Bike Fitting at Gear West Bike and Tri

>> Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Or, “Goldilocks Gets a Makeover.”

The day before my “A” Race for the year (Liberty Olympic Distance Triathlon), I had my bike fit by Kevin O’Connor at Gear West Bike. Yeah, I know what you’re thinking. “The DAY BEFORE?!? Is that smart?” I hoped it wasn’t a dumb idea. Kevin assured me that doing “just” an olympic distance tri would be fine the next day.

Kevin started by having me tell him about my bike - things like: “What do you like about your bike? What’s been annoying you about it? Why did you buy this bike?” Etc, etc. (BTW, my answers to those 3 questions were “I dunno. I wish it were faster. It was on sale.”) He then went on to tell me things HE liked and didn’t like about my bike. Then I hopped on.

Right away he liked how neutral and not rounded-over my back was. Kevin earned tons of credibility early on during my fitting: he noted the way my left leg (especially my left knee) was tracking, and he made a remark about that being due to tightness in my IT band. And guess what? I’ve had issues with my left IT band being too tight since high school. Boom. Credibility. "Do what you want to me, Kevin - I’m dough in your hands."

I wasn’t fit too horribly on Goldilocks, but Kevin noted that I could get more power output if I weren’t quite as “stretched out” on the bike. So that was job one. He opened a drawer under the platform that I was on to expose a ton of stems:

I thought that was impressive until Kevin opened up the draw next to that to expose even MORE stems:

Here’s Goldilocks as the “stem swap” was taking place:

And here’s my old stem in my hand, right next to the new stem on my bike. Notice the difference in length:

Kevin also asked why I had SUCH a crappy saddle on my bike. I told him I was a masochist and that I got off on not being able to feel my boys. He suggested a mid-range saddle that he uses and likes, so we swapped that out.

As part of making me more “compact” on the bike, he slid the saddle WAY forward. He also moved the aero bar pads farther back so the weight of my upper body would be correctly balanced over the pads. (When I told him my aero bars sometimes shift up or down, he wasn’t surprised, and said that moving these pads to the proper spot would help minimize that.)

Here’s a “before and after” without me in the saddle:

Original fit from Erik’s Bike Shop from 18 months ago

Shorter stem, aero pads moved back, aero bars tipped up, seat a bit higher, seat slid forward, and seat pointed farther down

And here’s a “before and after” animated GIF showing a still frame from when I was spinning (with my left leg at it’s lowest point in each image):

Notice my arms come closer to my body to a more powerful position, the aero pads shift back, and my butt shifts forward to be more on top of the pedals.

And as you can see in both images in that GIF, there’s a computer screen right in front of the bike. That’s showing me live video of myself as I spin, so as Kevin is talking about different ideas, I can SEE them taking effect on me right away. Kevin also has that computer FULL of videos of everyone (or nearly everyone) that he’s fit since about 2004. So probably about a dozen times or so, Kevin pulled up someone else’s video who had a similar “problem” as me, and he could show me how they dealt with it on their bike fitting. Here’s a photo that Kevin took of the screen in front of me: the right side is “live,” and the left side was video from “before:”

I was planning on getting the “Retul” fitting done as well, but Kevin actually talked me out of it. Here’s a quote from Gear West Bike and Tri’s website regarding Retul:

Retul takes 3D measurements via infrared markers on the cyclist while cycling. The measurements are accurate to less than 1mm and are taken while the cyclist is actually spinning as opposed to a static measurement. These dynamic 3D measurements also provide data to the fitter, which validates the changes the fitter has made during the fitting process. When you are finished you will have ultra precise measurements of your position. This will allow you to duplicate this position in the future, as well as a baseline for any future changes that are made to your position.

I felt very comfortable with the non-Retul fit that Kevin had done, and I’m not one to keep tweaking things and need to know they are within the range that someone has said is OK. So we didn’t find it necessary to do the Retul fit. (More about Kevin’s thoughts on Retul in my Examiner article about this bike fitting.)

