a journal - cycling, sociology, social media

Sunday, 12 May 2019

TdY: Teesside team, Teesside artist, Teesside icon.

Last week I was at stage one of the Tour de Yorkshire and what a grand day out it was, and the day gave me an obvious topic for a blog post. I didn't want to just write a race report with pictures though, other people, such as my friend Larry Hickmott over at Velo UK can do that stuff way better than I can. So as there are several local and family links with the the race I have used my usual approach of starting with some decent pics but then taking it in a slightly different direction. 
Regular readers will know of my association with Teesside based Ribble Pro Cycling as I have previously posted on how the team began here Evolution of a team. My son Jack established the team back in 2012 and it has grown year on year since then culminating in making the step up to UCI level this year and participation in the TdY.

The Team Ribble Endurance SL race bikes with their stunning 'glitter' paint job attracted a lot of attention at the Doncaster start, and also really stood out during the TV coverage in what were often wet and dark conditions. The rider's spare bikes, the Ribble Aero 883s can be seen behind on the brand new team cars which also looked really impressive in the race convoy.

The Hyundi team cars and a VW Transporter van were provided by Intak self drive and were custom wrapped and had their roof racks fitted only a few days before the tour. The team are also fortunate to have this mini hybrid from Cooper Mini Durham. With six riders, nine helpers and four vehicles the four day race was a complicated logistical challenge and a huge amount of work was done prior to the race. Credit must go to Tom Timothy Team Principle at Ribble Pro Cycling who produced an extremely detailed plan of the four days that worked perfectly.

The riders before the start of stage one and a final briefing from Team Manager Matt Cronshaw (centre) and L-R riders Zeb Kyffin, John Archibald, Jacob Tipper, Scott Auld, Alex Luhrs and Dan Bigham. Instructions from Matt and the team's objective for the stage and the following days was pretty simple - get riders in the break.

                                                              Matt overseeing the final warm up

            Yours truly with a big Team Ribble personality, our man from the valleys Gruff Lewis.

          The posters for this years Tour de Yorkshire produced by the artist Mackenzie Thorpe.

This year the TdY appointed Mackenzie Thorpe as the official artist for the race which delighted my wife Sue who is an avid collector of Mackenzie's work. Teesside born and bred Mackenzie Thorpe is an enthusiastic ambassador for our region and he recently donated an artwork called 'Waiting For Me Dad' as a gift to his home town of Middlesbrough which is now located in its permanent position at the world famous Tees Transporter Bridge in the town.

The 'Waiting for Me Dad' sculpture at the iconic Tees Transporter Bridge, nicely colour co-ordinated with my Ribble Aero 883 Custom race bike.

Part of Sue's collection of Mackenzie's work featuring the 'Transporter' is this limited edition print, also called 'Waiting For Me Dad'. No need to worry about the risks I took when producing the content for this post, Sue was out when this picture was taken ... obviously.

Not only do we have art in this week's blog but poetry too as the Transporter Bridge is featured by north east poet Ian Horn in his poem Ironopolis, the nickname given to the industrial Middlesbrough of a bygone age.

                                                                           Ironopolis - The Town That Built The World

      Where alchemists were born.
Below Cleveland's hills
a giant blue dragonfly
across the Tees
reminds us every night
We built the world.
Every Metropolis
came from Ironopolis.

'The Fastest' by Mackenzie Thorpe part of the 2019 Tour de Yorkshire collection captured in this picture at Mackenzies's gallery in Richmond, appropriately for the purposes of today's blog with a Mackenzie sculpture of the Transporter in the background.

Remember that old saying 'Chicks dig scars' ?

Local connections continue with Sue at the TdY depart alongside one of Ribble Pro Cycling's Teesside riders and someone I have known since he was a junior, Scott Auld. New to the team this season and although only twenty two Scott brings considerable experience to the squad having spent the last few seasons racing in Italy, France and Belgium. Given the significant responsibility of Road Captain for the TdY Scott went on to have a great tour, made a big contribution and finished only a few minutes down on the winner. A brilliant performance but all the more remarkable as only thirteen weeks ago he was involved in a very serious accident while training in Spain in which he suffered multiple lacerations, a broken arm and serious facial injuries which required plastic surgery - tough as they come this lad.

