Saturday, 31 May 2014

Wattbike Powerfit

As an oldfart I'd always been cynical of bike fits. I sort of trusted the bikeshop owners back in the day, you know the ones that wore brown shop coats and had raced the London - Holyhead or some such epic road race before hanging up their wheels to sell to us. Sadly they seemed to disappear with the old steel frames that came in every size under the sun, the same time strangely that bikes started to come in small medium and large.
So it was then that I spent a life of 'nose low bum high' on my bikes, even my mountain bikes. Roll on thirty odd years and you begin to wonder if that was right. Well actually I started to wonder because it seems no one can buy a bike these days without needing a bike fit, I mean it's not rocket science is it? Does everyone ride like a retard until the local Paul Daniels at the bike fit company sorts them out? I was still cynical.
Here's my issue....feel free to comment. The basic bike fit, someone that's never seen you before measures you up, and using a set of formulas sets your bike up to fit you, and you give them a hundred quid.
So your bike now fits. But it did before. You could sit on the saddle, reach the pedals and bars, ride steer and climb. What's changed apart from someone saying that your bike now fits? Prove it. Well it fits, this is where your knee should be, where your saddle should be etc etc....prove it! Well that's what we're told, that's the way every single rider in the world should be set up. So if I wore the same boots as Beckham I could play for England then. I was still cynical.
Where was the tangible evidence that the fit actually made any improvements? other than the placebo effect that a fool gets when he parts with his money.
Enter Wattbike Powerfit. Someone told me that BC had been using this system to put the pros right, and that it had thrown up some data that exploded old myths about position. Basically Powerfit is an active fit that provides that tangible data there and then and combines it with data gleaned from tests with the BC elites. That someone also told me that they needed a Guinea Pig for a day to train fitters under the eye of an expert!
Will you throw in will.....okay I'm in.
Bring your bike, your kit and shoes. Duly changed into them I enter the test room, it's got lazers. I get measured up and asked a thousand questions, but I'm distracted by the red lines of the lazers measuring every aspect of my bike. They then build a picture of how, or want to ride, after all there's no point fitting up an aging biffer for racing when all you want to do is ride a few miles in comfort each Sunday. I tell them that I raced a lot, but might be knocking it on the head though I would still be keen to mix it up on the Sunday bun run.
Once all this is done your existing measurements are transferred to the Wattbike along with your own pedals and saddle.You then do a test ride, they can record HR, cadence, power as well as Wattbike specific data. test ride over the data is analysed. Turns out I'm pretty average....not happy. The data is then explained to me, thankfully I understand most of it. The program  then gives an ideal set up for the rider. I'm then poked and prodded and covered in pink sticky back dots and told to repeat the ride. I keep the cadence the same, I can't see the HR or power output. When this test is done the data is analysed again. With the simple adjustments made I see an improvement in pedaling efficiency. This is the tangible proof that is missing from so many fits. However the fitter then goes on to make further small adjustments which I test until the data readouts show the best figures. This is very satisfying stuff, but it's only part of the fit. I'm pedaling as best as I can now, but what about the rest of my position? Time to come to terms with the fact that I'm 54 not 24 and I don't have the core strength of Peter Sagan. Slammed stems might be all the rage, but only a fool puts looks before fit, and anyway it's now known that too many people ride too low. We do an off the record test, I assume my ride position, pedal a while, brake, release my grip and then slowly move my hands outwards away from the bars and I'm on my way to a very painful face/stem interface. It shows that I'm using effort just sitting there. My stem is duly raised. The result is a comfortable yet still efficient position. Fore and aft position sorted the recommended measurements are transferred to my own bike, which I know is under size, being convinced that racing a small bike is better. The changes are so drastic that the bike can't be adjusted enough. Good job I was selling it then. Along with my too small CX race bike and training bike. The data gives me the info needed to get the best fit/frame. With that in mind I buy a Giant Defy frame, which gets dressed in all my Campagnolo kit. And with read outs in hand the bike is measured to fit.
So how was it on the road? Better in every way, the comfort and efficiency vastly improved my average speed over known sectors for less HR. Shame I don't have a power meter. I also noticed I was changing gear far less. So I'm now very happy, even mildly excited. I was the proverbial 'long in the tooth' 'dyed in the wool' 'old skool' cyclist faced with the proof that I needed to change. It's only been a while since the Powerfit but it's greatly improved my cycling pleasure, what more could you want.
I had my session with the guys at the Giant store in Camden Town who were great.

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