what does a motion analysis look like?

Curious what doing a Type-R Motion Analysis bike fit looks like and what it would provide you? Just recently I had a triathlete who has complete 12 Ironman races and has been racing for over 20 years come in for a dynamic fit with motion analysis. His goal was to simply see if he can improve for next season and felt that a detailed motion analysis would be the ticket.

A few key points we found out:

1. Never complained about saddle issues, however after seeing his Leg AR (angular range), Pelvic Tilt and DSS (Dead Spot Score) he was moving around a lot on the saddle. We installed a saddle that was 1 cm narrower and all his numbers cleared up and settle down.

2. Changing his crank arm length from a 170mm to a 165mm length his pedal smoothness improved. 

3. Glute medius muscles in the hips were not active. This is causing instability in the hips. Corrective exercises and dry needling have been recommended. 

Click this LINK to see what his summary looked like and the details we found out. 

is more aero better?

To take advantage of an aero time trial or triathlon specific bike, one must spend as much time in that position.  Countless training hours in the correct position will allow you to adapt physically, metabolically and mentally. Adaptation is crucial for injury prevention and to be physically prepared to ride in aero position. However, if you are only able to stay in that position for 50% of the time, then why ride that specific bike?

A question that is often proposed is "how aero should I go?". The answer is not always as much as possible. If the aero position is too aggressive, you many encounter issues such as upper body discomfort, loss of power or digestive issues. To look at this very question in depth, I worked with local triathlete Patrick Johnson and his triathlon aero position for Ironman Wisconsin. 

At the beginning of this year, Patrick completed a dynamic bike fit to find the best position for him to race IMWI 2017. Together we found a position he was happy with, which allowed him to train through the winter and into spring. Once summer arrived his ride volume went up.  He started having discomfort in the saddle which consisted of saddle pressure, stomach cramps, lower back pain and a lot of squirming around. Initially I was attributing the stomach cramps to him squirming around on the saddle. For the next two months he tried 6 different saddles. Each saddle was giving a little more relief, however not solving the problem. 

During one fit session near the end of this summer, I thought that maybe his good aero position was not really that good.  Maybe being a little less aggressive would take the pressure off the saddle. After choosing the saddle he liked best, I raised his aero pads 10mm. I sent him out on the IMWI bike course loop of 38 miles. For reference, 10mm is half the width of a dime.

After his ride, Patrick walked in with the biggest grin on his face. He had no stomach issues or cramping. The front saddle pressure had gone away almost 100%. His bike loop time dropped by 10 minutes by producing the same power output as he had in previous rides.

To put more proof in the pudding, I set Patrick up on the motion analysis Type-R device. After riding in his old aero position for 5 minutes, he was already having front saddle pressure, back pain and his stomach was starting to hurt. In the first image below, you can see his motion capture from being in his old aero position. 



The circles represent his DSS (Dead Spot Score). You can visually see blue "noise" at the bottom of his pedal stroke. I attribute this to him rocking in the saddle and trying to find a good position to be in. The next line shows his score, 2.6 and 2.3, for left and right respectively. This shows where he is loosing smoothness and velocity in his pedal stroke. In the grand scheme of things, 2.6 and 2.3 are very low DSS scores, however when you compare it to his new aero position being 10mm LESS aggressive, you will see how this improvement yielded high gains. 

The second image below represents his DSS in the new aero position (10mm less aggressive on his arm pads). The blue "noise" on the DSS visual lessens and his score drops to only .9 on each leg.  With both scores being the same he is using both legs and hips equally, which is an ideal training foundation for performance gains. 



By proving that a less aggressive position produced more comfort and more speed with the same power, our next goal is improving his pedaling print. This testing protocol will show such things as asymmetries and patterns in his cycling motion in real-time. Results from this test will be shared next week in my second of three installments of testing with Patrick.


- Patrick is coached by SBR Coach Bill Martin

dead spot score and crank arm length

In this analysis, the DSS (Dead Spot Score) is the focus and its relation to crank arm length.

As a bike fitter, crank arm length is an important aspect of bike fitting. After fitting cyclists over the past 10 years I have found that having the proper length crank arm produces smoother pedal strokes, a decrease and/or elimination of injury and an improved run split (for triathletes).

Over the past week, I had this cyclist ride their bike with the 165mm crank length they have been riding for the past 5 years. Notice the blue “noise” around the entire pedal stroke. These clusters of decelerations show the inefficiency of power transfer during the pedal stroke. 



After performing a crank arm length fit on the dynamic fit unit, I determined that a 160mm crank arm length would be more beneficial after looking at video analysis, pedal stroke analysis and the cyclist verbalizing the improvement of smoothness in the pedal stroke. The only change to the fit was rising the saddle height 1mm.

A 160mm crank was installed with the same fit coordinates as the fit with a 165mm crank, with the exception of raising the saddle up 1mm. Below we can see how the “noise” settled down in the pedal stroke.



The improvement in the pedal stroke comes from the shorter length of the crank. The cyclist is allowed to bring their leg over the top of the pedal stroke with a decrease in pelvic rocking and without losing power. The cyclist stated that there was more work occurring in the quadriceps and gluteal muscles. With the body being able to settle down during the pedal stroke and not having to “get over the top or come out of the bottom” of the pedal stroke, power transfer is increased and a continuous muscle activation can occur.

