A few thoughts on triathlon bike fitting
I’m going to go out on a limb with this one. It’s going to be polarizing, I’m not gonna lie. But keep in mind this is simply my opinion. (of course, it happens to be the RIGHT one)
Just kidding about what’s in parentheses.
When I think about cycling in a triathlon context, I ALWAYS ask myself one – very simple – question during contemplation of products or services:
Is this going to make me faster? (or “is this going to make my life on the bike easier”)
Although to be honest I also ask myself if it looks really awesome and in that case I am willing to make an exception to the aforementioned mantra. When I say “faster” I am really only using that word because it is easier and conveys more of what I’m trying to say. But I don’t mean that something has to make me faster, I really just want to know if it saves me something. Does it create less drag? Does it integrate better my bike and nutrition? Is it an aerodynamically neutral option? My goal is to make me on the bike a more efficient package. So everything I do revolves around that thought process.
My body on my bike (so, my “fit”) make up 90% of the system’s aerodynamic drag while I am racing (or riding, obviously). In many ways, my body is my main limiter to me going “faster.” (double entendre, wow!). So physiologically speaking, I need to train. I need to get fitter. But the other way I can get faster is by addressing the efficiency of my position, my bike, and my equipment and apparel choices.
Every position that is catered to triathlon (henceforth referred to as an “aero position”) should be juggling three separate goals:
A fitting should be able to address all three of those things if your fitter has the experience, confidence, and knowledge of how to make all three of those things happen to you. Too often I have seen positions that “adapt” a rider to their saddle. There is no mention of body awareness or long-term goals and evolution when it comes to that rider’s fit. Setting up the contact points in a fit and following program driven (yes, I’m talking about computerized fit systems) angle and distance measurements is barely even half the battle. In fact, in the wrong hands, it’s a step back in the battle against good triathlon fittings. You can “hold” your body in numerous ways while having the same contact points. So from a semantics standpoint, which part is your “fit?” Is it the contact points being set up for you? Or is it a discussion on how to hold your body and what to focus on to engage those sorts of proprioreceptive adjustments?
Well, at Inside Out Sports it is definitely both. It all starts at the saddle. Finding the right saddle that properly supports your seat bones while eliminating soft tissue pressure and allows for the proper pelvic tilt to hold a sustainable, aerodynamic aero position can be – literally – life changing (and this time I truly mean literally as I have had people tell me that the right saddle was life altering). This can open up an entirely new world of fit possibilities that many people just don’t know exist. You CAN be aerodynamic. You CAN be comfortable in an aerodynamic position. You CAN be powerful AND aerodynamic. Many have always operated under the assumption that those are mutually exclusive things.
All it takes is working with a fitter who understands that dynamic and can relate it to you, your history, and your future goals as far as racing is concerned. Well, that and practice. Lots and lots and lots of PRACTICE.