Sharing a joke and a pre-race bag of chips with with long serving team member DS John Reeve  

This post wouldn't be complete without pictures of these two heroes, Dan Bigham and John Archibald who did Ribble Pro Cycling proud by taking to the podium on stage one and stage three, having won the Dimension Data Most Combative Rider Awards. Dan who has featured previously on the blog here On Getting Aero and here Interview with Dan was the dominant rider in the break on the first day, in a move that was only swallowed up by the peloton metres from the line. John was equally aggressive on stage three making huge efforts to be in the break which eventually succeeded in escaping after numerous attempts. Objective achieved and exceeded fellas - congratulations.

Thanks for sticking with me to the end of this weeks rambling account, next time on the blog: 'Racing with Power'. 
Now that my race season is well under way this will be the final post in a series of three focusing on my now eight months experience of using a power meter, you can read the first two here #Power1 and here #Power2  - am I now producing a lot more watts, and hitting huge numbers ? maybe ... or maybe not.


Sunday, 17 March 2019

Racing in Leeds and recovering in Lanza

Happy to get my 2019 race season underway last month in Leeds at  the Bodington cycle circuit which is part of the excellent Brownlee Centre. The complex was created by a partnership of British Triathlon, British Cycling, Sport England, UK Sport and Leeds University and the facility is named after the well know Brownlee brothers, two of the UKs leading triathletes who both attended Leeds University.

It was my first time racing at the Brownlee and although I had heard good reports about it I wasn't really sure what to expect. Turns out the Bodington is a great circuit and I really enjoyed myself. From the pictures and a video that I had seen it looked like the circuit might be a bit dull with two parallel straights only a few metres apart but its actually great fun to race on. From the start it drags up for a couple of hundred metres before swinging left around a small loop, you then descend down to a similar sized left hand loop at the bottom of the circuit, it's quite long, its quite fast and after a few times up the drag its quite tough.

Leeds was my first chance to try some of the kit I am using this year, in the picture above my custom Team Ribble Limar Airmaster helmet which is excellent. I am wearing Giro shoes again but this  pair have been custom painted for me with the blog name and the logo of my favourite cafe The Mockingbird Deli (seemed appropriate) by my friend Charlotte Jarpz, (@jarpz_  on Instagram) If you have an idea for a custom design get in touch with Charlotte HERE - she can literally paint anything !  

On the start line ready to kick of my 2019 campaign, I had decided to do this race just to see how my fitness was as it sounded like a fairly low key affair. My race season 'proper' doesn't start until April but it's good get a race in as the first one of the year is always a bit of an unknown and usually a bit of a shock to the system. The race was a League of Veteran Cyclists (LVRC) event promoted by Ilkley Cycling Club and faultlessly organised by Ged Millward and was appropriately named ' The see how fit you are circuit race''

Photographic proof from my mate @darrenmoody of me doing a turn !

 The race was run as handicap with three groups starting separately Cs and Ds (50-60 year old's) first followed by As and Bs (40 to 50 year old's) with the Es and Fs (my group) of the oldest 60 + riders starting last but as the leaders on the circuit, a good formula which resulted in a cracking race. Turns out my legs were decent on the day and I was even tempted to put my beard in the wind once or twice, some of us old codgers did most of the race with a group of very strong C and D riders which made it a pretty hard workout. I was happy to get my first race of 2019 done and to be competitive in the old boys group, a promising start to the season after a difficult few weeks.

Next stop Lanzarote and after three fifteen hour training weeks with a fair bit more intensity than I would normally do my plan was for a recovery week of about nine hours over six days. I had a hire bike booked from the Free-Motion bike centre in Puerto del Carmen, definitely not the cheapest hire option in the resort but I have used them before the bikes are spot on and their customer service is excellent.

First ride from the hire shop was a gentle pedal along the cycle path between Puerto del Carmen and the Lanzarote capital Arecife. The path runs alongside the airport runway and I was lucky as I passed that I was in the right place at the right time for a good Instagram picture.

I usually hire a fairly basic BH bike when in Lanza but when I went to pick it up it was fitted with FSA cranks so my Shimano crank arm with my power meter fitted wasn't compatible. Upgrade it was then to a disc brake equipped Pinarello Prince with Ultegra mechanical groupset and Mavic wheels and I have to say it was it was absolutely terrific. I have never been  a particular fan of Italian race bikes but this was a fabulous ride although I know that purists will disapprove that it was Shimano equipped rather than Campagnolo - didn't bother me at all as it was set up perfectly. 