Next up in training for this athlete is to clear out the dead spots at the bottom of the pedal stroke with a look at bike fit and pedal stroke analysis.

shimmy shimmy no cocoa pop

Every time I hear the word shims, or see shims on a cycling shoe, I tend to cringe. Shims seem to be in high usage these days for bike fits. I've never understood the usage of the shim. Well, maybe one time I did. I had a cyclist who had a lower leg accident and shortened the leg by over an inch. If the cyclist did not have the shim, he sat completely off the side of the saddle. Adding the lifts/wedges to rise that leg to match his other was important. Other than that, after over 1000 fits, I have not seen the usage of shims provide any benefit.

Let's take a look at it how I see it. I want the body to function and move as smooth as possible. If there is a particular action that does not look right, I start to analyze why. What muscle imbalance is there? Any current or past injury causing this to occur? Is the cyclist sitting crocked on the saddle? The questions start to find an answer. And most times it becomes an argument of the what came first, the chicken or the egg. Is the cyclist sitting crocked on the saddle because their psoas (your psoas attaches in front of your body from posterior spine to the front of your iliac crest of your hip) is tight pulling them forward or do they not like the saddle, so they are sitting crocked to not irritate anything off "underneath". Then it causes their knee to flare out, make a funny circle upon return to the top of the stroke. Any way you slice it, it needs to be corrected.

This situation has crossed my schedule a few hundred times. And at least half of those times the cyclist had a shim put in to not let their knee flare out during the pedal stroke. To me, this is just a band-aid. It just starts to divert the issue somewhere else. My recommendation would be to correct the pedal stroke visually and neurologically. 

Let's take this triathlete I saw recently. Overall the fit was not bad, however needed some tweaking. After chatting about mechanics, and what was failing him, the shims under the cleats seemed to point out issues. A year previous with a different fitter, shims were put in to not let the knee flare out. However, under visual review, the knee was still flaring out at the top of the pedal stroke. Here's how I see it.

Your feet are the start point of balance and fit. Stand on both feet. If you rotated your foot and put most of its weight on the outer part of the foot, you'd see your knee swing out. You would also see this if your piriformis or psoas was tight. What was done a year ago was put shims under the foot to keep the foot rotated out and not fall back in while pedaling. Well, those shims eventually caused the ilipsoas to tighten more, rotate the right SI joint forward and shut off the gluteus maximus from functioning. Ultimately, this caused the athlete's ITBand to be tight on the run. So, instead of supporting an imbalance such as this, let's try to solve it through correct proprioceptive work and corrective actions.

I took the shims out and moved the cleats to be in the same position on each shoe, so that the first point of contact is equal. We also discussed retraining the pedal stroke by applying the power/pressure down the middle of the shoe (almost more medially) and keeping the pelvis square on the saddle. One main problem was that the gluteus maximus was not firing or supporting the leg (partially due to the tight psoas muscle). The cyclist was suggested to complete glute activation exercises on a daily basis. Here is the outcome after one training session of 2 hours:

  • no hip flexor issues, basically at all
  • a bit of twinginess for 15 seconds is all the athlete reported
  • stayed in aero 50% more than he would have and even climbed a bit in aero, which he didn't normally do at all
  • his butt stayed in one spot the entire ride, even coming back into the saddle after standing
  • his right foot tracked properly
  • he ran, with short intervals, directly off the bike for 30 minutes, no issues

At the time of this writing, we are going to start looking at saddles. His previous saddle was no issue, however he is realizing that he was moving around a lot on the bike, so the saddle never bothered him. Now that he is in one spot on the bike and able to stay in aero, he will venture onto a new saddle. The hip flexors are tight still when he gets out of the water in a race and jumps on the bike. The plan for that is to lessen the aero position, and start doing training sessions that implement out of the water transitions to bike at race power.

a proper fit can provide immediate results

Quote from someone who rides 5,000 miles a year and races elite, after his fit: “A little feedback on the fit. Definitely an adjustment but I actually had 2 twenty-minute efforts today and I don’t know if it’s fit or the q-rings or the crank length but maybe all of it ... I was 10% better today than my best of all of last year and it’s only February ... so that’s crazy. I just set some threshold records today that I have not seen in at least 5 or 6 years. Good stuff!!"

your front end is important

Can I get you to fit on any bike? Of course. Will it drive well? No. Will it be comfortable? No. I see many bikes pass my fit room that have been cobbled together to get someone on the bike whether the frame is too big or too small. It is very important to be fit first to determine the correct frame size for you. As I wrote in an earlier piece (see X, Y, and Z), not all sizes are created equal. A size small is most times drastically different than a size small from a different company.

For example, let’s take a look at the photo in photo 1. The photo shows the front end of a bike that is incorrect. You will see a very steep angle (18 degrees) in the stem; and a stem that is very short for a TT bike (50mm length). What this does is drive the front end of the bike (aero bars/pads/base bar) back on top of the fork and frame, causing poor stability.  Check out the second picture. It shows the trail of a bike. Trail is best thought of as the tire patch “trailing” behind the steering axis. More trail is ideal to provide stability and agility. For any bike to be stable, you would want a stem with a nice pitch that lays out in front of the steering axis (see photo 2). However too much trail will make the bike feel sluggish or hard to steer in packs of riders. If you have a stem too short and too much of a pitch (angle) you will put your steering right on top of the steer tube of the bike, thus decreasing the trail. The bike will ultimately be unstable and uncomfortable. 





