How I Lost* 5kgs & Gained 10% More Power With My Bike Fit

* well at least, look like I lost 5kg. Which is just as good 🙂

If it’s good enough for 5 time World Champion Craig Alexander, then it’s good enough for me.

A Retül bike fit that is.

When the opportunity came up to have a bike fit using the same system as multiple World triathlon and cycling champions, I jumped at the chance.

Some of the first words that Daniel Bain of OneBody Health + Fitness said to me when we spoke about the Retül bike fit experience were  “don’t moisturise”.

Ohhhkkk…

So let’s start with the basics.

Why is a good bike fit important?

The Retül website answers this question pretty well  ~

…a proper bike fit is one of the single most important factors for optimal performance and efficiency, injury prevention, and comfort on the bike. A proper bike fit will not only provide a rider with the most economic means of expending energy, but will also prevent pain that is common in the knee, hip, and lower back, particularly with riders who are trying to adapt their bodies to the bike they already have purchased.

Personally I’m not sure I’d agree that it is the “single most important” factor in optimal performance and efficiency but it’s certainly high on the list.

What makes a Retül bike fit different?

The Retül website goes into considerable detail about the process and why (and how) it is different from other bike fitters but to steal a brief snippet from the site:

Retül allows the fitter to see data that he or she could not see with a standard fitting system, giving the fitter necessary information to best serve the client and provide the most accurate fit information possible.  The fitter still has to understand the core aspects of anatomy and cycling to truly maximize the capabilities of Retül. The Retül system can be used alongside any sizing or measuring system, as well as video analysis.  However, data from the Retül system:

  •  provides measurement accuracy and repeatability, rather than using measurements subject to inaccuracy and human error.
  • views the rider in three dimensions rather than two, giving the fitter a broader snapshot of the rider’s biomechanics on the bike.
  • allows the fitter to analyse a data set of averaged pedal strokes from the rider, rather than relying on a single frame of video.
  •  calculates data reports within a matter of seconds, eliminating manual post-processing, and reports can be archived for future reference.

Based on my observations and experiences, the Retül bike fit method is driven by data meaning it is measurable, repeatable and the process allows standardisation, which it seems to me is difficult to achieve in a bike fit done using 2D video analysis or an ‘eyeballing’ the bike and rider.

So as someone who loves details and data, it’s a fascinating process – but then again, I can be a nerd like that 😉

The system also means that the bike can be fitted to suit you, not just to the latest trend which Dan says, in his experience, is the biggest mistake that triathletes make when it comes to their bike fit.

The latest aerodynamic position used by a professional cyclists is never going to suit a triathlete who has to get off the bike and run.

My Retül experience

So I didn’t moisturise and took my beautiful BMC road bike off to Dan’s studio near Sydney.

I’ve known Dan for a couple of years now. He’s a great triathlon coach who coaches some of my friends and 2 years ago, I went on a 5 day interstate training camp with his training group (which I loved).  Dan’s been using the Retül bike fit since 2011 and often works with triathletes on their time trial position as well as cyclists who want to get the best out of their bike.

So knowing Dan. I was expecting the high level of professionalism with which he operates his business (which, of course, I received).

But I wasn’t expecting wholesale changes to my set-up.

Dan had asked me what my expectations were.

And I told him that I honestly wasn’t expecting major changes to my fit; perhaps the odd tweak here or there as my bike had been set up by a man I (and Dan) admire and who has been in the game a long time.

But I know from my life as a lawyer and personal trainer that we all have different theories, philosophies, education and experiences that we hang our hat on.

So I arrived at Dan’s studio unmoisturised (which I can tell you isn’t pretty during winter) and with an open mind.

After a tour of Dan’s fab new studio (I have studio envy at the moment!), I completed the obligatory paperwork and then Dan carried out some basic physical assessments to test my flexibility and mobility in various parts of my lower body. Dan very quickly identified a long standing issue I have my left hip which has kept me from running very much in recent years.

From there, I climbed onto my bike where Dan attached sensors in various (unmoisturised) places and then I started peddling.

By using a power meter, Dan was able to control and standardise the power output I was riding at. This allowed him to record the power output at what felt like 60%, 70% and then 80% perceived effort for me.

At this point with the press of a button, data began to appear on the screen – precise measurements (to the millimetre) from each sensor at each of the 3 power output levels. It looked cool but none of it really meant much to me!

Of course, like any good system the interpretation of the data is the secret to its success.

So after crunching the numbers and drawing on his experience and observations, Dan came to a few conclusions ~

  • My seat position was too low
  • My cleat position was too narrow
  • My arms were too outstretched (this has been a complaint of mine on every bike I’ve ever owned which I’ve always put down to the fact that I have very long legs yet a very short torso)
  • My knees track outwards (slightly).

Let the tweaking commence

I won’t bore you with all the details.

Suffice to say that we went through two rounds of changes. The 1st round included moving my cleats slightly wider on my cycling shoes to account for the fact that I have wide(r) hips (Dan said this was a common problem for women given the width of our pelvis).

My saddle was changed and the saddle height was raised by 1.5 cms.

It was then back on the bike to assess the changes made, both via the data transmitted from the sensors as well as my own feedback.

A 2nd round of changes were then made and I got back on the bike for the final time with ~

  • wider cleats
  • a (different) saddle that was 2.5 cms higher than the original one
  • the saddle position brought forward and
  • a shorter stem.

Now all of that probably means nothing to you but this is what surprised me most about the changes – my perceived effort level dropped!

While I was riding in my (final) bike position, Dan asked me what my perceived effort was.

I answered “65, maybe 70%”.

Dan then told me, much to my surprise, that I was actually riding at the power output which previously felt like 80% to me.

That’s a 10% reduction in my perceived effort level in just a few tweaks to my bike!

So here are the photos of my position before and after bike fit. Looking at the pictures, the post bike fit even looks far more comfortable – not to mention the fact I look like I’ve lost 5kg. Yay!

Before

 After!
Looking lighter & faster 🙂

The process normally takes 2-2.5 hours though my visit took longer because of a false fire alarm that just wouldn’t quit and my incessant questions 🙂

I can’t promise that you’ll look like you’ve lost 5kg too after your Retül bike fit with Dan, but I can promise that you’ll be a more efficient (and therefore better and faster) cyclist as a result!

To find out how you can benefit from your own Retül bike fit, contact Daniel Bain at OneBody Health and Fitness http://www.onebody.net.au/Retül_bike_fitting

Disclosure: my bike fit was complementary thanks to Dan.