The new racing season is officially here, and with it, everyone's fancy new gear. But, the new bike and kit won't look as good if you aren't using your equipment to its fullest potential. By now we know that a racer without a bike fit is the equivalent of buying an expensive suit and not getting it tailored. But what exactly goes into a complete bike fit?
We paid a visit to Nate Koch of Ero Sports down at the Carson Velodrome where our own Sarah Bartlett walked us through her second fit.
1. Getting to know the body
The process begins with Koch checking out the overall build of Bartlett's body. He measures her legs and sees the range of motion she has in her hips even before asking her to put on her shoes. Measuring the body allows the mechanic to make minor adjustments on the bike directly. For instance, if one leg is slightly longer than the other, your saddle or handlebar positions might be changed so that both legs are pulling their load of the work equally.
2. Feet, Feet, Feet
Then, Koch moves on to Bartlett's cycling shoes. He finds that one of the cleats is positioned further down the shoe than the other, which is a problem.
"The positioning of the cleats is important," said Koch. "We want to make sure you're getting the maximum length without hurting the knees."
After, Koch makes Bartlett stand on what seems to be a grown-up version of a giant neon scribble slate from the 90's. Remember these?
Koch's, of course, is way more legit and looks a little more like this:
The green slate allows Koch to see Bartlett's heat distribution. In less than three minutes, Koch can determine if Bartlett needs insoles or any other added support on the cleats to make her ride feel as comfortable as possible.
"We want to make sure that when you're clipped in your feet are in the most natural position," explained Koch.
3. Getting wired up
After the housekeeping things are complete, Koch now makes Bartlett hop on a trainer. After analyzing her for some time, it's time to tape sensors at key points of the body to take precise measurements using Koch's state-of-the-art cameras and computer systems. Koch turns on a fan, putting Bartlett in a temporary Beyonce mode and watches her cadence.
4. Turning into a stick figure
This point of the fit is probably the coolest. In less than 20 seconds, Koch has a digital reading of Bartlett's degrees of measurements and range on her bike using motion capture sensors. What he found was that she was simply too far forward on the bicycle, causing her hand pain. Bartlett was essentially holding herself from falling over her bike.
"You want to distribute the weight all over your body and you want your elbows to bend and your torso to do most of the work since it's stronger," explained Koch.
5. Making Adjustments
Now that Koch has a point of reference for measurements, he begins adjusting Bartlett's bike components accordingly. He explains the correlation between certain measurements. For instance, if a cyclist needs his/her seat lowered, then the seat then must also be pushed back in order to properly distribute body weight and prevent injury in the process.
6. Testing, Triangules and Planes
After another quick digital reading, Koch then compares the initial first readings to the current data. He analyzes the difference in degrees and adjusts accordingly if needed. Koch then sends Bartlett for a quick ride outside to test out the new adjustments on a more realistic course other than the trainer.
Bartlett gives Koch the green light after riding the newly fitted bike. They head back inside to conduct the final step of the fit: triangulation and finding the plane of the bicycle.
Essentially all these words are fancy talk for even more measurements. To triangulate a bike essentially means running a tool around the entire bike to provide the client with specifications on the frame stack and reach of the bicycle. After Koch begins this process, the bike's outline appears digitally on his screen, allowing him to find the plane, or the most symmetric point of the bike.
After Koch completes triangulating the bike and finding the plane, he compiles the data and gives it to Bartlett for her to access. His findings show that she needs a longer stem, though he advises her to come back for a follow-up after she makes the purchase. After over two hours adjusting, riding and shifting, the bike fit is complete.
Bike fitting may seem like an unnecessary expense, but, it is certainly an investment worth making. It makes a racer more productive as well as comfortable. Most importantly, bike fits allow you to index the bicycle measurements that work best for your body. According to Koch, your instinct is still one of the best bike fit tools around.
Nate Koch can be found at Long Beach Bike Fit by Ero Sports. Book your appointment at www.ero-sports.com.