Kevin threw a laser line on my legs, took some video from the front, and showed me how my knees were tracking. He then started adjusting my cleats based on what he saw:

Using the “business end” of a screwdriver to slide over my cleats

So, did the fitting help? I was very happy with how I performed at Liberty Triathlon the day after this fitting. I wasn’t sure about my bike ability going into the race, but I was able to take 5:02 off my bike on the same course from the year before! (And it’s not that I "over-biked" the bike, because I had enough left in the tank for a run that was over 60 seconds faster than last year at the same race.) So SOMETHING was working for me! The only slight issue I had during the race was being my tri suit was a little wet and slippery, I found myself slipping forward just a bit in the saddle. My knees sometimes caught the back edge of my aero bar pads because of my new, tighter fit. When I put up the post of race photos from Liberty Tri, I looked for signs of my “tight fit.” In this photo, you can see a slight red spot on my knee from brushing against my aero pads just below the “T”:

That’s the only issue, and it really WASN’T an issue. I think I’ll toy with the aero pads a little and try to give myself another 1/2 inch of clearance. Then I’ll call it good.

I wrote an Examiner article detailing more of what Gear West Bike and Tri can do with their different bike fitting packages, along with Kevin’s thoughts on a fit based on “comfort vs power,” and cost of these different fitting services. I also have a video of me on my bike before and after the fit. Click here to check out that article. It also has a lot more photos of Kevin working on my bike. (And if you've had a Retul fit, I'd be curious on your thoughts of Retul based on what Kevin says in the article, so take a look at it and let me know what you think.)

Thanks for reading! And thanks for a great fit, Kevin!! You’re the best!


Matty O 6:51 AM, June 23, 2010  

That is very impressive. I could tell the difference before your awesome GIF image overlay (which was pretty cool too).

That is a serious adjustment the day before your TRI haha. Only you could pull that off.

I am debating getting aerobars on my road bike for the half IM we are doing. Great review!!!

GoBigGreen 7:10 AM, June 23, 2010  

They do a great job at GW. Put your seat back up just a idge that should help. I had the same thing post fit I kept slipping forward too much. Oh and Kiwami suits don't stay wet so try one- awesome wicking so you don't slide!

acaurora 8:59 AM, June 23, 2010  

It looks like you had the Toupe saddle. There's nothing "crappy" about it... a lot of people prefer the Toupe actually, and if not that the Fizik Arione. I have the Specialized Romin SL saddle, which is shaped differently primarily for sprinting. All depends on how and what you are riding.

Dr. TriRunner 10:30 AM, June 23, 2010  

Hmmm... I was fitted on Rilo at Erik's last year. Maybe I should head over to GW for a new fitting. I mean... what if I grew or something?! ;)

Maybe I should get a new bike first. Hahha my answers to those three questions are basically the same as yours. And Rilo is ... old.

T Z 10:33 AM, June 23, 2010  

Nice and very scientific explanation of the cafefully calculated adjustments. (But it looks like you're MATING your bike.) LOL

agegrouper 12:58 PM, June 23, 2010  

Kevin refit my Cervelo and Trek this spring after I'd had an Orthopedic injury at the end of last summer. He did a great job getting me more comfortable in the cockpit. He's a master....and a nice guy, too!

FinnyKnits 7:06 PM, June 23, 2010  

Dude. You're living on the edge getting a bike fit the day before a race!

But I'm glad it worked out so well and nice work!

I may have to do that if I want to do many more multisport events. The outside of my locked foot was numb by the end of the bike portion of my last duathlon and it took a bit of the run for it to wake back up.

Must be a pedal/shoe issue.

Bike Fit coming soon...

IronHoosier 8:27 AM, June 24, 2010  

Sounds like you got a great fit, hope you are tons faster!

Betsy 2:35 PM, June 24, 2010  

Kevin in the BEST! He fixed me up too. Turns out I was riding with my seat like 3 inches too low pretty much all of that year. Not sure how that happened but I'm so happy with my new fitting. He did hook me up to the retul stuff but he had me totally dialed in already. The retul just confirmed how amazing he is!

Ryan 11:31 AM, June 25, 2010  

I'm looking to adjust my tri bike as well but I'm not smart enough to pay someone to do it for me... so I'll be tinkering on my own. I figure if the new setup sucks I'll go back to how it was since it's been working comfort wise. I'll have to take some before and after like you did to see the difference! The only shots I have are from the photogs at the races...

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