Sunday, March 31, 2013

A fit-ing process

By the time you read this I'll be back in Canada but for the purposes of writing, you find me in international departures at BWI. I just realised why this place looks familar (beyond that I was here three days ago), I was last here in 2006 (I think) with Jessica Boyd on our way to the aforementioned EFHW in Gettysbury. The drive out of Baltimore -in the dark on an unknown interstate and in a rental car, was particularly interesting, as I recall, as was getting lost in rural PA trying to find Gettysburg; something Lee probably hoped upon Meade! I can't for the life of me remember want we were presenting, probably Aeromonas salmonicida type IV pili, or maybe Type III secretion. I can't rightly remember. Either way, it seemed dreadfully important at the time!

Minute mircobial structures, needless to say, are not what brought me back here, it was the Trek fitting course. We just finished two intense days of anatomy, biomechanics and actual mechanics, with a hefty dose of evidence-based myth-debunking thrown in. Pure bliss in other words.

This is probably a good time for a Trek joke. As most of you know, my ex-wife is South African and a native Afrikanns speaker to boot. I learned a little Afrikaans, most of which I've forgotten and I realy only use at the ITU World Duathlon Championships when dealing with the South African team. Is jy die team van Suid Afrika? Ja? Lekker! Kan jy Engels praat? Ja? D'is guid! and then spent the rest of the conversation sounding like Matt Damon in Invictus! Anyway, the word "Trek" is a loanword into English from Afrikaans. It's a good job we have it, because without it the Trek Bicycle Corporation would be know as the Pull Bicycle Corporation which is nowhere near as evocative!

The course was full, with some 24 people plus Jeff Lohr and Dr Mark Timmerman from Trek, who were giving the course. 

Most of the 24 were from two big local IBDs; Race Pace from MD and Spokes Etc from northern VA. Both are independantly owned with multiple locations. They both had strong fitting cultures, even having dedicated fitters, as well as a women's program that caters to women by women. Others had come from further afield; a fairly strong Pennsylavania contingent, one guy from Boston and four Canadians. As well as myself the were three guys from JoVelo in Mont Tremblant, Jon (owner) and Dan are below. Needless to say, we stuck together.

IMHO the course was pitched ideally to someone like myself; slightly geeky, bike-experienced, bike-shop experienced and still doing a lot of hands-on in the store. I knew quite a bit of what was being presented, so I didn't feel overwhelmed with information. Rather, I was able to process the old information which was being presented; often within a framework which it hadn't necessarily had before, and integrate it with the new knowledge. Plus it's all about applying the scientific method; observe, hypothesize, predict, experiment, repeat. A process I've been doing my whole adult life, expect now I can do it with bikes! Surely a win-win.  

So overall, I now have a much better understanding of the background of bike-fitting now together with a coherent framework in which to put it and some processes to make it easier to perform. Also, when to perform it; we spent a lot of time discussing the difference between "bike sizing" and "bike fitting" which is much a business discussion as it is a cycling discussion. Anyway, this was the whole point of me coming.

Day one was lectures. Gross anatomy, biomechanics, bike mechanics and business. The load was shared evenly between Jeff and Mark. Mark was a true academic, in that he was easily sidetracked from the lecture, but to this LBS guy, the excursions from the syllabus were still interesting and added to the experience rather than take away.

The evening was on Trek at a local bar/resto called Frisco, chosen for the bewilderingly large selection of real ales on tap. Bike shops and Belgian beer; need I continue? The JoVelo guys started with shots and the evening went downhill from there! The conversation was wide ranging. We went across cycling from Trek business philosophy (in the lucid interval before the 11% ABV artisanally-brewed beer took affect), He Who Must Not Be Named(you couldn't go to Nike and not talk about Tiger Woods either! Iluminating discussions, let me tell you!), doing business against Sportcheck and MEC and finally ending with a surprisingly passionate debate on mandatory helmet use by adults!

Day two was hands on all the way. Before lunch we learned the first part of any bike fitting; the interview and testing. I was the guinea-pig for the physical examination demonstrations and Mark confirmed what I knew. I am chronically stiff, especially in the hamstrings. Never mind a Speed Concept, I think I'll have to Project 1 a Trek Verve. I think a nice Fox fork, Alfine Di2, some tubeless ready 29er race-wheels and Brooks B33 ("for our more robust customers").

The afternon was pure self!  We got our new shoes; Bontrager RXL !

We also did a full fit on ourselves. We got to be both client and fitter, seeing the process from both angles (as it were). Speaking of angles, we all downloaded digital protractor apps for our smartphones as there weren't enough goniometers. I guess I'll have to ask The Guys at work about using my phone on the sales floor!


Dan from JoVelo did an excellent job fitting me!

There were four sizing stations in the room, one with a differently-sized 2013 Trek Madone 5.2 and most of the tools required. Unfortunately, some of the kit destined for the course ended up in Illinois (?) so we were a little short on some things.

One sign you've been in a bike-shop too long? Totally blasé about the bikes. There was, what? $15000 retail of carbon bike just lying around, not to mention a couple of thousand dollars worth of stems, saddles and bars. Stuff most people just stop and stare at. Not to mention drooling slightly at the corners of the mouth. we need to keep a mop on the sales floor! And all you could think was "oh, another full carbon Madone? M'eh. At least it comes with the Ultegra crank". On the plus side it means we can play with these things with a certain degree of impunity, we're not intimidated by the presence of so much carbon. On the minus side, my wow-factor quotient is now so much higher than before! Along with many guys in the shop, I think I'm regressing and get more excited by nice steel now than carbon!

The fit process was great. As well as learning a whole bunch, I got a set of fit coordinates I can transfer over to my own bikes at home. If anyone is wondering, especially those people with model-year 2012 Speed Concept 7.0s, the 54cm Madone was a good fit, but a 56 cm Madone would be a bit better, espcially as my chronically tight hmastrings mean I can't run the drop I think I should have and I could use the extra head-tube. Plus it would be more aero, all other things being considered. Once you get to the retail price of a Madone 5.2 then Project 1-ing the bike for the custoom paint and nice wheels becomes a bit of a no-brainer. Just sayin'.



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