Being fit first will allow you to shop for the correct frame size with the proper stack and reach, with the correct seat post setback, stem length and pitch and proper spacers under the stem.


the joy of fitting

Finding joy in something can be a rare occurrence, especially when finding it through the daily career you are in. Over the past 10 years the craft of performance bike fitting has become something I find more and more joy in each time I work with a cyclist. I believe what brings the most joy in the time I spend with the cyclist is giving them education to become a better cyclist then when the came in. Bike fitting is more than just some numbers and angles and measurements. Bike fitting needs to encompass physiology, biomechanics and practicality to the client. It's never about the hot new trend or what their friend is doing. It's about that one individual at that time. 

x, y and z

Fit first was been a philosophy I bought into pretty easily in 2008. With biomechanics being the basis of a lot of coaching and education I do, learning how to fit someone first for how they wanted to ride provided the best fit possible for each cyclist/triathlete I encountered. Now-a-days you can’t claim to be a size 54 or a large bike frame. Frames come in all shapes and sizes. However, the real question is how do you want to ride? Based on that question alone, I can use my dynamic fit unit to determine exactly what frame(s) is best for you, the proper seat post setback and front end configuration for a comfortable and stable ride. 

Take a look at the photo below. During a fit session I drew this on the board to demonstrate what I mean by an athlete should not claim to be a certain size in every bike frame manufacturer. You have manufacturer X, Y and Z. All have a small bike frame size. However, the stack and reach of each small is different for each manufacturer. Manufacturer X shows a pretty average stack and reach measurement. Y shows a very short reach and a very high stack (short and tall). Z shows a long reach and a low stack (long and low). 



  X, Y and Z = Sample Manufacturers      SM = Small Size Frame     S = Stack       R = Reach

What if you are not able to ride long and low? If you didn’t get fit first, what I would see is that the bike would have a ton of spacers in the front and/or a very short stem with a crazy pitch.  See the picture below.


This bike rolled in some time ago. The rider was telling me that her back hurt when riding and that she rode on top of the bullhorns because she never felt stable being in aero. This troubled me because she spent all her money on a TT/Triathlon bike so she could be aero (which would allow her to be faster) but she couldn’t even get in aero and be comfortable. As for not being stable, this front end configuration is extremely unsafe. Piling the weight load of the rider over the fork/front end as such will make the trail not match well with the build of the bike. This ultimately causes a lot of instability for the rider.

If you are in the market for a new bike I highly suggest getting a fit first. Don’t spend your hard earned money on a bike that will not provide the best in comfort, drive-ability and safety. You'll achieve your goals on an amazing bike that feels like a part of you.

rider specific does not mean custom

At our bike shop, we offer a great line-up of bikes. We’ve chosen the bikes we have because they offer something different to the area. The bike companies enjoy working with us, and we work directly with them. No middle man. No sales reps trying to fill our floor with inventory. This is why we are able to provide ride-specific bikes (and custom if wanted or needed). 

Rider-specific does not mean custom. Custom bike frames are available through us, however are sold far and between. A custom bike frame is your size. It’s not medium, it’s not extra large. It’s you. From the XY coordinates found with a dynamic fit, we are able to work with two of our bike manufacturers to create your custom frame. The front end will be spot on with the highest of ride quality it can offer. However, many of us are not custom sized people. Therefore, stock bikes that we sell in house we create are rider-specific.  But, what does that mean?

Rider-specific is how we build bikes. From the fit, we are able to find the appropriate bike frame size with corresponding front end geometry to provide the perfect ride. We interview you on what your goals and needs are. Do you ride a ton of hills? Then a compact crankset may be best. Are you racing flat races and gunning for all-out performances on time trials? Then an 11-23 cassette is in your future. Want green housing to add some accent to your all black bike? We can do that. Carbon or alloy handlebar and stem? Power meter? Yes please! What kind of saddle is best for you? We don’t know until we have you on the bike and start to demo saddles until the best one is found for you. We don’t let you take the stock saddle home unless your bottom loves it. You get to choose what you want. 

We will help you prioritize what is needed for you and your bike. It may be more important to get a power meter on your bike then it is to get some hot new carbon deep rim wheels. Power provides more bang for your buck then race wheels. 

Shopping for a new bike with us is all about the education and experience. It will take a little longer then just walking into a shop and and hour later having a bike in your car. We don’t roll that way. Step back, take a deep breath. Let us help you find the right bike and trick it out, for you!

not all mediums are created equal

Each bike manufacturer has their own way of building a bike frame. It may be the carbon layout or it may be how the top tube is designed for aero. 

One thing I have learned over the years is that you can’t say you are a 56cm bike frame size, or a medium frame size. There is a large misconception that all mediums are built the same. They will look at you, ask your height, take an inseam measurement and say, ya, you’ll fit a medium, no problem. Next thing you know, you are walking out the door with a spanky new carbon time trial bike or fancy pro racing road bike. However, were you asked what type of rider you are? Or if you have any previous injuries. Or what kind of ride style you like. Maybe you don’t know. However wouldn’t it be nice if you did know before you spent $1000 or $5000?

Fit first is a philosophy I feel very strongly about. With a background deep in biomechanics, I want the athlete to be riding a bike that fits their body, their ride style, their comfort. The only way I feel that is able to be done is on a dynamic fit bike. But be careful. These new and upgraded fit bikes are taking a lot of the art of bike fitting and not taking the riders specifics into consideration. In some of my fit schooling, I’ve seen the new bike fit machines in action, and they will print off a nice sheet that gives you all kinds of bike options. The option list might seem amazing at first, until you read deeper into it. It may show that Brand X in size medium will work however with a 60mm stem, 40mm of spacers and a 17 degree pitch. Not good I say. A medium bike with that short of a stem would ride very squirrelly. Plus the pitch alone will put you right on top of your head tube and make the trail of the bike corner like a Pinto front end on an SUV. Just because a fit unit prints out an option, doesn’t make it right. My next question is, would that person fitting you let you walk out with that bike? I’ve seen it time and time again. 

