Who is Ted?

I'm the father of two beautiful daughters and an amazing wife. For fun, I enjoy the long hours of seemingly endless suffering that endurance sports (mostly running, cycling and triathlon)provide. During my "down time" I'm an avid beer snob and self-described gourmet chef (in other words I like to burn things on a stove or grill).

Sunday, June 2, 2013

"Fit to be Ride"

 After a month of weekend travels, it was nice to have some down time on Saturday and Sunday and to just enjoy being at home.  This weekend I finally had the chance to get a proper fitting done on my triathlon bike.  There aren't a lot of options in town, but last week I rang up our LBS and got set up to have a fitting done on Saturday afternoon.  The shop uses the bg FIT system by Specialized, and I've used them in the past so I knew that I would get a quality fitting done, and they'd be able to dial in the bike so that it would fit me just right.  At 3:00 p.m. on Saturday, I took my bike over to the shop and met with Charles, who would be doing the fitting for me.  We started with some general discussion around the type/ distance that I would be riding.  After that we spent several minutes looking at different aspects of my posture, flexibility, etc.  Charles explained that having an understanding of these things would help as we began making adjustments to my bike.  For example, for a tall guy, I'm okay at bending forward and touching my toes, but most of the flexibility is in my lower back,  I lack a fair amount of flexibility in my hamstring muscles. Therefore, it's important that the bike is adjusted so that I'm not super extended on the lower end of the pedal rotation as that can cause more strain on my hamstrings and negatively impact my riding over a longer period of time.  Understanding these aspects of posture and flexibility was extremely helpful and Charles was also able to suggest some different stretches that I could do to help with areas where I demonstrated less flexibility. 
A stretchy-stretch for sure!
The second part of the fitting involved a lot of this:
1) Get on the bike
2) Ride for a bit
3) Stop and measure
4) Get off the bike
5) Wait while adjustments are made
6) Go back to step 1

There were a number of adjustments that had to be done to the bike in order to get a decent fit.  For starters, the height of the seat, its angle, and its position forward had to be adjusted.  When I initially got on the bike the nose was pointed quite a ways downward, and as a result, I kept slipping forward which put a tremendous amount of pressure on my arms.  I was literally pushing myself back up onto the seat.   Not good. Once this was leveled out, the bike immediately became much more comfortable, and easier to ride.  Moving the seat back and adjusting the height took a little more work, but with each adjustment, the bike became more comfortable to ride.  This process probably took close to an hour to complete.
A bit blurry but you get the idea.
A little more forward, arms at a more horizontal level, head slightly lower
 Once the back part of the bike was set up, the next step was to begin making adjustments to the headset.  I had originally installed the headset onto the stem just to get a sense of what the bike would look like, but I hadn't done any measuring.  After trying a few things, we wound up rotating the handlebars upwards a touch.  This made it much easier to reach the brake levers on the end of the bullhorns.  With that in place we started working on the aero bars.  The first thing we did was to widen them slightly.  They came set up in an extremely narrow position which made the bike feel unstable.  They were to the point that this position would have made it harder to breathe deeply while riding, which in turn, would probably have a bigger impact on my performance than the slight decrease in aerodynamics.  Even with the adjustment, the bars are still quite a bit narrower than those on my road bike.  We also moved the bars backward slightly, which put me into a more comfortable position, and made me feel less sprawled across the bike.  With a few more adjustments, and a few turns of the torque wrench, we finished up and the bike was set to go.  I would guess that the fitting took about 2 1/2 hours total. 
 On Sunday morning I drove out to the test track road for my inaugural ride and at 8:00 a.m., I clipped in and headed east.  This was the first time I'd ridden a triathlon bike, and only the second time, I'd used a carbon frame.  As I set out, two things immediately came to my attention. First, compared to my roadie, this bike is much twitchier up front.  Kind of like the difference between steering a speedboat vs. a yacht.  Throughout this first ride, I found myself weaving a bit more across the shoulder of the road.   On my road bike, a tap of the handlebars either way, results in a gradual adjustment.  With this bike the same movement produces a faster, more responsive change in direction.   It was much easier to manage once I ducked into the aero bars, but it will take some getting used to.  The bike was responsive in other ways as well.  For example, when I chose to accelerate, the bike did not hesitate.  After the first 20 miles or so, I really started to notice this.  As I rode up a couple of hills, I put a little extra in and picked up the pace.  When I do that on the road bike, there's usually a slow begruding acceleration that occurs.  It takes a moment or two to move faster, which can be a killer when going up a hill.  "My Boy Blue" on the other hand jumped right into it, and I added an mph or two easily. 

The second thing I noticed was how different the ride felt.  My roadie is an aluminum frame, and most bumps and creases in the road are telegraphed directly to the butt on the seat and the hands on the handlebars.  No subtlety whatsoever. The dampening effect of the carbon made these bumps much less jarring.  I still knew there were there, but it was a decidedly less bumpy experience.  I imagine there will be a great benefit to this over longer rides in terms of feeling less battered from all of the "textures" in the road.  I also noticed that I was a fair bit faster on this bike.  People often talk about the 1 to 2 mph advantage that you get from a triathlon bike, and that was certainly the case for me.  Given my excitement about this first ride, I know that I may have been pushing a bit harder today, but I don't think that's attributable only to my enthusiasm for my new ride.  I covered the 34.1 miles out and back with an average pace of 20.1 mph.  Not exactly screaming, but there was a pretty good headwind on the return trip.  Compare that to a couple of weeks ago when I rode a similar distance (33 miles) and averaged about 17.4 mph.  That ride had a similar headwind to today.  
Data from a May 18th ride
The ride felt good too.  I had a touch of numbness here and there, but I'm fairly certain that's just from riding with a slightly different set up than I'm used to.  Nothing on the ride made me feel particularly uncomfortable, and although my neck felt a little tight afterward, I haven't been riding in the aero position much lately, so doing that for 90 plus minutes had more to do with that than anything else I'd imagine. 
Data from June 2nd
Next weekend, we are headed up north to visit my folks.  I do need to get a ride in, but I plan on taking my "roadie" for the weekend.  If I can swing it, I hope to ride from Loveland up to Estes Park and back.  This may be my last chance to get a mountain ride in before the Mountain Top Experience ride in 3 weeks. 

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