One of my usual rides when I am in Lanzarote is the climb up to the Timanfaya volcano through the lava fields, then back down towards the small town of Tiaz (above in the distance) This is a fast descent and I picked up a lot of speed on the Pinarello and despite a fairly strong and gusty crosswind the Prince was super stable and gave even a fairly cautious descender like me a lot of confidence, see my post on a previous visit to Lanzarote here Lanza bicycle practice.

Its 10.30 AM in Lanza and I promise that's a diet coke - not a pint of Guinness.

Even though I was on a rest week surprisingly I only did one 'cafe' ride while I was in Lanza which is a record for me and is what happens when you take your power meter on holiday. I did some race specific efforts on three of the days and in the process picked up a few Strava PRs on segments that I have ridden fifteen or more times (My Strava) I either go quite well on San Miguel and sangria or the Pinarello made a difference, might be a bit of both. My 2019 Team Ribble kit from Le Col (above) arrived just in time for Lanzarote and very nice it is too ... and everything fits perfectly - result !

Last image from Lanzarote and its Mrs R and I all ready for the Arecife Carnival, a fantastic day out if you ever get a chance to go (fancy dress optional)  Hopefully from the above pic its pretty obvious who I went as ? but if your not sure here's a clue 'I just felt like running'

 Back home now for a few more weeks of training as my next race isn't until 21st April. Following a spell of illness in January which set me back a bit (see my post here Training with Power #2) I decided to start my season a little bit later this year. I have a full campaign of thirty races planned and the late start makes sense because the TLI and LVRC road race championships are in late August and early September. I am racing on my Ribble Aero 883 again but with a wheel upgrade, I've only done a few rides on these Zipp 404's and apart from looking great I can already tell they are fast. Thanks for reading, enjoy your riding this summer and good luck if your racing in 2019.

Sunday, 10 February 2019

Training with power #2 with a peek at Training Peaks

I have been using the 4iiii power meter now since the beginning of November so with three months worth of data and a bit of training with power experience now is probably a good time time for a bit of a review of how it has gone and what I have learned. When I say three months training with the power meter it's actually a bit less as I was forced to take an unplanned break at the beginning of January due to illness, but returning to fitness afterwards turned in to a learning experience in itself, so there is always positive - more on that later.
Probably the biggest benefit for me so far is that having the power meter has provided me with access to accurate, detailed and reliable training data that has not been available to me in the past. I have been using the 4iiii power meter paired with a Wahoo Elemnt Bolt head unit which is synced to upload automatically to Training Peaks TP and the information that this combination has given me access to has been a bit of a revelation to be honest. 

So what has changed ? Well perhaps surprisingly I haven't really become obsessed with the watts that I am producing at any given time, or with my training zones, although I do have them taped to my stem (above) as I'm afraid my memories not what it was ... er where was I ? - oh yes I remember, what has become a key focus is my TSS (Training Stress Score) this is a really useful metric that makes planning and reviewing training much more precise and less a matter of guess work. I now know exactly how much training stress a particular effort, training session or ride induces and as a result I can make sure that my big training weeks are in fact big in terms of TSS but conversely and of equal importance that my recovery days or recovery weeks are what I think they are with the TSS quantified to ensure that I am getting the intended benefit.

NOTE: Training Stress Score is a composite number calculated by taking in to account the duration and intensity of the training undertaken and is an estimate of of the overall training load and subsequent physiological stress created. To quantify that, one hour at functional threshold power (FTP) which is 95% of your best power output for 20 minutes is equal to 100 TSS points.

One of the things I like most about the Elemnt Bolt is that it is really easy to use, in part because it's set it up using a smart phone app so there is no scrolling up and down endlessly with the little buttons on the side as with some other computers, not mentioning any particular brand ... Garmin. As with a lot a of devices these days you don't receive an instruction manual with the Wahoo but with this bit of kit even I didn't need a manual, which is a first. The app enables you to customise the pages just as you want them and enter your training zones etc, very very easily.
As I mentioned at the top of this post I picked up a virus in January which completely knocked me out and resulted in me not touching the bike for fourteen days (another first) and even when I started riding again it was a further 10 days before I was training 'properly'. This was less than ideal in terms of preparation for the new season but I had trained really well in the final three months of 2018 so I felt as if I was probably slightly ahead of where I needed to be. That said taking a fortnight off the bike at anytime results in a significant drop in fitness and just how much difference it makes can be seen on the chart below.