My goal as a fitter using my dynamic fit bike as my main tool of choice, is to find the correct frame size via stack and reach for you, then build the rest of the bike around it to provide the most comfortable and drivable ride you’ve ever have. It will descend well. It will accelerate when you push on the pedals. It will corner like you are on ice skates. Back it up…stack and reach, you say?

Let’s clear up stack and reach quickly. These two crucial measurements are found by measuring from the center of the bottom bracket horizontal over to the perpendicular center of the head tube (reach), and from the top of the top tube vertically down to the intersection of the reach line (stack). Brand X can have a very long and low bike frame stack and reach, Brand Y will have a pretty standard and equal stack and reach (not high or low or aggressive or grand fondo), and Brand Z may be set up for a higher stack to allow for a less aggressive touring/grand fondo position. 

Let’s use this medium bike frame from Brand X as an example.  This brand offers a great bike, and its geometry, per stack and reach, is fairly aggressive in nature and rides long on the top tube. If I were to suggest this bike to someone, I would want to, as an example, have a 110mm stem with a 6 degree pitch, and 10mm of spacers. This would put the rider as close to the frame as possible and provide a very comfortable ride. But you may say why can’t the person in the last paragraph ride this with that configuration? Well, the rider doesn’t want to ride that aggressively. The rider getting fit does not like an aggressive geometry and may not be of a long torso (compared to leg length). Yet, you will see this rider walking out of a bike shop with a shiny new bike, that if the fit first consideration was taken into account, they would not be purchasing that bike. 

When you come in for a refit on your current bike or for a fit on a new bike, I won’t look at you on your current bike. I start with you, the rider. After inquiring on medical history, injuries, current fitness, rider goals, etc. I will get you up on our dynamic fit bike. You are actually fitting yourself, I just get to guide you along. The fit bike allows me to move you while you riding. I can move your saddle up and down and forward and back. I can for the handlebars too. We can swap out seats in the middle of the fit process. We will look at crank arm length. Some video will be taken after we have found our way closer to the ideal position you are dreaming about on a bike. I will capture different positions and work it like an eye doctor. Do you like position A, click the Go To button, and ask if you like position B. You choose. Give me some feedback, good, bad or neutral, and we keep on plugging away until you are in a great ride position of your choice. Don’t worry, I won’t let you end up in a bad position. The coolest feature? If you brought your bike for a refit, or you are upgrading, I can take your current bike fit measurements and put them in the fit unit. Click Go To old bike fit, let you ride it, then click the new fit. In seconds you are moving while riding to feel the dramatic change in position. It’s an opportunity to dial in the fit that is best for you.

Ok, so you are looking for a new bike. The fit unit provides me saddle and handlebar X and Y coordinates - where you want to be in space on a bike. I go to my computer, do some calculations and configure a front end that will ride nicely for you with respect to stem length, pitch and spacer height. From this, I will get stack and reach dimensions. I go to the websites of the bike brand of interest and begin to look at which frame size would work best for you. There are times that there may be a bike you are drooling over, however I am not able to get a front end configuration to work so your ride is ideal. If I can find a front end that will work on the front end, we then begin to spec out your bike to be rider specific (handlebar width, crank arm length, seat post setback, chain ring sizing and cassette ratios).

Getting fit first could be one of the best decisions you make in your bike riding career.  It could save you money. It could save you many painful miles. Or it could confirm that you are in an ideal position. Whatever your goals are for your current bike or if you are searching for a new bike, fit first will get you exactly where you should be.

how i fit athletes on bikes

Bicycle fitting has come a very long way. I remember the days where someone would use a thumb and eye you up and down and say, here's your bike! Enjoy! Each process had to start somewhere, and most of us have had the experience, even I. Now-a-days bike fitting has become a healthy balance of science and art. That is what we try to bring to our athletes here when we fit them on their current bike, or for a new bike.

I've had so many people in recent months as me about our fit process and exactly how does it work? Let me give some detail on that, why we are different and do what we do.

Before I get into the fit portion, I will provide you with some of my background as a bike fitter. I have been in the biomechanic and exercise physiology field for many years and carry two degrees in the field. I have spent thousands upon thousands of hours watching athletes and their movement patterns, on equipment, throwing equipment, etc. Understanding how the muscles work together and create flawless motion has been my strength and moving an athlete out of pain or performing better. I started fitting cyclists and triathletes on bikes sometime back in 2007. It was a time where I took my past experiences and strengthened my cycling knowledge to start fitting athletes on bikes. Sometime in 2008, I was approached by Guru Cycles (from Montreal Canada) to become a fitter in the field for their line of bikes as they were looking to bring someone in that had an exercise science background. I was privy to the Dynamic Fit Unit (now the Guru Experience) years before it was available to the public. That was a turning point in my bike fitting career. I have recently completed my basic fit training with Dan Empfield at F.I.S.T. Basic Fit Camp, and will be heading out to California again (this February 2014) to F.I.S.T. Down Deep for an intensive training environment designed to hone the skills top fitters demonstrate.

Professional Dynamic Fit

I start each fit (whether a re-fit or a new fit) on our Dynamic Fit Unit (DFU). This mechanical ride is movable while you ride by the use of electronic motors. I have the ability to move you in the X and Y planes by the millimeter. Millimeters can mean the difference between comfort and discomfort, a rub spot or not and 10 more watts or no change. In reality, you are fitting yourself. I listen to you, move you in certain ranges and positions then take measurements and direct you down the right path based on your comments and reactions. 

Once we (the athlete and I) have determined a primary position, the computer will spit out an XY, as well as the ability to take many other measurements such as bottom bracket to top of saddle height, nose of saddle to trough (hoods) distance, and more. Two scenarios can play out with these, and I will describe them both.

