Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Bike Fit, Part II

I changed out the photo from the bike fit, part 1 blog.  I originally couldn't find my 2003 IM Brazil bike pic, which was my first ironman.  I finally found it and posted.  Take a look and compare to above.  Kind of fun.


On to the next step in the evolution of my bike fit. During my time in Boulder, I scheduled a bike fit with the guru at the Boulder Center for Sports Medicine, Andy Pruitt. He, along with Todd Carpenter ran me through their program.

After filling out a basic intake questionnaire, we discussed if I was interested in a performance or problem oriented fit. A performance fit would concentrate on improving power output through position changes. A rough estimate of the aerodynamic profile could be performed as well. The most aerodynamic position in which maximal power output can be obtained is eventually sought. Although comfort is not the primary outcome in this sort of fit, the position must be sustainable for the given distance. If the position is not sustainable, then a less aerodynamic position is used until it can be maintained for the race condition. This position should be measured in a real life situation and compared to the prior position.

In a problem oriented fit, a thorough biomechanical assessment is performed to determine underlying pathology. A physical exam was performed by a frontal and back coronal view to determine obvious pelvic obliquity and truncal imbalance. Flexibility was examined to determine any areas that might prevent a position otherwise prescribed a particular formula (more to come on next post). This included an exam of my neck, back, and lower extremities (hip flexor/hamstrings/ankles). A thorough physical exam, including a strength evaluation, was completed.

I chose the performance fit, as I had been able to ride my current position in a few ironmen with reasonable success (5:09 IM Brazil bike split).

We then headed in to the bike fit studio where my bike was already set up on the trainer by Todd Carpenter. Todd had studied at the Univ. of Colorado and had done some interesting work on aero position vs uncompromised comfort position on the effect of TT performance. In a nutshell, comfort wins.

I completed a baseline power exam on my the position I presented with (top picture). Then we applied the motion monitor markers (little glow balls on my body) and recorded kinematic data. Using this data, we made some adjustments in fit to gain the correct angles and range of motion during the spinning cycle. Adjustments were also made to my cleats to address knee tilt and avoid loss of power generation by movements that were not driving the leg directly into the pedal (tibia straight up and down like a piston as opposed to elliptical motion).

Though I was interested in improving performance, the changes we made were to improve comfort (bottom pic). I raised my handlebars in order to allow the upper back to reduce the amount of cervical lordosis required to look up the road. This, and the cleat positioning, composed the majority of change. We tested the second position with a similar power test, which resulted in a lower heart rate average for the same power output.

All in all, this was a great experience. It confirmed the fit I had tinkered on since my fit with David Greenfield was pretty good. The additions of cleat adjustment was great fine tuning. The biggest take home was that comfort, even for performance, nearly always trumps "intuitive" aero changes. My one disappointment was the inability to test different positions that might have increased power output, in addition to making the one position I had more economical. I may be splitting hairs and there may not be any difference. As you will see in part 3, I think you can take the comfort caveat and still have room for additional power improvements.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Evolution of my Bike Fit-Part 1

I thought it would be interesting to talk about the evolution of my bike fit as I start tinkering with my fit, as I usually do early in the season. It is a lengthy conversation and I will break it into 2 parts. The second will include some of my current thoughts on bike fit. Enjoy!

My first bike purchase was one that I bought one night while on call during my fellowship. I was waiting for a patient to be brought to the OR from the ER and was leafing through a cycling catalogue and came upon closeout deal on a Fuji Aloha. I was prompted to close the deal quickly as some of the Vanderbilt residents were going to do a triathlon and I wanted to do it as well. I’d never owned a bike and certainly knew nothing about an appropriate bike fit.

Typical for most closeout deals, there were only a few sizes left. The online operator convinced me that I would be fine with one of the remaining frame sizes, so I went with it. Nine frames, 3 cycling shop fits, one custom 3D fit and 9 ironman later, my expectations from a bike has evolved and is quite different than where I started. My bike needs started with concerns about comfort, skipped to looking good, moved on to desire to go fast and has now returned full circle to comfort.

How I would define comfort has changed as well. My early rides were simply limited by perineal (crotch) comfort. I suspect my early discomfort was simply a process of learning to ride and finding a position that accommodated the particulars of my build and flexibility. These early fits however, were the result of my own fiddling and left a tremendous room for improvement. I went from a bike too large to one that was too small, before abandoning TT bikes for a road bike.

With help from Ken’s Bike Shop, I was finally able to ride comfortably. I was able to finally spend more time on my bike by 2002 and I actually logged some consistent miles for the first time riding consistently 3 times/week. When it became spring time and triathlon season, I slapped a pair of aerobars on the bike and rode on. This set up served me reasonably well and I finished my first IM in Brazil in the following year.

By this time, I began getting more serious about triathlon and wanted to look like on of the guys on the cool TT bikes. After a bit of research I decided to go visit David Greenfield at Elite Bicyles in Philadelphia. After receiving the best customer service during a bike fit I’ve ever experienced (and a day in the life with Richie and the gang is a story I will never forget), I decided to purchase a Razor. His attention to detail during my fit to accommodate my flexibility (or lack thereof), yet reach a reasonably aero position was greatly appreciated. Through a combination of increased training volume, improved comfort and aerodynamics, and inspiration from my cool new bike I was able to return to IM Brazil 2 years later in 2005 and improve my bike time nearly 20 minutes, gaining my first Kona slot along the way.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Winter Big Day Training

I have to admit that the past few years I've been envious of the Northern athletes that spent the off-season cross training by doing winter sports.  After our move to Boise, the Shilt household has been anxiously awaiting the first big snowfall to hit Bogus Basin.  Fortunately, we haven't been disappointed.  I was able to have my first Winter Big Day Training that included an hour swim, hour run, then 2 hours of skate skiing...well sort of.   Fortunately Erin was kind enough to circle back and give me a few tips & there were a few brief moments of Eureka! Needless to say, I don't think anyone attending Liberec in a month has anything to worry about.
A couple of things you might be interested in.

The first is that Gordo has re-invented his website.  The new site, Endurance Corner, is comprised of two components.  The basic platform, free to all, is comprised of all the articles and blogposts that he has authored over the past 10 years.  Also included are Alan Couzens's insightful blogs and the podcasts that Gordo and Justin Daerr have put together.  

There is a subscription component as well.  This will include unlimited access to Gordo and the rest of the Endurance Corner team on his forum and a customized coaching plan. 
The final note is about the last few remaining spots at our spring training camp in Tucson.  The training was outstanding last year and you can expect the same this year.  Unique this year will be daily lectures and case reports on Medicine and Endurance Sports.  For those in the health care field, you may be able to deduct a portion of the camp as a business expense.  (Of course, you should consult with your tax professional for your particular situation before making any tax or legal decisions!!!).  For those in the coaching business, there will be USAT coaching credits available as well.

I hope all is well and everyone is enjoying the new year as much as we are.