What if it were possible to gain 20-30 watts on the bike for a very small investment? Say in the range of $200-$300. I’m sure most of you would agree this is a no brainer investment. In an era were $8k bikes, $3k wheels and $400 helmets are common place, a $250 bike fit SHOULD be a no brainer. Especially if a proven gain of 25 watts waits for you on the other end. Here is my story.
I took up racing triathlon about 3 years ago after many years of racing mountain bikes. At the beginning of my triathlon racing I was met with some bike problems. I am fortunate enough to have power on both my road bike and my tri bike and because of this I was able to see some disturbing power discrepancies between the two.
Here was my issue: I had been unable to generate similar power on my TT bike compared to my road bike. What was happening was that for any given watt on my road bike (or riding on the bull horns on my TT bike), my heart rate would be higher at the same wattage in the TT position. I estimated this difference in watts to be somewhere in the neighborhood of 20-30 watts. To me this was substantial.
I will admit that I was stubborn about this issue and thought I could figure it out on my own by tinkering with my position on my TT bike. Well, I’m a moron. And as I would later learn, I was moving in the wrong direction!!
But first here are two power profiles to show you what I was faced with:
At the Long Course National Championships I averaged 276 watts with a 165 average HR.
Just about 6 weeks prior to this race, I was out on my road bike and this was what happened:
On this two-hour ride I averaged 298 watts with an average heart rate of 138. There were some other factors involved in the lower heart rate here (stop lights etc), but this was pretty typical of what I was seeing from riding in the TT position to riding sitting up.
Up to this point I had been, like I mentioned, tweaking my position myself and also relying on the watchful eye of a local Olympic cyclists. He surely must know what he’s doing, right? Well I would come to learn that when it comes to bike fit, the eye cannot see what is necessarily going on. And thanks to some very smart people, there are computer programs out there that can measure you’re fit down to the centimeter or less!!! This is what I needed.
I ended up going to www.finalfit.com and seeing owner Jim Manton (he came very highly recommended). Using his awesome motion capture technology and decades of bike fitting experience he was able to raise my saddle, lower by bars and OPEN my hips up 2 degrees. He also moved me forward so my upper body is supported by my bones and not my muscles. All this in turn made me lower, longer and more aerodynamic, opened my diaphragm so I could BREATH better and allowed me to use LESS ENERGY just staying in the TT position!!!
After my fit I went on a nice long ride and look what happened!!!
The last 1:23 I was able to ride at 300 watts with an average HR of 161!!! WHOAAA!!!! There were my 25 missing watts! I knew I had them in there somewhere!!
And while the other ride was in favorable conditions, this one was not. I was super tired. This was my last ride in that huge 6 week push. In fact after the first hour (in zone 1) I almost just rode home because I felt so bad. I also ejected a bottle and took in almost no calories or water during this last effort.
My very next HIM bike split only 4 months later proved how valuable my bike fit was. I can certainly tell you there is no training in the world that will give you a 30 watt improvement in 4 months!!! Average power was 298 (normalized power was 310) and my average heart rate was 157!!
LESSON: If anyone out there is or ever has considered a bike fit, please get it done. If you have never considered a bike fit, please do. You probably have another gear hidden inside you and you will never know until you go see a professional bike fitter! They are ever where, however I would use one that uses this latest technology. For me it was invaluable.
Chris Masilon is an elite triathlete racing on the Wattie Ink. Elite Triathlon Team. His most recent results took place at the 12 Hours of Temecula mountain bike race where he took 1st place amateur, beating out all of the Sport and Expert ranked mountain biker racers there. Chris lives in Huntington Beach, CA with his wife and two kids.