Scenario One - New Bike

I can use all this information for a new bike. From the DFU I receive a Saddle X/Y and a Handlebar X/Y. I turn to Slowtwich.com and use their bar to ht calculator. Based on the rider and their goals, I enter in proper head tube angle (road vs tri bike), stem length, stem pitch, spacer stack, etc. On the output end, I receive a stack and reach. Stack and reach has been confused among many athletes. A person does not have a stack and reach. The bike does. The stack and reach is for the bike frame. It is based off the bottom bracket center, up and forward (stack and reach).  

Once the output gives me a stack and reach, I can look at bike frames that will provide the right geometry for the front end that suite the athlete the best. When going down this route, it starts to clear out what bikes will work or not. For example, I have someone right now who really wants a bike brand we carry, and no matter what, the front end I enter into the calculator with their XY coordinates, no front end combination will allow that rider to be in the position of choice. So, we took what could happen to make that bike work, put the athlete in that position on the DFU, and that athlete shook their head and said they could never ride in that position. The stack on the bike frame was too low (or aggressive) and there would have to be 60+ mm of spacers added to the steer tube (to get the athlete in the ballpark), which would make the bike ride horrible, be unstable and unsafe. It all comes down to what position is the most beneficial for the athlete; they feel comfortable and are able to perform to the level they know they can. It seems impossible to force an athlete in a position just because he/she wants a certain bike brand, however, I see it every day.

If you really want those pair of Levi Jeans, and no matter what size or shape you try, they just don't cut it. So why buy them? You would buy the pair of jeans that feel the best so you can move around in them freely while looking great!

Scenario Two - 

Half my time is also spent helping athletes be re-fit on their current bike. It can be scary for me, as well as the athlete, because if they were not fit before they purchased their bike, they may hear the words they don't want to hear, "This bike is too big/small for you". I would say about 60% of the time the bike is the correct size, just not set up very well for the athlete. This is where the fit on the DFU is very helpful. I will fit the athlete first. Once we have that position, I can enter their current position, hit "go" and they move to their current set-up. We can move back and forth from good and bad so the athlete feels and sees the difference.  

For those who have correct bike frames, but just set-up poorly, it is only a matter of taking bike measurements from the DFU and applying them to the bike. Sometimes it does require part changes, such as a seatposts, stem, handlebar, crank arms or all the above. Those are easy issues to solve.

For those who have the wrong sizes, it can become tougher. My goal with each bike fit is like throwing a dart at a dart board. I want to hit the center bullseye for maximum points. However, there is room to wiggle in the center that is ideal. When a bike frame is too big or too small, the best I can get is the ring just outside the center of the bullseye. The new position is better than the old one, however it may be 85-90% as good as it can be. Either the bike frame will not allow the position to occur, or I cannot make it happen to keep the integrity of the front end of the bike be stable, strong, steer well, be safe to ride and perform well. 

More Than X/Y -

During each fit, I always address biomechanical issues and solve them. Many come in with a pain or injury and I want to ensure that the new position will begin to solve the issues. I want to give them "homework" to correct any poor movement patterns that are associated with their pain/injury.  I also go through proper pedal stroke, spin scan and muscle balance performance with my fits. If you are not moving properly in space or cycling properly, the fit will never be complete or feel 100%. I strongly believe this is the crucial finish to complete the process.

Take Home Message -

My take home message is simple. Get Fit First. Period. If you have a bike and have not been fit or are not comfortable, get fit. It's going to be the best bang for your buck and give you the best results. The experience we provide with our re-fit and new bike fit is all about personalization and education. We want you to be the best you can be with the time you have and learn as much as possible. 

Don't be scared by this. I see newbies to the sport and veterans of 30 years come in for a fit. You don't have to have a lick of experience to be fit. You deserve it and you are worth it!

how fit is your fit?

Do you often wonder what can be a game changer for your Ironman race? It could be nutrition. It could be 3 flats. It could be water in our goggles during the swim.  There are more than 100 things that could go in the wrong direction that you do not have control of. 

However, have you ever thought about how your bike fit can be a game changer for your Ironman race? It’s something that can be addressed so early in the training season; it can make or break your race.  As a biomechanic physiologist, I consistently look at form, technique and position. It’s a habit I learned after grad school in the late 90’s.

During this year’s 2014 Ironman race here in Madison, I decided to take some video of riders on the first lap of the course and see how well racers were fit to their bike. ** I will be taking you through various fit points, good and bad, and how to improve on the fit, not just in regards to overall comfort, however how fit implicates performance on the bike, AND off the bike.

The following are main points regarding single measurements and how they can impact performance. Dynamic bike fitting is to be looked at as a whole when performed, however I will be taking you through specifics points here in this blog. The basic ideas below can, and should be, addressed in any fit session.

HIP ANGLE ON A TIME TRIAL/TRIATHLON BIKE SET-UP  – Bottom bracket to the greater trochanter to the AC joint (average angle to be 105-107 degrees)

Proper hip angle on a TT/Triathlon bike is hugely important for correct hip opening, power generation and muscle length/tension balance. What can this all mean?

If the hip angle is too closed down, it can produce any/all of the following:

1.       The hip is not allowed to generate enough power throughout the stroke.

2.       Climbing hills will be more difficult as the hip cannot open up enough to power over the top of the pedal stroke.

3.       With a closed angle, the hips/quadriceps/hamstring muscles cannot lengthen enough during the pedal stroke. This will in turn produce shortened/tighter muscles in the long run.