The is my Performance Management Chart on Training Peaks  one of the features that I pay a lot of attention to especially in this post illness period. This chart shows my training from the beginning of November to today.

The first significant thing to notice is the series of red dots at the bottom of the chart right of centre, these are the fourteen consecutive days off the bike I was forced to take at the beginning of January. What is also pretty obvious is the sharp drop in the PINK line which represents my Acute Training Load (ATL) or simply put my level of FATIGUE. The BLUE line which also declines fairly rapidly is Chronic Training Load (CTL) essentially this is my FITNESS. The final and rapidly rising ORANGE line is Training Stress Balance (TSB) or my FORM which is best thought of as my race readiness and is calculated by subtracting yesterdays fatigue from yesterdays fitness.

If TSB is a negative number the bigger it is the more fatigue I have so as the TSB line rises sharply I shed all of the fatigue (because I am not training) but unfortunately any form I had goes with it. On the graph my TSB goes to +54 which is a big number and this is not good, to put that figure in perspective when I had good form just before Christmas my TSB was in the range -5 to +5. Take home message from the chart for me is that having being unable to ride for two weeks it will take me five to six weeks of structured training to get back to where I was before my illness, further confirmation, if any were needed that consistency is key ! I have found that in the last few weeks monitoring a rising TSS line has been a really good motivator to get out and train properly and not just mince about riding to the cafe. Having race specific structured efforts to do during a ride has a big impact on TSS and on fitness ... not too surprisingly.

Two other metrics that Training Peaks provides that I have found myself looking at after almost every ride are my normalised power (NP) and the intensity factor (IF) for the ride. NP is calculated using a fairly complex algorithm but in essence it accounts for the variation in effort for a particular ride. If a ride contains a lot of climbing or high intensity efforts the NP will be higher than on a more evenly paced ride when the normalised power will be fairly close to the average power, NP is then another way of quantifying training stress. Related to NP is the intensity factor (IF) of the ride which is used to calculate TSS and is the ratio between NP and FTP and provides a number which represents a relative intensity based on my threshold power. There ... simple ? if at this point if you are suffering from abbreviation overload, my apologies, pause, take a deep breath and try to read those three paragraphs again.

A great feature that is available by combining 4iiii with Wahoo and Training Peaks is the Work Out Builder. It's not too often that I have to train alone, I am pretty lucky in that I have good people to train with who are usually doing structured sessions with specific efforts tailored towards road races and crits. This gives me the luxury of not having to think too much about what to do on any given day I just turn up at the allotted time and do whatever they are doing, or at least a version of it. On the odd occasion when I know I will be training solo Jack (son/coach) who has access to my Training Peaks adds a session which I can download to my Wahoo (above) and I can follow the specifics of the session on the head unit display ... whatever will they think of next ?

In over three months of hard winter riding up to now my 4iiii power meter has proved to be completely reliable. I fitted a new battery last week but that was after 136 hours of use, a lot better than the 100 hours 4iiii predict. The power meter has to be calibrated before every ride which is  quick and dead simple. Just switch the head unit on and allow it to power up, turn the cranks backwards a couple of revolutions and leave them at 90 deg, press calibrate, wait a few seconds and you get a calibration complete message on the head unit. I could almost write a whole blog post on the Wahoo Elemnt Bolt because it really is good and the best bike computer I have ever used. To be clear at this point and for the sake of transparency I didn't get it for free I and I also pay for my Training Peaks subscripton although as I mentioned in my previous post on this topic my power meter was provided gratis by the nice folks over at 4iiiiUK

                                                                                            Testing HARD - Training HARDER

If you read my first post on Training with Power you might just remember that I did a series of tests over three consecutive days of 1 minute, 5 minutes and 20 minutes to establish my functional threshold power (FTP) and to set my power training zones. I did these tests at the beginning of November when I was feeling good and I was happy with how the testing went, my 5 min power came out at 235 watts which I felt was about right.

I took the picture below on 25th November, just over three weeks after my initial testing. This was a training ride with some of the boys from Team Ribble who were planning a hilly four hours over the North Yorkshire Moors. Although I was going quite well at the time it was not really a ride for me so my plan was to stick with them for as long as I could, hoping to hang on at the back until the top of the first significant climb Clay Bank.

