Cycling is one sport where many people look to gain as much advantage as possible through their equipment. Others get lost to the world of watts and aerodynamics, which aren’t necessarily the only answer. Any aerodynamic advantage only begins when travelling at a speed of around 16.5mph or higher. This also changes dependant on temperature, humidity and elevation. Whereas most power savings are shown at only a few watts per hour. However, these savings were shown during tests with very strictly controlled wind tunnel tests, not real-world scenarios.
These two solutions also seem to focus on the bicycle itself, without accounting for one important component – the rider. The rider is about 80% of all air resistance when on the bike, as well as being the only part of the bike that makes the pedals go around.
The human body was not designed to ride a bicycle. The way it needs to act as a lever system to power the bike is in fact quite an an unnatural thing for the body to do. However, we can maximise the cycling action through making the levers as mechanically efficient as possible. As you can image this is different for every person; limb length, range of motion, age, hydration level, experience, day to day life all have a massive effect on your cycling performance. But factoring these in and understanding the complexity of their movement when cycling, brings a new appreciation of why a proper bicycle fit is so important.
Retül is a 3D bike fitting system for road, time trial, triathlon and mountain bikes. It works by placing infrared markers on anatomical landmarks on the cyclists body. The rider is then placed onto their own bike or the Retül bike and asked to start pedalling. Whilst riding, a camera system monitor these markers to calculate lengths, rotation, angles and means. This data, along with data collected during off bike tests and rider feedback, is used to change the riding position to achieve the optimum.
This specialist bike fit system is generally used for one (if not all) of three reasons:
1. Ensuring the correct size for a new purchase.
As any serious cyclist will tell you, you need to make sure you have the correct size bike for you. This just refers to the frame, as everything else can be changed. Biomechanical understanding has moved on to such an extent that just knowing your inside leg measurement and a quick ride around a car park are not enough, not when we can gain your measurements to the millimetre.
2. Correcting and/or avoiding injury.
Cycling hurts, but it should not be because of an injury. Lactic acid is too valuable as an energy source to get away from. But I think many people feel that sore knees, numb toes, sore shoulders are also a normal part of cycling. When the body is in the correct biomechanical position these negatives all go away, the lactic acid part however cannot.
3. Wanting to maximise performance.
Tests carried out by Retül have shown up to a 35% increase in cycling efficiency from a rider after a bicycle fit. This will differ from person to person but that just seems like a number that would be hard to ignore.