4.       A hip that cannot properly open to pedal will shut down the quads, and make the ability to run well off the bike difficult. If the frontal plane of your body (quads, abs, torso) are not long and “stretchy”, it will become increasingly difficult to run well. This can turn into back pain, hamstring overload and nausea (because the abdominals are so tight that you cannot open your torso for proper breathing and digestion).

If the hip angle is too open, it can produce some/all of the following:

1.       Over-lengthening of the muscle and myofascial tissue to cause overuse issues.

2.       Locking out of the knee joint and causing tendon issues around the joint.

3.       Nerve pulse sensations down the back of the leg.

4.       Rocking of the pelvis causing SI joint instability, thus low back pain while riding and/or running.

Checking hip angle is a confirmer in determining if the rider is sitting properly in the saddle, with respect to foot placement.


Hip angle is more then 10 degrees too low, causing a "sit back" position, low ability to carry a high cadence, and over loading the lower back area.


Once again, angle too low, and you can see a hunched upper back which will result in an overload in the quads and low back


Once again, too low of an angle.


This angle is too large. Riding in this position, will cause a more upright position to occur in the aero position. You will see this when aero bars are put on road bikes (such as you see here). Difficult to put a cyclist in a true aero position on a road bike because the geometry will not allow it. The angle you see here is great for a road position, however not very beneficial when on a road bike.

KNEE ANGLE ON A TIME TRIAL/TRIATHLON BIKE SET-UP - Angle from the greater trochanter to the axis of the knee joint to the malleolus of the ankle (proper angle 137-141 degrees).

Measuring knee angle is a great confirmer to see how well you are in position with respect to the foot to the saddle. Having a good knee angle will prevent many things such as the following.

Too short of an angle:

1.        Shortening of the quadriceps, hamstrings and calves which in turn can cause issues on the run, or a lack of power generation in the pedal stroke long-term.

2.       When the leg is not allowed to elongate properly, there is a continuous loss of power.

3.       Hip hiking can occur as you would be sitting too low on the saddle, which does now allow the leg to complete a full circle, and hip hiking can occur (loss of power, SI joint strain).

Too large of an angle:

1.        Creating elongation torque on the knee joint as you have to over-reach on the down stroke, which in turn will irritate IT bands, over stretch muscles.

2.         Hips will rock back and forth while pedaling to stay connected to the pedal, and cause laterally strain on the SI joint. This can then lead to low back pain, and strain the myofascial over that area. This will also impact run performance negatively.



Over-extension of the knee angle which will cause hip rocking and irritation of the knee and SI joint while riding and/or running.



Same issues as above. 



Just barely too small of an angle. Will feel squished and rocked backwards. This can cause lack of power while pedaling and a higher front end on an aero bike, defeating the purpose of aero. You can have a less aggressive front end, however keep the foot to butt contact points in mind.



GREAT angle! Great overall position.

PLUM LINE ON A TIME TRIAL/TRIATHLON BIKE SET-UP – Line from tibial tuberosity vertically down to foot (dynamically measured to be just in front of the shoe).

Proper plum line for a TT/Triathlon bike set-up is important. However this is in direct position to how the foot and hip are set up first. If the initial set-up of the hip angle is too low or set too far back, the plum line will not come out correctly. Once on the bike, the first check point is the foot, then move to the hip. When those two positions are in line, a plum line can be checked. The plum line should be measured from the tibial tuberosity, vertically down to the foot. For a TT/Triathlon plum, the line should drop just in front of the toe/shoe, when taken dynamically (such as when viewing video). If the dynamic plum line is too far back, the rider is reaching forward to try to generate power from the hip. Imagine going downhill skiing, and not being able to be “over” your boots on the skis for control, power and position.

If you are sitting too far behind the 8 ball, you can cause problems such as:

1.       Over-reaching of the hamstrings, which can cause numbness in the feet/low back, or “zingers” to the lower body.

2.       Toe numbness.

3.       Low back strain and tightness in the SI joint.

4.       Upper neck strain due to the over-reaching of the legs forward.

For how fast many were riding past me, I was able to snapshot a few with a view of a plum line drop.



Plum line looks good here, as well as the overall fit. Slightly crunched in the front end however, which will deactivate the abdominal core.



Pretty good plum line here! However, just by visually look this rider is most likely sitting too far back behind the bottom bracket to be the most powerful.



Plum line slightly too far back, which would tell that the cyclist is sitting a little too low and back.



Same as above, slightly too far back on the plum line, causing a total body rotation backwards on the bike, vs a forward aero position.

SHOULDER ANGLE ON A TIME TRIAL/TRIATHLON BIKE SET-UP – Elbow joint to the AC joint to the greater trochanter (average angle 85-88 degrees).

This is one of the final measurements in bike fitting for a TT/Triathlon bike set-up. This angle will be directly affected by the foot and hip positions, how the rider is sitting on the saddle, and where the arms contact the aero-pads.

Proper angles should be in the 85-88 degree range when measured from the elbow joint-AC joint-greater trochanter. If the angle is too large, some of the following can occur:

1.       Strain the muscles in the shoulder and back area, such as the serratus anterior, infraspinatus, pectoralis minor, and more.

2.       This undue strain will cause such things as neck pain, hand numbness, triceps soreness and upper back pain.

3.       Collapse of the abdominal area which will impact breathing and digestion.

Snapshots of upper body positions as triathletes rode by that day.




 This angle is a little too large. You can see the roundness of the upper body.  Fatigue will set in on the upper body, and a loss of power will occur by pushing back into the saddle.  Being relaxed over the aero bars is ideal.



Same as above, however more dramatic with an obvious slack and back position on the
bike. This will long term put pressure on the lower back, as well as the sensitive pelvic area.



