Julian Pletts discovers that you don’t just have to hone your body when training for a triathlon, your bike needs to be perfectly balanced too…
The prevalence of injury is relatively high for triathletes compared to other endurance sports. This was something that I was a little wary to hear shortly after I took up the TriYas training challenge alongside Abu Dhabi Week’s deputy editor Rachael Perrett. Having spent the best part of three months last year recovering from a back injury, I’m loath to go through anything like that again. So I’m approaching this latest challenge with excitement but a decent dose of caution as well.
Little did I know though that my trusty steed – the bike on which I’m putting in the kilometres on the Corniche and at Al Wathba – could well be my worst enemy, if it is not properly fitted to my body type and dimensions.
Surely it’s just a case of sizing it up by eye, plonking yourself on the saddle and pedaling away? Well, that notion is quickly dispelled when I go in for a bike fitting service at Ride Bike Shop in Al Seef Village Mall.
Bike fitting is a science and there is in fact a myriad of adjustments that can be carried out on your pedal-powered padre. If done incorrectly, it could mean the difference between riding away with the race or being left seriously saddle sore.
Koos Du Plessis, the straight talking expert bike fitter who manages the store, says he has seen some very poor fits that have caused riders to come a cropper: “Injuries are the main reasons for doing a bike fit, and comfort.
A lot of people will buy a bike, online for instance… You buy the bike online and off you go and you keep on having niggling pains – knees, lower back, shoulders. They live with it, thinking it should be like that. It shouldn’t… Bike fit looks at all parameters and recommends where you should be [on the bike].”
First is a quick visual assessment where Koos checks the supination or pronation of my feet and other possible imbalances, plus carries out a cleat (the clip-in shoes) alignment test. Then it’s on to the bike, which has been hooked up to a static trainer and laptop. On the screen is a pleasant cliffside road in Cape Town.
Before I get to head off on a virtual ride, various sensors are stuck on my side starting at my arm and then down my leg. The sensors work in conjunction with the Retul three-dimensional camera, which produces images of your pedaling patterns on a large TV. It feels a little like I’m on a Hollywood green screen – like a body double for the recent Lance Armstrong movie The Program, though definitely fuller of waist than the actors.
Being a straight-talking South African Koos is not afraid to tell me that one of the reasons I cannot quite get into the deep aerobar tuck position is because of my ‘tyre’. Fair cop, as they say, shifting it is one of the reasons I took up triathlons.
After a few short thrashes up the virtual hill – for more serious riders the infamous Alpe d’Huez climb is an option – Koos lowers the handlebars. The machine then churns out a series of figures and ranges that I either fall within, or dramatically fall short of, such as my back angle and knee lateral angle.
After a few tweaks, my bike is returned to me and fits like a glove, though I am told when I do shift that tyre (if Christmas doesn’t derail my plans) I will have to come back for a refit. I come out with a bike that is as closely fit to my own specifications as it possibly can be. Now, if only it was as easy to get my body ready for the challenge ahead.
Ride Bike Shop’s bike fit sessions typically last over an hour for AED 999. Visit: ridebikeshop.com ADW has taken up the challenge of training for TriYas on 26th February. Entries are now open. Visit: premieronline.com