What is it that sets a good bike fit apart from a bad fit?
Finding your optimal (for now) position on the bike is a balancing act and has to take into account three critical relationships of three crucial performance indicators on the bike.
Capacity (power or output)
These three factors all interact and influence one another so, finding the right balance for the individual athlete and their goals is what sets a great bike position apart from an ok position.
Let’s take a slightly more in depth look at how these three factors influence one another and how different disciplines of cycling require a different balance of the three factors to create an optimal fit not just for the needs of that discipline but also for the individual athlete.
Below is a graphic representation of how the three factors interact with one another, and really simply speaking every bike fit falls somewhere in this venn diagram.
So what exactly does this graphic indicate:
When we want to achieve optimization in one area of the bike fit we are likely compromising or giving up performance in another. But, the holy grail of bike fits is a position that has all three pieces in perfect balance.
Take for example two riders:
Rider #1 rides long distance gravel bike races ranging anywhere from 5-12hours or even longer durations. This rider is going to prioritize comfort above all else with power being the second priority and aerodynamics being least important. (Yellow section of the above graph)
Comfort: This rider prioritizes comfort because over the course of a long distance event any discomfort can gradually grow into an unbearable sensation that detracts from their abilities to perform.
Power: with an event duration so long the power output of the riders races are already going to be low relative to the athletes capacity so they don’t need to express their full capacity.
Aerodynamics: This athlete will almost always be moving at a slow (relative) speed and therefore the penalty of a less aerodynamic penalty is less than if the speeds of the race were faster. They are also likely traveling in a group and on rocky/challenging terrain making handling a priority.
Rider #2 rides short triathlons (sprint and Olympic) and/or 40k time trials. This rider is going to prioritize aerodynamics and power production much more than he does comfort. (Purple section of the above graph)
Comfort: With the short duration of these race distances and the intensity with which the athlete is competing, comfort is not a priority, because the effort will be over in such a short time.
Power: The high intensity of these races means a need to compete at power levels at or above the athletes threshold, being able to produce these high force numbers is critical to success.
Aerodynamics: In short races, every second counts and at higher speeds aerodynamics becomes even more critical.
So while these are obviously two very extreme examples on far ends of the spectrum my goal is simply to illuminate the idea that every riding style, every rider and every race type has a different set of inputs we need to balance to find the “optimal” fit for that athlete, in that event at that time.
But the examples and differences don't stop simply at different riding types. Even within durations of the same discipline we see different orders of priorities. For example: the sprint triathlete above might have a much less aggressive and significantly more comfortable position if they were going to race a 70.3 or 140.6 race.
Simply put, there is no single Bike fit that works for any rider in every discipline, rather the fit is an evolving/changing thing that shifts depending on the intent of your racing.
There is always going to be a give and take between the three factors above, and your goals within those races should be at the center of any fitting process, but through proper fitting you can dial in on the best position for you at the current time.
P.s. Now is the time to get in for your fit!! Start the process of dialing in BEFORE the season starts in 2023!!
E-mail Coach@P3Fitness.co to schedule your fit appointment now.
Next time we will dive into the specifics of what it is that makes a position comfortable. Because in the end “comfort is king”