Looking good, as well as plum line! Upper body looks relaxed.


Crank arm length has been the most over-looked part that I see when cyclists purchase bikes at different shops, or are fit at other places. It happens 9 out of 10 times someone comes in for a fit that I eventually complete. I have consistently seen cyclists on crank arm lengths too long, and never too short. Sometimes, rarely, they are on the correct length, and this happens by accident.  Box bikes come with crank arm lengths that are generically determined to go with bikes with no real reason except a larger crank will come with a larger bike. However, it is common to always see the crank being one to two sizes too large for the rider. Improper crank arm length leads to many issues such as:

1.       Collapse and decrease of hip motion/angles.

2.       Over-tightening the hip flexors which impede the run as well as tighten the lower back.

3.       If the circle created by the pedal stroke and crank arm length does not match the run circle made as the triathlete runs, there will eventually be mechanical failure, which will in-turn lead to decreases in performance.

4.       Irritation of lower back discs in the spine.

Crank arm length should be looked at AFTER the entire bike fit is accomplished. You can look at the overall fit and how different crank arm lengths change the pedal stroke. When on a crank arm that is too long, you will see:

1.       Hip hiking.

2.       Toe pointing at the top of the pedal stroke.

3.       Hips rocking back and forth.

4.       Low activation of the hamstrings during the pedal stroke.

5.       “Hiccup” in the pedal stroke which causes a brief loss of power, which is a lot of loss over a 112 mile course.

6.       A distinct deceleration phase of the pedal stroke that needs to be overcome each time.

7.       Decreased ability to carry the correct cadence.

Ever feel like you do single leg drills till the cows come home, however they never make it home? I will suggest to you that your crank arm is too long.

Check out a few snapshots of what the top of the pedal stroke looks like with too long of a crank arm.



Too much toeing action at the top of the pedal stroke due to too long of
a crank arm. Trying to "get over" the hump of the stroke.



Top of pedal stroke causing too high of a knee lift and having to "hiccup" over
the pedal stroke.



Showing too high of a knee lift.



Foot is almost completely vertical which will cause stress on the knee joint, hip, low back and a loss of power in the pedal stroke.

Closing thoughts...

Many things to look at; it can seem mind-boggling. However, completing a professional and dynamic bike fit will keep you fit as an athlete. Not just as a cyclist, but as a runner and a triathlete. You may think the above is all about splitting hairs, however millimeters mean a lot in the world of bike fit and performance, no matter your level of fitness/training/racing. It's time to start counting them.

As an Ironman triathlete, you spend a good 60% (if not more) of your time on the bike, with the other 40% spent on swimming, running and cross-training. This is a lot of time to create poor movement patterns that will impact your overall cycling fitness, your running form and speed, and all the way to not being able to digest food properly while racing/training.

Always remember that bike fitting is dynamic in nature, and that is changes over time. It’s a journey, not a destination to achieve.  Communication to your professional bike fitter is important in the long haul for your fitness and athletic success.


Xantusia is on top of this dead end dirt road. Mark Montgomery, ex-pro triathlete and road racer, resides on one side of the road, and Dan Empfield (triathlete, SlowTwitch founder, author, bike fitting advocate), lives on the other side of the road. 4100 feet above sea level, you are surrounded by the high desert, sun and Joshua trees. For the past 5 days, I lived and learned at this small endurance training compound, that both of them call home.

There were many stories shared while on my learning get-away, and I'll share along some of them, which may be well known, or not. I don't have enough room to write all the stories, but I'll give a few random knowledges to put in your useless knowledge bank.  

Random knowledge #1 - Dan Empfield created the first wetsuit with Mark Montgomery.

In Dan's garage, 8 of us sat and learned about F.I.S.T. This stands for Fit Institute SlowTwitch. Dan has been the leader in bicycle fitting for many years. He has set the standard in fitting and established things such as stack and reach and what a proper front end of a bike should look, feel and ride like. I was going to get to learn first hand from the original. 

The 8 of us were from all around the world. We all came from Vancouver, San Diego, Mexico City, DC, Seattle, LA, Romania, and of course, Madison. I was the girl there of an all boy band. 

Dan's teaching area was literally his garage. Dust, tools, computers, fit bikes, and more, scattered the room. Some comfy old college couches were ready for us to sit and call home. 

Random knowledge #2 - One of the stages of the Tour de California goes right by the compound. It's an 11.6 mile climb to the top, starting at 3700 feet and ending at ~10k feet. I rode one day, and got to a mile above sea level after 5 miles, and called it a day. Whew. New respect for mountain climbing at altitude.

Day one was an intro to bike fitting concepts and protocol, and a start at road bike fitting. Spending a lot of time reading, researching and self-learning about bike fit and how I can relate my biomechanic background, I feel l have a pretty good grasp on bike fitting. After I got through the entire week, I know feel validated in how I fit, and have a new to bring to bike fitting. As I discussed on the last day with Dan, I have a stronger sense of where I want to go with bike fitting, and now have a stronger base of knowledge of ideal fit, suggesting proper bikes for ride style, and talking points about how bikes should feel and ride.

The key process I took from the first few days of road bike fit were how to take XY coordinates (these are not stack and reach) and how to find a bike to fit properly, retro fit a current bike, and even design my own custom bike frame (now that's pretty sweet). Stack and reach can only tell you about the bike frame. It says nothing about how a bike's front end needs to be, and how it will ride. It's just the frame. Knowing this piece, the XY coordinates are just as, and even more valuable then stack and reach. 

