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BIKE POSITION OR BIKE FIT

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Over the last 16 years I have been studying bike riders and their position on race bicycles. Within this time frame I have seen hundred of different ways of bike fits through bike shops and through coaches. All of these fits seem to be “good” but I always knew that something was missing or could be improved to reach your possible highest level of performance, regardless if you are weekend warrior or a professional!

How can a computer know what body type the rider has? What are the riders injuries? What is the riders flexibility? What are the riders complains? What are the riders biomechanical limitations? What events does the rider concentrate on?

In 2004, I met John Cobb in Texas and my learning curve went straight upwards. John and I hook up instantly and starting “playing” around with “bike fits” and shared our thoughts. John Cobb has worked for several years with Lance Armstrong during Lance’s early 3 Tour de France victories, and other professional athletes on their bike position. With John`s input and my own research I have develop my own unique way of positioning cyclists and triathletes on their machine.

A bike fit is used to adjust a bicycle to the rider by its dimensions. Certain components can be changed on a bicycle to make it fit better for the rider. A lot of these changes are made after the rider was measured and a computer formula created numbers how to adjust the bike for the rider. The problem is that these changes are purely analytical created by a machine.

How can a computer know what body type the rider has? What are the riders injuries? What is the riders flexibility? What are the riders complains? What are the riders biomechanical limitations? What events does the rider concentrate on?

The answer is easy: A computer can not know the answers (at least not yet!). At this point I started thinking and researching. Every human is a unique individual with certain habits and special anatomical and physiological limits. The only way of setting up a cyclist and the bike is to work with the riders limitations and conditions to control the riders position on the bike. Due to the nature that every human is a unique individual, a the process of a positioning works out always different! My long term studying of the pedal stroke has shown that we can not have the perfect round standardized pedal stroke. Every individuals pedal stroke is different and it can not be copied. But the recruitment pattern of the muscles while bike riding is similar within bike riders but it is often limited due injuries or a bad fit. The ultimate cyclists goal of a great position is to be comfortable and powerful! All muscle need to work properly. EMG research has shown that different fits can shut down full muscle groups while riding. Most of these muscles are necessary to be powerful and comfortable on the bike. These 2 factors are well depended on each other. A rider only can be powerful if he/she is very comfortable as well. Under this condition all muscles will be recruited properly and the cranks start spinning like a well oiled machine.

A third variable is not always as important: Aerodynamics. A lot of times the most aerodynamic position is not the most comfortable and most powerful position. Due to this fact, I use my experience I have gained while testing in the wind tunnel to judge the benefit or deficit of being super aero towards being more comfortable and more powerful. Very often a few changes on the equipment (for example: water bottle placement on TT bikes or the use of the right wheel or shoe covers etc.) will increase your benefit of aerodynamics more than the super aero position. The benefit of being more comfortable and powerful is most of the times bigger than the gain of drag with being not as aero.

As a conclusion I can state that a perfect position is created when the rider is able to reach his/her physiological limits within the anatomical limitation and not by using a formula and having the bike force the rider beyond these limits. My own tests have shown that riders have increased their Threshold Power by up to 80 watts with a proper change in position.

Nevertheless, my research is not finished and I`m constantly analyzing data to continue developing my bike positioning.

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