My time trial bike fitting experience with Cat One Fitness
A little over a week ago I did my first time trial race, the CFL Holiday TT Series Race #1 (here’s my race report). Photographs were taken at that event, and when I saw my position on the time trial bike I was pretty surprised to see that I was not nearly as aero on the bike as I felt.
Was I starting to sit up when the picture was taken? Perhaps–the photograph was, after all, taken at the finish line. Still, I felt like a 300-watt hour-long effort with good aero equipment probably should have netted a little bit quicker finish time (my official time for the 40k was 59m19s // 25.1 MPH average speed).
I’d never had a professional bike fitting done, but I’d always heard that doing so can make a world of difference. As luck would have it, Cat One Fitness had just ironed out a deal to become an official sponsor of my racing team, Team KBS. Adam Baskin, owner of Cat One Fitness, and I exchanged a few emails and set up an appointment.
When I arrived for my appointment, Adam mounted my Scott Plasma TT bike on the Wahoo KICKR trainer and then proceeded with the interview portion of the fitting.
After providing Adam with some basic information, I was asked about my riding style, my specific cycling goals, injuries, my training volume, any pain or discomfort I experience on the bike, and more.
Next, I was given a physical exam. A number of tests and measurements were performed in order to evaluate the length of my legs, my range of motion, my flexibility and so on.
The next phase of the fitting was to put me on my bike, and capture my riding motion using the Retül 3D motion capture system. This description sums the process up perfectly:
LED markers are strategically placed on eight anatomical points of the rider: the wrist, elbow, shoulder, hip, knee, ankle, heel, and toe. As the rider pedals, Retul’s sensor bar gathers real-time, three-dimensional data of the rider’s pedal strokes and movements. Retül’s rotating platform allows the fitter to collect data for both sides of the rider without the rider leaving the bike. The rider’s data is compiled into a reader-friendly report for analysis by the fitter. The fitter can then assess the rider’s position and make necessary adjustments.
After capturing the data, Adam made quite a few changes based on the data he gathered. Alterations were made to my saddle height (-5mm), my saddle angle (-1°), my saddle fore/aft position (+20mm), the angle of my aerobars (+2°) and the position of my cleats.
This wasn’t an issue in my case, but Retül also allows the fitter to see if the cyclist is sitting off to one side, or is twisted in the saddle. This information can help when it comes to selecting the right saddle.
In addition to the changes noted above, a bike equipment change was made. My -7° stem–which I’d already slammed–could go no lower. Adam felt that with my high flexibility (which was determined during the physical exam), that I could comfortably bring my bars down even lower for a more aerodynamic position. My Plasma’s -7° stem was swapped for a much more aggressive -25° stem. Because Cat One Fitness is right next door to Winter Park Cycles (WPC), Adam was able to make this equipment change right on the spot!
Cat One Fitness’ close proximity to Winter Park Cycles is incredibly cool. WPC is a very well-stocked shop, and so if new equipment such as bars, stem, saddle and so on are recommended during the fitting, the cyclist can have those changes made right on the spot if he or she chooses.
Any time changes were made, I was put back on the bike for further evaluation and, if necessary, adjustments.
Once the fitting was complete, Adam took detailed measurements of my entire bike using Retül’s LED wand (called “the Zin”). The wand was used to trace and touch around the entire bike for extremely accurate computerized measurements.
All the detailed information gathered during the fitting was provided to me in the form of five PDF documents: Left Before, Left After, Right Before, Right After and my Plasma’s measurements (PDF format).
Here’s a sample of just some of the other data I was provided after the fitting:
Here is my Scott Plasma before the fitting (click to enlarge):
Here it is after the fitting (click to enlarge):
Close-up of the -25° stem:
I wanted to evaluate how I looked on the TT bike after the fitting, so yesterday morning I put the bike on my trainer and grabbed a photograph. For the photograph I decided to wear the exact same skinsuit and helmet (no, I do not normally wear a helmet on the trainer!) as I wore during the race.
Here is my position before the bike fitting. I was breathing deeply in this shot, so my belly is distended, but the position is what we’re interested in here (click to enlarge):
Here is my position after the bike fitting (click to enlarge):
The difference is night and day, if you ask me. In addition to being more aerodynamic, the changes should allow me to generate a little more power and to be even more comfortable.
I wasn’t sure what to expect heading into this fitting, but I came away extremely pleased. The entire process took about 2.5 hours, and I was impressed with Adam’s attention to detail and professionalism. Adam is a perfectionist, highly educated and very experienced, but he’s also someone who loves his craft, and it shows. I think that’s important.
The Retül system is pretty amazing, but over the course of the fitting I came to realize that the data provided by Retül is only one part of the equation: what the fitter does with that data is the real key. Bike fitting is clearly as much an art as it is a science.
If you live near Central Florida and are interested in the many benefits of a professional bike fitting, you’re lucky to have one of the most sought after bike fitters in the country nearby. I highly recommend that you give Adam at Cat One Fitness a call.