The Tools of the Bike Fit
Is it the wand or the spell that makes the wizard?
Luckily for us, a bike fit is not magic, though it can seem mystifying to some (check out the first installment of the bike fit series if you need it demystified a bit). A good bike fit uses tools and technology to allow a knowledgeable fitter to better utilize their knowledge and expertise to achieve a great result for the athlete. Here we will talk about the tools and technology that we use in the P3 Bike fit studio to help athletes optimize their position and dial in on a setup that is best for them at that moment.
The bike fit is a dynamic and changing thing, and likewise, the tools of bike fit need to be able to morph, change and shift easily to fit each athlete and adjust to test different combinations and setups to each other in the same fit session. The three pieces of gear we will dive into here do just that.
First up, the bike.
The bike is obviously a critical component to a bike fit, hell it’s right in the name, but a fit bike needs to be uniquely apt at adjusting in any given direction while also giving the rider the ability to ride in a life-like manner and convey performance metrics to give quantitative feedback to the athlete and fitter.
Here we use the Wahoo Kickr Bike for the majority of our bike fits. This bike allows us to make any and all necessary adjustments to find the best position for the athlete, it allows us to test different front-end positions, saddle positions, crank lengths, and really fine-tune an athlete's position. The Kickr bike also allows us to let the athlete test and ride the position under different real-world conditions, it allows us to change the angle and simulate climbing or descending and it pairs with any training platform the athlete already utilizes so we can test under conditions they are familiar with.
This bike is the backbone of our fit equipment, but it is not the only tool we utilize.
Why I love it:
A new position can seem tough to get a sense of on a fit bike, with tiny adjustments it can be tough to tell if it actually feels better or worse, you are just so focused on each feeling when you have nothing else to focus on. But, if you let an athlete ride their new position on Zwift or TrainerRoad in an environment they are familiar with for 10,15, 20,30 minutes they will soon identify problem areas OR notice they aren’t having the same discomfort they had previously. Uphill, downhill, more power, less power, all these things might illuminate something else.
Next up, the cockpit.
The cockpit of the bike is the front rider interface, the handlebars, the arm pads, the aero extensions, all these components make up the cockpit. In the P3 studio we have a range of bar widths and shapes for road cyclists to try out and find the style that suits their needs, but where the cockpit becomes incredibly important and complex is with triathletes
The cockpit is critical for triathletes and the most important measurements in a tri bike fit are those relating to the arm pads of the aero bars, unfortunately, aero bars are notoriously complicated and difficult to adjust making this vital component of a bike fit complicated, time-consuming and often frustrating. However, in the P3 studio, we utilize the TriRig Alpha One Aerobars.
These bars are the perfect fit for our studio (pun 100% intended) because it checks all the boxes we need. They are easily adjustable to an incredibly wide range of different positions with very simple adjustments. They are shown to be very fast in aerodynamic testing, they allow us to test any number of different pad and extension styles shapes and sizes, and they are easily installed onto the athletes existing bike to allow them to test their new position on their own bike and/or make easy minor adjustments to their fit going forward after their bike fit session.
(TEAM P3 athletes check out the members discount area for 15% off all TriRig components)
Why I love it:
I love to “tinker” and play with my fit. What happens if I drop my pads by 5mm? What happens if I tilt my extensions up a couple more degrees? Can I go narrower? These bars let me “tinker” to my heart's desire. (which is also a fitters dream) on my previous bars, it would take 20-30minutes just to change one aspect of my fit, with these bars I literally change my position between intervals while riding the recovery. This lets me constantly tweak and change my fit if I feel the need. Oh, and with the TriRig scoops is the most comfortable cockpit I have ever ridden, the larger pad surfaces disperse your weight more making for a more comfortable aero position. I currently use these bars and the scoops on my race bike as well as in my fit session with triathletes and time trialists
Bringing up the rear… The Saddle … Get it??
While the cockpit dictates the position, aerodynamics, and a large part of comfort on the bike, the saddle (or seat) of the bike is an incredibly vital piece of equipment that has huge performance and comfort implications if it is overlooked. Between saddle sores, thigh chafing, numbness, and other discomforts, a bad saddle can be a real pain in the ass. Unfortunately, saddle selection is in large part about trial and error to identify the best saddle for each rider. In many cases, this means hours or weeks of swapping and testing saddles to find what suits that rider. In the P3 studio, we use several adjustable saddles from Bi-Saddle to streamline this process substantially.
The Bi-Saddle’s allow us to adjust the width and shape of the saddle without taking it off the bike and test many, many different configurations with each athlete in a much shorter period. This allows us to quickly identify a shape and style of saddle for that athlete and narrow our search much quicker than going from one saddle to another and asking “better, worse, or same?” Now we get to the right shape for that athlete quicker and can dial in on a few saddles that will fit their butt better.
Why I like it:
The saddle is CRITICAL to performance, far too often athletes suffer through discomfort with a saddle and don’t realize this discomfort is costing them real-time/ watts on the course. If you are in significant discomfort you are not going to or going to be able to push yourself quite as hard, mostly because that discomfort has already taken some of the mental fortitude that you would have used to push yourself harder. Having a comfortable saddle allows you to focus on your effort and not on how much your ass hurts! These saddles help us to get to that comfort point quicker than before and let us focus more time in the fit session on the other parts of the bike fit.
Improving your bike fit is about experimentation and evaluation, it takes into account many relationships and here we are looking simply at how the use of technology can impact both the fitting process as well as the result. The technology doesn’t dictate the fit, the fitter and athlete do that, but the technology helps the fitter facilitate a smoother and simpler process of identifying and evaluating position adjustments that might help that athlete improve their on-the-bike experience.
Want to know more about our fit process or equipment used?
Set up a consultation today to start dialing in your fit for the 2022 riding season!