We are heading for the hills and looking at the rain clouds in the distance I was quite relieved that I didn't have four hours to do like the boys. Pictured on the right having just put his rain jacket on Ben Hetherington full time rider with Memil Pro Cycling who I featured on the blog in December BenH in front of Ben is Richard Jones (Team Ribble) another good friend who also happens to be the man behind the innovative Tyrekey, on his left Joe Wilson a super strong Team Ribble junior and on Joe's left Jack, Team Ribble founder. I have previously posted on Jack's approach to training HERE How Elites Train and HERE Polarised Training. Also present and at the front of the group but not visible in this pic Scott Auld a talented local rider who I have known for years who joins the team this year having spent the last few seasons racing in Europe.

Yep the chain was tight going up Clay Bank for sure.

As we hit the bottom of the climb the pace started to pick up as one of the nice young men at the front (knob head) decided that a little bit of half wheeling was in order. The speed went up rapidly but not as rapidly as my heart rate, I wasn't really paying much attention to my watts as I was too focused on the fact that well before the halfway point I was on 98% of my max HR. The inevitable happened soon after, I popped and watched the boys ride away in to the distance, at least it meant I could stop at the car park at the top to recover and take a picture for Instagram - silver lining.

Can't remember what happened to my bottle ? maybe I threw it a someone ?

So what's this little tale leading to ? well on the climb up Clay Bank trying desperately to hold on to the group I actually produced 251 watts for five minutes which is 16 watts more than I did when I tested three weeks earlier a 7% improvement in my power output in just three weeks, absolutely brilliant ! and without really changing my training - result !  ... or was it ? well unfortunately, probably not. I already had those extra watts I just hadn't managed to access them when I did my testing. A more likely explanation for my improved five minute performance that day was a due to something called social facilitation.

It was way back in 1898 that an American  psychologist at the University of Indiana called Norman Triplett noticed that cyclists who achieved the fastest times (according to the world records of the day) did so when they were in the company of others and the slowest times were achieved by those riding alone, against the clock. Triplett went on to conduct a series of experiments to define the effects of what is now called social facilitation. Further research since Triplett's early discovery has established that its not just the presence of others that is important for social facilitation to occur but the apprehension about being evaluated by them, it basically means that when you are racing against someone else or in front of an audience you are able to tap in to energy that would otherwise not be available.

This is useful and it partly explains why I can generally do reasonably OK in road races but why I have always been absolutely rubbish at time trials, obviously the fact that there is nowhere to hide in a TT might be a factor too ? That said any race in which I can't get my hairy face out of the wind and have 'sit in' is in my humble opinion an ill conceived format ... just saying. In all seriousness though, this is a really valuable bit of knowledge that I wouldn't have had without training with the power meter. It means that this season when a really hard five minute effort is required at a crucial moment in a race and I am on the limit I will be using my Clay Bank watts as a guide and not the watts that I did in my initial test, that is of course unless I test higher before the race season starts !

Thanks for reading and please pop back as I have some good stuff coming up in the next few weeks, including a post on my first experience of the cycling phenomenon that is Zwift ... admit it, you know you want to try it too !


Sunday, 16 December 2018

Ben H: Racing from the front in the far east

Cast your mind back to the summer, remember those glorious months when we hardly ever needed to wear our arm warmers or wash our bikes. Up here in the north east one of the highlights of our cycling summer was the National Road Race Championships in July held on a circuit around Stamfordham in Northumberland and what an event it was. Brilliant weather, a great circuit, big crowds and a well deserved win for Connor Swift of Madison Genesis. For north east fans though the highlight of the day was seeing one of our own, Ben Hetherington finishing an incredible 6th after being in the break all day with some of the best riders in the country.
Above Ben in the break and on the front at the Nationals climbing the infamous Ryals. At this point the lead group contained sixteen riders including eventual runner up Adam Blythe (Aqua Blue) and third place finisher Owain Doull (Team Sky) and had established a three minute lead over the peleton

