Wednesday, February 8, 2012

On fitting

I think the concept of saddle choice is highly underrated for triathletes.  Well, maybe it's better to say that it is under-appreciated.  Too many are fit (or choose to sit) in a position that resembles their road bike position (or what it would be on a road bike).  There is a major problem with this though: road bikes are not tri bikes.  The whole point of a triathlon bike is to establish appropriate geometry that allows your body to maintain a relaxed, powerful, aerodynamic position for the entirety of the bike leg of a race.

So you're basically working with three distinct influences in terms of your position: comfort, power, and aerodynamics.  Many see these as being mutually exclusive, or at least power and comfort both being exclusionary to aero.  Fortunately for all of us, this is not the case.  It's possible to be comfortable, powerful AND aerodynamic.  Here's a good example of a comfortable, powerful and entirely non aerodynamic position (sorry Jenny).

It's tough to see in this picture, but Jenny is sitting on the back half of her saddle.  This is mostly a comfort thing, but most people don't sit on the proper part of the tri saddle, which is the front 3-4" on the nose.  She's upright, relaxed and very powerful (her watts aren't far away from mine! sort of, watts/kg maybe) but she punches a big hole in the air.  In spite of this, her bike splits have been very good.  So what happens if you simply switch over some spacers and flip the stem?

This is a really good start to what will be an off-the-front type bike split at regional races.  Jenny (and tons of other triathletes) needs to find a saddle that allows her to sit on the front so she can rotate her pelvis forward and flatten out her lower back.  This will also then allow her to further lower and extend the front end until she resembles something more like a bullet than a snow-plow.  When I say front of the saddle I really do mean the front of the saddle.

This is from the Lowe's TT I did last year (and is also present at the top of this page) and is a good example of how forward I mean.

I'm sitting probably 1-2" more forward than I would over a longer race as I'm really struggling to put out as much power as possible.  The more power you put out the less weight you put on your "soft bits" so this is sustainable for a short-term effort.

Now, you may not be able to sit on the front part of your saddle, which means that you need to find a better one! I personally had no issues with the Arione Tri (although there were periods of discomfort in my longer races) but I've always been curious to try something like the ISM Adamo.  One thing that people do a lot with this particular saddle is sit on the wrong part (again, like it's a road saddle on a road ain't).  For example (red is bad, blue is good):
Which, in a picture of a person on a bike looks something like this:

This way, you don't end up with a massively elevated front end like this:

And end up with something more like this

Of course, if your run form is like this

You can make up for an inefficient bike position...

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