SBR and Rocket Bikes have a Dynamic Fit Unit (aka DFU). It was actually the brain child of Dan. He took his bike fitting tools, flew to Guru Cycling, and told them to make a fit bike move on the fly. He wanted to see where certain points were in space (saddle, handebar, contact points) according to the bottom bracket. With these handlebar and saddle XY coordinates, along with stack and reaches of bike frames, the ideal bike could be found for each individual. And now, you have the DFU.

We bought into dynamic fit 4 years ago, with the first DFU arriving at our studio shop 3 years ago. We were the first believers in this dynamic method of fit first. Instead of going out to buy a bike, then get fit to it, you can save time and money by getting your XY coordinates, then referring to stack and reach charts to determine the ideal bike for you. The key to this math, is to know the proper front end for a certain bike to match your XY coordinates. 

Random knowledge #3 - Dan Empfield was a Jeopardy question and answer. Dan Empfield was the founder of Quintana Roo and designed the first wetsuit for what sport? What is triathlon. 

Day three was interesting, or shall I say, I wasn't sure how to handle it. Paul Swift was coming to share his bike fitting series for cleat and pedal interface. His philosophy is based on viewing how the athlete bikes, and then shimming and wedging to create a more solid pedal stroke. So, in his eyes, if he sees your knee twitch at the top of the pedal stroke, he will suggest to wedge the foot to make the knee not twitch at the top.

Here's my beef. Over the years, I have worked with age group to professional athletes in pretty much every sport except sumo wrestling. Unless this athlete has a severe skeletal issue, 99% of all biomechanical issues can be solved through muscle balance assessment and corrective action. Every day, I correct imbalance and teach athletes how to perform better, and without pain. If I saw that same knee twitching at the top of the pedal stroke, I would investigate if the cleats are straight, is the saddle height too low, is the cyclist sitting straight on the saddle, look at a pedal stroke analysis to see what muscles are not activating, or maybe the athlete just needs some pedaling education. I've seen too many people with wedges and shims to support an imbalance that can be solved by some simple corrective motions.

However, I will defend Paul, and ultimately Dan's point of view. And, Dan and I are on the same page with this point. It's not possible to train each and every fitter the years of training, knowledge and experience I may have, or someone else in the field with similar background. Thus, Paul Swift has created a protocol for cleat/pedal/shoe interface. It does give the standard store bike fitter guidelines. Over time, however, I hope to help change the fit thought process. If the fitter does not carry the education to correct muscle imbalance issues, I hope to create a protocol for a fitter to recognize certain issues, and then refer to a professional that can deal with imbalances. 

I ended up bowing out of Day 3 as I felt that I would want to support my beliefs with Paul on his shim/wedging protocol. I didn't want to disrupt the others learning opportunity with Paul. 

Random knowledge #4 - Dan was Lance Armstrong's first bike sponsor, with Quintana Roo, the bike brand Dan founded.

Days four and five were spend on time trial bike position. There is a significant different between road and TT position. 

Road bikes have a less aggressive geometry, meaning that the seat tube angle is closer to 72 degrees. The angle is generated by the angle of the seat tube through the bottom bracket, then parallel to the ground. A typical TT bike is 78 degrees or more. This is what allows the rider to be in a more aggressive position, lay down on their forearms, and cut more wind. This will instantly make you faster only because you cut more wind and create less drag, to then be faster. This is, aerodynamics. These bikes, however, are only fast if ridden in the TT position. The moment you get out of the position, you loose the advantage of the bike, and the money spent on it. If you cannot sit comfortably in a TT aero position for 95% of your ride, you are not fit correctly, not on the correct bike frame and setup, need a re-fit tune-up, riding a bike course that is best suit for a road bike, or just not built for a TT position. 

For fitting with TT bikes, fitters also need to take in consideration the XY of the aero pads. This is a separate contact point from the frame, and needs to be addressed. If the stem is too long, or at a poor angle, or too many spacers, etc the bike will not be comfortable and typically not steer very well. I see these issues walk into the studio every week. Someone got sold a bike, because their real size was not on site, or it was on sale, or the sales floor person did not know how to fit for a proper front end to match the cyclists needs.

On the aero pad XY topic, we have the super bikes. Super bikes are the ones with integrated front ends. They may look all hot and sexy, however they are aggressive, and can only work for certain riders. Don't get caught up in a sexy bike or a hot deal for a TT bike. If the front end is not set up for your geometry, you will endlessly deal with pain and discomfort.

Random knowledge #5 - Steve Hed, creator of HED. wheels, starting making fast wheels to impress his now wife, back in the day, as she was a professional racer. The engineering geek wanted to provide the faster wheels for the girl he was smitten with.  In the end, he got the girl, and we got some fast wheels from what is now HED. Cycling.

Closing thoughts? Bike fit first. You're going to want to get fit after a bike purchase, so why not do it before. Spent your money wisely and fit first, buy your bike, then finalize the fit on your new bike. SBR and Rocket Bikes has the latest in bike fit systems to get you to your ideal bike. On top of that, if there are any biomechanical issues we see, we will work on correcting those imbalances so you can ride your new bike, in the ideal position, and perform your best.  With the tools and knowledge we have in house, we can provide you the highest level of bike fitting there is. We don't care if you are buying your first bike to get in shape, or are looking for an upgrade on a bike for performance, we just want you to feel good on your bike and have it perform for you how you want it. 

Completing my F.I.S.T certification is only "freshman" year of my continuing education. I plan on taking the next level certficiation, F.I.S.T. Down Deep as soon as I can. I am now a part of an elite level of fitters with first hand education to bring to you at any chance I get. I have regular access to Dan and his knowledge, to continue my education. Super excited about that! 

Till next time...