit racing position, or to alleviate the sore back that sets in for them after an hour and a half of riding.
“We ask questions to see if you have any restrictions physical issues, run some flexibility tests, strength tests. Then we set up the jig, shoot some video make some adjustments go around a few iterations to get the best fit.
“One of the really nice things about Trek owning the pro team is that they can actually build stuff around the team, there’s continuity; they can get the team together and they have got this whole structure. I think in the last six months they’ve had three camps where they get them (the pro riders) together, get them on the jigs, analyse position and make some adjustments. Some of them don’t want to change things, but some are quite open to it. Bike fit is not an event; it’s a process that is constantly ongoing. Your body changes, you increase strength, lose flexibility, put on weight or lose weight.”
My time in the Precision Fit resulted in minimal but worthwhile changes. It turns out that I am relatively flexible and have minimal physical asymmetry, so there were no really dramatic changes. According to the system I could do with a longer stem, and a different saddle that will allow me to roll my hips forward and straighten my back a little to enhance aero positioning. So this could amount to a shopping list of $300 or so on top of the fit session cost. It’s one of the unspoken factors that bike position providers from any of the big brands would have in mind.
Ian moved my cleats back marginally to bring my quads and glutes more into the frame for better power delivery and longer endurance. At the same time this would take some level of strain from my calves – being smaller muscles they tend to fatigue more quickly. The few small changes I left with are a bonus that should result in a more comfortable ride and provide a little more power.
You might not think that’s great value for $285. I choose to view it from a long-term perspective; I was able to confirm that my riding was not going to create long-term physical problems due to poor position on the bike. I think that’s a good outcome.
Standard fit is $285 for one bike, two bikes is $395
Approximately two hours. Three hours for a two-bike fitting