I’ve received a lot of advice when it comes to training for an Ironman, and one of the most prevailing was that I should pay to get my bike professionally fit. Not fit by the guys at the bike shop in fifteen minutes after the purchase of my bike – a real, detailed fit performed by someone’s whose profession is to make people as comfortable as possible on their bike rather than to make money selling bikes.
However, after not experiencing pain or discomfort after my bike shop fit and not wanting to part with a couple hundred dollars to double-check the bike shop’s work, I ignored the advice of my veteran Ironmen. That was a mistake. As you all know, I recently experienced some nagging knee pain and it derailed my Ironman training as a result. In the end, I sucked it up and forked over the money for a professional fitting. And let me tell you – it was worth every cent.
Studeo DNA & Retul Technology
Upon the recommendation of my training buddies, I made an appointment at Studeo DNA in Carlsbad for a “Retul 3D Motion Capture Bike Fit” in Carlsbad. According to Retul’s website, “Retul Technologyis a cycling-specific motion-capture bike fitting system designed to provide qualified bike fitters highly accurate and comprehensive bike fit data. The system incorporates three-dimensional measurement, immediate report capability, and a millimeter-specific digitizing tool to provide the most accurate dynamic fitting solution in the industry.”
Not only was Nestor, the owner and operator of Studeo DNA, highly recommended by my friends, he apparently also fits pro triathletes. To a pro-triathlete
stalker admirer, this was all I needed to hear. If the pros trust him for their fit, so do I. Plus, the studio was near my office and they had appointments available at 5 p.m. so I didn’t have to miss much work to make it.
The Fitting Process
Nestor’s studio was very clean and professional looking and he made me feel very welcome from the moment I arrived. This was the first time I had transported my bike in my car (usually we use Mike’s bike rack) and I had taken off both wheels. As soon as I walked in with my disassembled bike, Nestor immediately took it from me and went about putting it back together. After introductions and paperwork, we went over my reason for coming and discussed my knee and Nestor mentioned various possible causes, with the forewarning that the fit would really tell us what was going wrong.
The first thing he had me do was lay on the massage table so he could test my flexibility. The degree of flexibility in ankles, hamstrings and hip flexors is a determinant in the proper fit. If you are extremely inflexible you will not be able to sit in the same position as someone who is very flexible. After the flexibility test, Nestor had me walk barefoot in a straight line so he could watch how my feet naturally move. Apparently my right foot turns out a bit when I walk, so Nestor mentioned that he would need to adjust my pedal by adding a small washer so that it allows my foot to move outward like it naturally does. He also adjusted one of my cleats.
It was thirty minutes into the appointment that I actually mounted my bike. My bike was set up on a trainer which was on a wooden platform that rotated. A television and camera were set up in the corner of the room to capture my every move. I warmed up for about 10 minutes and Nestor and I chatted – he was very easy to talk to and quite interesting. He used to be a competitive cyclist, yet he thinks that Ironman is a bit crazy. I agreed – it is crazy! After the warm-up, Nestor placed Velcro dots on the right side of my body. He placed them in very particular places – for example, he had me spin my legs while he pushed on my hip bone so he could determine exactly where to place the dot on my hip.
Once the dots were in place, he connected a cord with complimentary Velcro dots to each of the ones on my body. Essentially, the information picked up from the cord and the dots would be sent to the computer and give Nestor an idea of how my body moves on the bike. He instructed me to first spin at an easy pace – about 4/10. He changed the intensity using his computer, not by having me shift gears. Once we got to 4/10, I spun for a couple of minutes and he collected data. Then we changed the intensity to 8/10 and collected data from me going at a “hard” effort. Once we finished that side, we moved the cord to the other side and did the same.
Once Nestor looked at the data, we discussed my habits and he showed me some charts and numbers. Honestly, it was hard for me to understand what it all meant but I got a few things out of it – my current bike fit was not making me comfortable in aero, my seat was a little too low (hence knee pain), my knees move outward when I pedal which puts more pressure on them, I slightly slouch to the right on my seat, putting more pressure on my left knee. After we talked it over, he made some changes to my bike fit and then we repeated the entire process over again with the new fit.
Here’s a screen shot of some of the notes on my analysis as well as the changes that were made:
Here’s my before and afters:
Biggest Change – Aero is Now Default Position
Besides the fact that I need a tan, these photos also illustrate why I wasn’t very comfortable in aero prior to my fitting. As you can see in the first photo, I am very stretched out. My new fitting allows me to comfortably “rest” on top of my aero bars, rather than stretch out to them. Since my fitting, I’ve noticed that being in aero is actually MORE comfortable than out (and actually being out is quite uncomfortable while I’m on the trainer). When I was discussing the fit with Nestor at the beginning onf my appointment, I told him that when I’m in a race, I get in aero for about 80-90% but when I”m on the road, I’m only in aero about 20-30%. He told me that I should be in aero as much as possible since that is how my bike was designed to be ridden. If I don’t want to do that, I should get a road bike! I understand his point but I’m currently not in the financial position to purchase a second bike, so by default, I’ll just have to work on riding in aero more often. Since I”ve found that it is actually more comfortable, I’ve discovered that even on my long rides I am in aero much more, probably 60-70% now. When I’m on the trainer, I’m in aero about 90% of the time.
As for my knee pain, it has subsided and I’m sure the bike fit has a lot to do with it. I was bit disheartened on my first ride after the fitting because my knee still hurt, but obviously getting my bike fit isn’t going to cure me – it will only prevent future injury.
Data to Keep
One the best parts of a bike fitting using Retul technology is that after my appointment I was emailed a PDF with my data from before and after the fit. The data can be used to re-fit my bike if for some reason it were ever messed up (i.e. disassembled to be shipped or if my seat slid down or something). I still don’t completely understand all the data that was provided but I can bring it to someone who does know what it means and have my bike back to normal in no time.
I was very happy with my fitting experience. It was well worth the money and definitely something that is going to help my cycling, both in terms of speed and injury prevention. Nestor was a pleasure to work with – easy to talk to, understanding and very knowledgeable. I highly recommend Studeo DNA for anyone in the San Diego or Orange County areas looking for a quality bike fitting from a seasoned professional!
Have you had your bike professionally fitted? Could you tell a significant difference?