The manner of Ben's ride and his result at the nationals may have came as a bit of a surprise to some UK cycling fans and it certainly seemed to surprise the commentators as he is not particularly well known on the UK pro scene. North east fans were less surprised though as Ben is a very popular rider in the region who has twice won the north east Divisional Road Race Championships (2015 and 2016) and has been a prolific winner of regional road races, circuit races, and time trials for a number of seasons. The reason that Ben's UK profile is relatively low is because he races for a Finnish team Memil/CCN Pro Cycling and does almost all of his racing abroad, in Scandinavia, eastern Europe and particularly the far east, especially in China
On the Tuesday evening after his epic ride at the nationals Ben had recovered sufficiently to race in our local TLI summer series at the Croft motor racing circuit Croftcycleracing. Above warming up with a another good friend, training partner and team mate in the Ribble Development Squad Jason Hurt enjoying first hand Ben's account of over 100 miles in the break with some of the UK's top professionals and valiant attack during the run in to the finish.
Above another picture of Ben at the Croft circuit, (taken by another mate Dean Reeve) this time with his hands in the air taking a solo victory riding for our team before we became Ribble Pro Cycling. I have previously posted here on the evolution of the team and its development over the last six years, a process which continues into 2019 with the step up to UCI level. Ben flourished during his three seasons with the team and won a lot of bike races during that time.
I usually catch up with Ben a couple of times during his fleeting visits back to the UK, above  enjoying the sun at one of our favourite cafes. I think on this occasion Ben had just returned from the ten day Tour de Maroc where the team had an excellent tour and took a stage win.
Some of the Memil/CCN Pro Cycling squad with Ben centre and on his right two other UK pro's who I know, next to Ben is Rob Orr who rode with our team a couple of seasons ago and on Rob's right sprinter Jacob Tipper who rode for Ribble Pro Cycling in 2017. To Ben's left is Finnish rider Hiski Kanerva and completing the line up from the Netherlands Roy Eefting
Above - The Memil/CCN boys are presented to the crowd (below) at the opening ceremony of the eleven stage Tour of Poyang Lake in China. Memil/CCN Pro Cycling are a UCI Asia Continental team whose title sponsors are Swedish cycling brand Memil and CCN a Hong Kong based sports clothing manufacturer.
Through conversations with Ben and from following him on Instagram (@ben.h95) I realised how incredibly popular bike racing is in China and the far east generally. Tens of thousands of spectators attend the opening ceremonies, hundreds of thousands of spectators watch every stage by the roadside and local TV audiences are regularly in the tens of millions
Equally huge crowds watched the opening ceremony prior to the prestigious Tour of Qinghai Lake  above Ben gives the fans a wave as he is introduced.
 Also waving at Qinghai Lake Jacob Tipper as he sprints to victory on stage eleven. After a very successful season experiencing international competition with Memil/CCN Jacob is returning to race a predominantly European programme with Ribble Pro Cycling in 2019.
Ben on the front working for the team at the Tour of Qinghai Lake. This year was the 17th edition of the 2.HC race which is part of the UCI Asia Tour, click  here ToQL-FB for some great images and videos from this year including one with the highlights of Stage 11 which the team won  ToQLStge11 watching these video gives you a real sense of how massive these races are.
This time off the front and a typically aggressive move animating the race. Ben is a rider who is always keen to get in a break but he is also a bit of a specialist at the lone attack and if he gets away his time trialling strength makes him extremely difficult to bring back.
Yes I am pretty sure the Memil boys enjoy racing in China.The team's race calendar for 2019 has yet to be fully finalised but it is likely to start with the tours of the Phillipines, Taiwan and Langkawi along with another trip to the Tour de Moroc. Following the Tour of Norway in May Memil/CCN will be returning to China for a series of major stage races likely to include the Tour of Hainan.

Ben is currently in Spain preparing for the 2019 season but unfortunately his training block has not got off to a great start as earlier this week he was struck by a car during a training ride.
                                                                                             Tues 11th December - just before impact
As you can see from this video collision in which Ben is at the front of the line (obviously) it was a nasty accident and although his bike was completely destroyed Ben suffered relatively minor injuries. A bit of a setback for sure, but thanks to tremendous support from friends at Blanca Bikes Ben is already back training, although feeling a bit sore. You can keep up to date with Ben's training and 2019 racing season on his blog Trying To Make My Dream Reality - looks to me like he already has!

Next post will be in 2019 have a great Christmas and thanks for reading.


Sunday, 2 December 2018

Behind the scenes at the worlds best bike fit.

