Saturday, January 26, 2013

I am from the the school of hard knocks...

We kind of look alike

One of the many “helmets” that I wear working at Bonzai Sports, Northern Virginia, DC, and Maryland’s oldest and best triathlon store (shameless sponsor plug there), is bike fitter. When you buy a bike from Bonzai, you are entitled if you want to get a free bike fit with me (Lucky you!). While I don’t have an official degree or certification in bike fitting, I would say that I am more than qualified for the job. People almost always ask what fit school I follow or went to. I tell them that I graduated from the “school of hard knocks.” Well, I do not really tell them that, but what I mean is that regardless of the fitter, regardless of the school, regardless of the “optimal angles,” how much you spend on the bike, the fit and the components, the best fitters are you, the rider, and experience. 
People come into the fit with high expectations. Some think that a fit will instantly add on 50 watts to their FTP and that all their post ride soreness will evaporate, but honestly, it will not. A bike fit will help but it will not make everything perfect. In fact there is no such thing as a perfect bike fit. I myself can testify to this. I got my bike fit done two years ago a few months before Eagleman. Yes, it was stupid to get a fit fairly close to my “A” race but that’s not the point of this little parable. Anyway, I went to my local bike shop and shelled out a cool, crisp $300 to get a fit with the best bike fitter in the area (Note my fits are only $150—last shameless plug I promise). My bike fit pretty well already without any problems, quirks, but I had read in Triathlete Magazine that all the pros had their bikes fit so damn it I should too. I spent a good two hours with Paul, the bike fitter, talking about my previous injuries, looking at my proportions (inseam, hip, balance, etc), taking measurements and then finally getting on the bike and riding. He aligned my angles perfectly and made a few minor tweaks and adjustments here and there. Overall he moved the seat post two millimeters up, the saddle back  three mm and then moved my cockpit down one and a half spacers.  On my next ride, I felt like a million dollars—for the first 10 minutes. After that I started to get a bit uncomfortable. My back began to ache, neck felt strained, and my butt began to tighten up. By hour three, I could not go on any longer. I called up Paul, to see if we could have another appointment, but he assured me Paul that it would take some time to adjust so I spent the next six weeks riding as much as I could but the same thing would happen. I knew I would never last in the race if this continued.
With a few days to go, I finally decided to void the certified fit and tweak my position myself. I lowered the seat down a millimeter, kept the spacer in place, and angled the seat back up a bit more. On the next ride, I felt much better but I tweaked my fit some more and then a bit more. Finally by race day, I had the perfect fit. Yes the angles were not text book perfect nor was the fit an official fit from “F.I.S.T” or Specialized or Guru or whatever school Paul had attended to become certified, but my fit received a better certification from the “school of hard knocks.”
While a fit in a fit room with a certified or even uncertified fitter will get you an approximate the right fit, but the only way to get the best fit is to ride, learn, test, and keep an open mind to change, even then though it will never be absolutely “perfect.” To be honest, it never will be, but that does not mean you should not strive for that perfection. Just keep in mind that it is impossible. By recognizing this paradox of striving for a goal that can never be attained, you free yourself from the torment of focusing on the negatives and instead refocus and embrace the journey towards perfection. Professa’ E.X Perience taught be this in his class at the school of hard knocks. He is I think the best fitter you can have, but that is my two watts. 

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