a journal - cycling, sociology, social media

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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