As regular blog readers will know I do my bike racing with RibbleProCycling and while I now only compete in LVRC and TLI age related events what Ribble Pro Cycling is really about is racing at the very highest level both domestically and internationally. The team have been top of the UK points rankings for the last two seasons and are stepping up to UCI level in 2019. To ensure their continued success the team are continually searching for innovative companies to work with and a number of new partners have already been announced for 2019, one of them being Physiohaus.
So when Jack (team rider/coach/training partner/son) mentioned that he had an appointment for a bike fit I decided to tag along as knew it would be an interesting day out and maybe make a decent blog post.


The fit was at Physiohaus HQ in Jesmond, Newcastle and was to be done by John Dennis who is a genuine expert in this field and arguably one of the best bike fitters in the world. The whole process was scheduled to take approx two and half hours and the first stage was a pre-fit physical examination. John's expert physiotherapists eye assessed Jack's physical limitations, imbalances, previous injuries and aches and pains, as well as discussing current position and aims and goals for the coming season.

John has twenty seven years experience as a Chartered Physiotherapist and he has done at lot of work with elite athletes, having previously been Lead Physio for both Badminton England and British Triathlon. He has also plied his trade as part of Team GB at World Championships, the Commonwealth Games and the Olympics. Recognised as being an expert on bio-mechanics John has trained bike fitters all over the world and if someone is using the Retul system there is a good chance that they will have done a course with John or a member of his team, so this is a guy who knows his stuff for sure. 

Above yours truly in action capturing the all important blog content ... not really I am just pretending. I have literally no idea how to use that camera, not a clue I just use my phone, for this shot on a tripod with a remote control clicker thingy, I bought on Ebay. 

You might think that describing John as arguably the worlds best bike fitter is a bit of bold statement but if you watched him work and heard his experience I'm pretty sure you would agree. He has been using Retul technology since 2009 and he has fitted riders from, Team Sky, Orica, MTN Qhubeka, Europe Car and Radioshack as well as pro triathletes from the ITU and Ironman circuits.

Above on the saddle and hanging from it is something called the Gebiomized saddle pressure mapping system, bit of a mouthful but a really clever bit of kit. It's used to accurately assess how and where the rider sits on his saddle. This was the first stage of the fit and seemed like a sensible place to start, not only as an important element of the bike fit process but also in relation to saddle comfort issues and choice of the most suitable saddle. 

The system is comprised of a thin flexible film with sixty four sensors embedded in it. The data is wirelessly transmitted to the screen and a pressure map is displayed showing weight distribution across the saddle in a colour scale, both static and while pedalling under load. Jack has noticed that he sometimes gets more wear on one side of his cycling shorts than the other and the reason for this was pretty clear from the pressure map.

Physiohaus use the Retul 3D motion capture system to assess the riders biomechanical profile, eight LED markers are positioned at key points and the motion capture system uses them to collect real time, three dimensional data from every pedal stroke. This facility to stream data in real time while the rider is actually pedalling under load is a big advantage as the riders strengths weakness and areas for improvement can not only be identified very quickly but can be viewed on the screen in real time - pretty impressive.

All of the measurements were taken from both sides to ensure that every degree of movement and millimeter of distance was captured, providing solid data to compliment the other stages of the fit process and to support the fit recommendations. The human body is rarely perfectly symmetrical and when you are perched on something that is symmetrical ... like a bike, these differences become more evident. The ability to expertly interpret the data is crucial to achieving the aim of the bike fit which is to arrive at an optimal position and a balance between left and right sides. 

This real time data is converted by the Retul software in to numbers that John then used to dial in Jack's perfect position. This was then converted in to a digital map of the final bike set up and riding position. All the information from the session then goes in to a final fit report to have for reference later.

Jack getting a summary of the results and some recommendations from John, which boiled down to moving his saddle up and forward and due to having a long back changing his stem to get longer and lower. Cyclists in general are often meticulous in their attention to detail particularly when it comes to equipment choices and training programmes but can sometimes be guilty of overlooking the fundamentals in other areas, a bike fit by an expert like John can optimise riding position not only to maximise performance but also to help you get more comfortable and prevent aches and pains and potential injuries.

As the name suggests Physiohaus are not just about bike fitting and they have a highly qualified team of five physiotherapists and two sports therapists in Jesmond PhysioTeam although I'm not sure even they could do much for this fella who was hanging about all morning and starting to freak me out to be honest. 

Thanks for reading.

Next time a feature on my mate Ben a pro for UCI Continental team MemilCCNProcycling with race pics from all over the world ... and various other places :-)  its going to be a good one ! 


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