Wednesday, 18 January 2012

The Cyclefit Experience

Stuart consults Rich


For those not aware, Pearson Performance, East Sheen (south-west London, just outside Richmond) has a full, top-class bike fitting studio fully equipped with a SiCi SizeCycle. This exists on account of a new tie-in with CycleFit – yes, the very same CycleFit of Covent Garden fame.

When Stuart offered me a fitting session to see what was going on with my shoulder I couldn’t resist the opportunity.

I’ve been fitted four times before, each with varying degrees of feedback, changes and success. The last of those – at Baum a little over a year ago – was less of a fitting and more just Darren checking he was happy to go ahead with my bike build based on what I was riding at the time. The fit previous to that was with Julian at CycleFit, and was probably the one that opened my eyes the most to just how much I don’t fit standard geometry.

Now, before I start I want you to completely disregard the fact that I work there and that the fitter, Stuart, is a colleague. Neither of these things change the level of service, nor my impression of it – in fact I’d argue the opposite is true as Stuart can be more blunt with me without risk of offence, and to be fair if I thought it was a waste of time I wouldn’t bother writing anything about it.

So why am I having my fifth fitting? Well as much as anything, because it was offered. More importantly though I wanted to get Stuart’s view on what might be going on with my shoulder and how it could be alleviated. We kicked off with a run-through of my riding, ride history, plans, setup, injuries and so on before moving into a flexibility assessment – no surprises in that I need to stretch more, my core strength is poor and I have a fairly big leg length discrepancy.

Already I was more at ease with this fitting than I had been with others – Stuart’s approach, demeanour and method are such that you always know what’s going on and why. Most importantly for me he had already picked up on two or three points that other fitters have missed, particularly that a look at my current insoles showed pressure points that were indicative of how I was forcing pressure through my shoe.

Eventually I got on the SizeCycle (now set up to my current riding position). Again Stuart talked me through everything he was doing and why. Having had so many fits in the past I was confident of my overall setup, and we quickly determined that generally I wasn’t too bad – especially in terms of saddle height and position. The pedal stroke analysis of the SiCi jig showed fairly even power too, although my longer left leg does do a little more of the work. The fact that the pedal stroke can be analysed also showed that I pull up through the stroke more than most, and probably more than I really need to (I also ‘ankle’ a lot more on the left which has been picked up before). Changing that is more down to technique than position, and had there been no other outputs that might have been a useful take-away to work on.

The system is linked up with Dartfish software. Having this available meant that Stuart was able to record my action then play it back to show me the angles of my legs, pausing at times to point out what he was seeing, drawing lines over the film footage to show how my knee aligned over the pedal axle and generally assess what was going on. Anyone who has been trained in Dartfish would be able to do the same – the art came in when Stuart started pointing out things that the software cannot tell him, and they were things that proved key to my shoulder discomfort.

Back on the SiCi jig Stuart was able to assess what was working how it should be and what needed thinking about or working on. At this stage he picked up that my glutes don’t fire when I ride – something which has never been highlighted before, and that could have a dramatic difference to my power output if corrected. Free power? I reckon I’ll put some work into sorting this one out…

A few minor tweaks made quite dramatic changes to my comfort without significantly affecting my overall position. The pedal stroke analysis also meant that we could see what kind of difference any changes might have made to my power output (thankfully almost none at all). Why does this matter? Well, for me on other fittings changes have been made that might have made me feel faster or slower simply through feeling different. By having the feedback that a change is actually making me faster, slower or making no difference gives a level of comfort and makes me happier with the approach.

The assessment of my insoles earlier in the session led to us trying me on a set of eSoles, and after playing with a couple of settings on them we were able to alleviate the pressure points Stuart had identified earlier. This reduced the pressure on the outside of my foot (which is apparently quite an odd shape anyway) and made my shoes more comfortable. That’s not to say I won’t be using the fitting as an excuse for a new pair of shoes though, and I’ve just taken delivery of a set of Bont Vaypor Premium which are set to be moulded and tested imminently.

Ultimately by the end of the fit not a lot had changed, and even where changes had been made they were quite minor. Minor, but very significant.

I’m (still) yet to do a proper ride to test the adjustments, but on the jig there was a noticeable difference in my shoulder comfort and my new position feels a lot better on the rollers – specifically, my shoulders feel much more natural and relaxed. Not only could I identify this, but it was clearly visible from the Dartfish recording.

Overall this was the best of the fits I’ve had. Sure, there’s a good chance Stuart was possibly helped by my previous fittings as it meant we could focus more on the key issue because my overall position was already not far off. Regardless, I got more out of this session and the minor changes than I have out of the others where much bigger changes were made.

Thankfully the Baum didn’t need to change much either! I’ll write a follow-up post once I’ve ridden some more…


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