I started to ride road bike more seriously in 1984 due to an overuse/running injury in a knee. The roads where less busy with cyclists back then. A lot has happened in +30 years. Not only material has improved but also the understanding to always strive for a perfect position and the components of it.
Positioning has always been a skill that the more serious bike shops have been able to provide and the result has often been like with surgeons – if they perform the operation frequently – they become really good at it.
About 15-20 years ago power meters started to be a useful tool for fitting and recently also HD cameras to calculate your frontal area exposure (for wind resistance). What I also noted has happened over the past ten years – when I recently got fitted on my AROGON 18 by the team at Cykloteket – was much more dynamic approach where the fitter actually looks at the physical capabilities of the rider – flexibility, core strenght, imbalances, etc.
I have been fitted at least 10 times in my life before, by the traditional bike shop with a sharp eye, the bike shop with an adjustable bike and a sharp eye, by a mad professor in a dungeon under a university in Belgium…that was different…. , have also been fitted by one of the most famous bike fitter in the US during the 90ties on a Computrainer. (Whos methods where so good that I stared to work with them and fitted over 100 people myself using a Computrainer as the main tool.
So, when I went to get fitted at Cykloteket I felt I have seen everything and I was not expecting any surprises. Well, I was surprised. With his layed back approach and mellow attitude Jonte did a fantastic job and I could tell that this guy has both the skills of a frequent fitter as well as knowledge of all the latest technology.
Jonte – getting ready to work his magic!
End result – 5cm increased drop from 9cm to 14cm (saddle to aero bars difference) compared to the last fit in 1998, largely due to the increase in how the ARGON 18 E-118 can be set up compared to the old bikes we used to ride. With that also comes decrease in frontal area, which in turn theoretically reduces the needed effort (watts) to move my body forward.
So is this whole aero thing the best thing since sliced bread? I am not sure, but theoretically yes. I know that I will use it to my advantage as much as I can, as I dont draft – I need to do everything to minimize resistance against the wind.
Here are some interesting facts that the guys at Cykloteket shared with me:
1. Something I think most of you know – wind resistance is exponential so the faster you go the more energy is spent fighting the wind.
2. Going 40-41km/hr will require 120 watt more between riding in traditional cycling upper arm posture and aero position.
3. Riding at 40-41km/hr over the 180km Ironman distance in aero position will give you a 28min faster time than riding in a normal roadbike position.
My own reflections and advice:
I see a lot of people out on the roads that are extremely low on their bikes – looks good but will they really be comfortable to ride like that for 180km and even more importantly – can they run after that?
It is really important to always question your position and fiddle around.
Dont go with a position that does not feel good (after 3000-4000km) if you have to chose between a little more comfort over a little more aero – go with comfort as you will be able to produce more power as well as run better after the bike leg.
The aero position helps tremendously but remember that that guys like Jurgen Zack rode 4:27 in Hawaii, and I can tell you from riding with Jurgen, he was not very aero – but strong like a bull.
Jurgen – one of the first of the German Uberbikers in Kona
He hardly practiced on the aero bars before the race and used a road bike most of the training rides (something I personally think he paid a price for at some races with a troubled lower back – my view anyway – you have to practice in the possition that you race in 90% of your time on the bike).
– Get fitted by someone that knows their stuff and that looks at more than your knee to ball of the foot angle.
– Dont sell your bike to fast! I dont get it; I see so many bikes being put up for sale with only ridden for 1000km – what is that, you dont get to know a bike after 1000km? Go and get fitted instead and make sure that you are sitting right.
– Practice a lot of short intervals in aero position! When I came out of the water in Hawaii 1997 I was around place 250, after the bike I was 52nd – I had to pass 200 people within 30 seconds each over the 180km and those where not slow people. If you are racing clean you need to learn to pass fast again and again – even if your swimming is OK there are always people who are faster (or starting ahead of you).
You might ask – how does it feel out on the roads, 5 cm deeper at the age of 49?
Actually it feels quite ok. It took me 3000km to get used to the bike and now after another 2000km I am actually getting comfortable. Getting of the bike after 180km in aero position is never easy for anyone, at any age, so no big change there. So far I have only raced ”out of shape”, but I look forward to try this new position in 2016 when I have also got some serious miles in on the ARGON 18 monster. I am sure that I will be able to come down to 4:45-4:50 again with the advantage of a good fit and great bike.
As Jurgen sais – Go hard or go home!