Tis the season! The time when riders head in to get fitted on their new bikes in preparation for the 2012 road season. Last weekend, the CalGiant riders made their way to SBCU aka Specialized Bike Components University, where the five new team members went through the BG Fit process which includes measurements off and on the bike.
Spreading out across the room, the riders were each put through an evaluation as explained by BG Fit professor Aaron Post.
“One of the big things that we’ve worked on here at Specialized is making this into a comprehensive methodology. It is a 20-step physical evaluation, it is a 15-step fitting process so it is absolutely a sound method.” Post said. “One of the things that makes it so awesome for the riders and what has made it a repeatable process is that we can teach this to the dealers that can get out to more riders and everybody is doing the same thing.”
Post works at the SBCU department in Morgan Hill, CA. “I am a professor of a completely unaccredited university.” he told podiuminsight with a laugh. “Although I learned this summer at our international meeting, we have Pete over there from South Africa, Thomas is here from Denmark, we have 40 professors in 22 different countries. And I learned that our French office actually got an accreditation from the government so in France, we are an actual university and they are genuine professors.”
For Post, the point of a bike fit is the same for everyone, whether a racer, recreational cyclist, first time cyclist or somebody that’s been riding for 20 years, and that is “that the bike has to be made to fit the unique needs of the person.”
During each fit, many question were asked of the riders, including previous injuries and issues while riding. Then it was time to measure and observe range of motion while standing, sitting and lying on a table.
“The only way that you can establish what those unique needs of the rider are is the physical evaluation where you actually look at your rider, his ranges of motion, look at his body structure, look at their flexibility, understand the limitation and capability of their body and then we make adjustment to the bike. The bike is adaptable, the person, for the most part, isn’t. You ask a person to overly adapt, they end up injured. I can change a stem on a bike but I can’t force a body into a contorted position, so we need to set up exactly what their body looks like, and then make the bike match what their body looks like.”
After it was time to get on the bike where once again the riders were measured, with the fitters observing from the front and the side. Some were put through almost intervals to see how their body would react to the new position.
“It’s hard to generalize but a bike out of the box doesn’t necessarily match that rider. One of the areas that really sets the Specialized apart from what a lot of other people are doing, is our ability to look at riders’ feet, knees and hips and basically make custom shoes for them to give them the proper support from the feet up, to make sure that they are pedaling as effectively, as efficiently, as powerfully as possible. A lot of fitters just look at riders from the side, set the saddle in a position, set the handlebars, and they’re done but for us that’s only half of it. We come around and look at the rider from the front to make sure that their knees line up with the hips and their feet and we achieve that through different levels of arch support, different levels of forefoot support, giving them a shoe that has that structured support in there to prevent the collapse of the foot that helps keep their knee in line with their hip.”
Post and the other fitters look at the contact points, where the body connect with the bikes. “I care about where their body ends up in space so I’m looking at physical contact points, where their butt sits on the bike, right at the saddle, hands contact the hoods and the handlebars, and where their feet are attached at the pedals.”
Through it out, the process is documented and the final measurements are written down and then explained in order to be reproducible.
“When I come up fit coordinates, it kind of makes this triangle of contact points and regardless of the size of the bike, the geometry of the bike underneath them. If you have these measurements that we’ve taken for a specific saddle placement relative to a bottom bracket, specific handlebar placement relative to where the saddle ended up, you can repeat that on any piece of equipment.”
The Specialized BG Fit system comes from the Boulder Center for Sports Medicine. “Where Dr Pruitt has been working with cycling athletes since late 70s, early 80s and he’s documented thousands and thousands of bike fits and it’s from that body of knowledge that we’ve created this system that we teach.” Post said.
Obviously, it takes experience to become a good fitter, after taking a class, it takes ten complete fits before a dealer gets an accreditation. “To get to the level where you want to be working with professional athletes, you would have wanted to have done at least 50 fits, looked at 50 bodies so you can really get a good sampling of what you see in riders’ bodies and how that correlates into what happens once they start pedaling on the bike.” aid Post who had been fitting at retail for four years before joining SBCU three years ago.
After a couple of hours, the new riders had their new bike setups for the SL4 Venge, and then it was time for the returning riders. Some had specific questions following issues which led to more measurements while others wanted to be fitted on their time trial bikes.
Obviously, a different setup is needed for the TT position but a fitter must be conscious of the UCI rules. “They are different requirements from that individualized event, it’s a more extreme event. You don’t get the benefit of tucking in and riding behind others so what we do find is that they are closer to their end ranges of flexibility but they are specific rules for these guys that the governing bodies have determined where a saddle have to go, the maximum extension where their hands has to be, so it’s easy and hard. The rules do half of the work for us because they say the seat needs to be here so we do what we can to make it work within the rules and it’s not always what’s best for the riders’ bodies but they have a set of rules that they have to abide by.”
So what is more important, the feet or the saddle? Post smiled, and replied, “I joke with a lot of these other fitters that there is no one thing that is any more important than the other Shoes and saddles are as significantly equally important as everything else.”
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