For some, triathlon can seem a bit intimidating with all the components, gear, techy gadgets, nutrition, and apparel. It seems like there’s always something else you need to buy. One area that I feel is definitely worth allocating your resources is getting a good bike fit. When training for a long race, you better love being on your bike! It should feel good and comfy for hours at a time. Cycling shouldn’t hurt. Bottom line, if it’s not comfortable, you’re not going to ride. So spending the time and money to get a proper fit is one of the most beneficial things you can do for yourself. There are many reasons to get a bike fit . . . a new bike, feeling pain or discomfort, and over time with more cycling experience, you mature as a rider and you may find you want a different position on the bike.
I bought a new saddle one week before the Syracuse 70.3 last year because my old saddle was a real pain in the butt – literally! Normally I would never try anything new during race week, but I figured it couldn’t get any worse. Saddle sores, blisters, pain! I went in and purchased a saddle (because my friend liked it) and was not fitted. Also, last summer I took apart my bike and put it back together myself – twice! It definitely had not fit the same ever since. Also, I have been cycling for four years and have not been refitted since I got my bike and I wanted to get into a more aero, more aggressive position. So I went to Syracuse Bicycle for a fit with shop owner, Paul Komaneky.
Paul has been doing bike fits for over eight years, and holds certifications from Serotta, Retul, F.I.S.T, Michael Sylvester, and John Cobb. There are a few different options for fitting:
- Standard Road Fit: $125 Basic flexibility assessment, foot structure analysis and rider history interview conducted. Saddle height, saddle fore/aft, reach and drop to handlebar adjusted accordingly. This fit is for a road bike without aero bars or with absolutely no concern for aero position.
- Standard Triathlon Fit: $150 Basic flexibility assessment, foot structure analysis and rider history interview conducted. Saddle height, saddle fore/aft, reach and drop to handlebar adjusted accordingly. This fit is for triathlon bikes or road bikes with aero bars.
- Retul 3D Motion Capture Fit: $275 Biomechanical assessment, foot structure analysis, and rider history/injury interview. Dynamic fit data captured and analyzed in sagittal, frontal and transverse planes with Retul 3D motion capture system. Digitally captured repeatable reports of pre and post fit bike setup using x,y coordinates (millimeter accuracy) along with a thorough rider final setup report and video capture comparison of pre/post fit.
Because of the knee issues that I’ve been dealing with for the past few years, I decided to go with the Retul fit, since I wanted to make sure all of my “parts” were in proper alignment according to the program.
My Fit Experience . . .
Tuesday afternoon at 4:00, I packed up all three boys went to Syracuse Bikes. The boys terrorized the store for a bit until daddy showed up to take them home. The fit room itself is amazing – comfy chairs, low lighting, music, triathlete posters, and cycling magazines! Waiting for the fit, I had the best seat in the place and was able to see customers coming in, and even chatted with a couple of teammates. Then my buddy Steve M. wandered into the fit room and asked Paul, “Why didn’t you get her a beer?” (Why is Steve M always giving me beer? He knows me way too well!) Syracuse Bikes just happened to have beer left over from their Performance Night the previous week . . . the next thing I know, I have an ultra in my hand during the “cycling history” portion of the fit and I was thinking, this is the Best Bike Fit Ever – comes with beer!!
The Retul Process . . .
1)- Initial interview/history. This is the chance to let the fitter know of any issues you are hoping to address and fix. This is the point where I told Paul all about the pain and saddle sore issues, way “TMI” until he was pretty much mortified, and ready to get on with the fit. I also told him that I was looking for a much more aero and aggressive position. I think my exact words were, “I want you to make me aero and fast and guarantee I’ll win.” Since Paul didn’t know me well (yet), I think he was a little nervous about that guarantee.
After I told him about my knee issues, Paul suggested I try the Super Feet insoles for cycling shoes. I’ve been using them for a few months now and they have changed my life! I can’t believe that I’ve had Super Feet in my sneakers for four years and it’s never even occurred to me to try them in my bike shoes. It’s unbelievable how great they feel! I was also considering getting new bike shoes, but Paul suggested I just replace the cleats instead since the shoes themselves were in great condition. He also adjusted the angle of the cleats based on my foot position as I walked around the room. Between the two, it feels like I have brand new shoes. Unbelievable!
Before we moved on, I was looking to get new aero bars and a new saddle as well. Paul was extremely patient! He put on two different sets of bars for me to try, after I had checked out at least 4 other sets, demanding to know which were lighter, more aero, least expensive, and of course “cooler”. Then I tried about 15 different saddles. After all of that time and effort, not one felt any better than the one I have, so I decided the problem was my butt, not the saddle.
2)- Sticky little LED markers are placed on the wrist, elbow, shoulder, hip, knee, ankle, heel, and toe. This totally made me feel like a real rock star triathlete. Have you seen pics of pro triathletes in an air tunnel? That’s EXACTLY how I looked. Oh, and I found random sticky things on my arms and legs for days after.
3)- The rider pedals while Retül’s sensor bar gathers real-time, 3-D data of the rider’s pedal strokes and movements. Paul said “Tell me when you’re warmed up. And I totally forgot and got in the zone for awhile, thinking I was doing an interval workout. I thought he was doing the test and was feeling ready for a cool down; I kept thinking this has to be done soon. Finally he says, “Are you warm yet?” OMG! So of course I had to pull it together and act like I wasn’t winded. There are over 20 measurements taken in less than a minute and each has a “normal” range.
4)- The data is compiled into a report for the fitter to use to assess the rider’s position and make necessary adjustments. I was surprised at how quickly Paul was able to look through the report and find areas where I was “out of range”. It turns out my saddle was over 2 cm too low, which is apparently a big deal! He made adjustments to the height and moved it back a bit as well. He also lowered my handle bars by replacing a thick spacer with a thinner one, in order to make me more aero.
5)- A hand-held “digitizer” is used to measure 13-15 points on the bike to create a digital”map” of the bike. That part was pretty funny- it totally felt like I was getting scanned at the airport. I’m just glad there wasn’t a pat-down with it.
6)- The fit information including initial history, 3-D motion data, bike measurements, and final fit position are saved on the fitter’s computer. I received a nifty report of my bike fit profile, but it is also good to know that it is kept on file at the store in case I ever need to compare down the road. Like if I happen to take my bike apart again, or decide to get a more or less aggressive fit.
The Outcome . . .
So I left my bike at the shop for a few days to have my new parts installed and a full tune-up done. When I got it back it looked and felt like a brand new bike! As expected, it took a few rides to get used to the new feel. Though I did feel a lot more power in my legs, it was tiring to hold the aero position for long. However, after a couple weeks of easing into it, the position felt great! These days I’m able to stay in aero for very long periods of time; it actually feels more uncomfortable to ride sitting up instead of in the aero bars.
I know $275 may seem like a lot for a bike fit, but I was there for nearly 5 hours. I was having pain and discomfort on the bike for over a year. Throughout the winter on my long weekend trainer rides, I spent almost no time in aero position because it actually hurt. Now that I feel so good on the bike, I don’t understand why I didn’t go in for a fit sooner. I highly recommend going to see Paul at Syracuse Bicycle for a fit! The only things that I could see improving the bike fit experience involve a beer cooler and a disco ball in the fit room. But of course I have already addressed those issues with the management.