Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Retul fit with Vankru Performance Cycling

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With the recent re-occurrence of my right knee issues, my coach pointed the finger squarely at my bike fit. In all honesty, I wasn’t convinced, but with my knee getting worse by the day I was pleased when Garth Kruger of Vankru Performance Cycling in Southampton suggested I visit him for a Retul fitting on my TT and road bikes.

I had had a Retul fit before, on my old Cannondale Slice TT bike (the stats from which were transferred over to my Argon 18 E112 last year). However, having seen some pics of me riding the Argon at the recent Castle Combe Chilly Duathlon in February, it was clear that the fit needed looking at.

Fit at Chilly DuathlonArriving at Vankru, the first thing we did was go through some questions about medical history (the short version: lots of surgery on my right knee!), race aims etc.  Then Garth performed a thorough physiological exam, checking joint flexibility, impingements etc.  Unsurprisingly we found that my hamstrings and hip flexors were really tight. This would go some way to explaining the curve in my back down in the aero position – my hips and hamstrings are literally too tight to allow my back to lay properly flat.

Next up was a cleat check.  Garth looked at both my Tri shoes and road shoes and concluded that both would benefit from some cleat adjustments. My right tri shoe, especially, was out of alignment and forcing my heel out.  Both sets of cleats were also pushed back slightly, which would help my foot become a little flatter through the pedal revolution.
Onto the TT bike and Garth started using the motion capture technology that characterises the Retul fitting system to start checking angles, lengths and all sorts of physical measurements.  This was then repeated on the opposite side to check for imbalances.

Bike Fit BEFOREIn essence, the findings suggested that I wasn’t getting sufficient power out of my pedal stroke and Garth wanted to move me backwards on the bike.  This was achieved by moving the saddle backwards (and up slightly) and then changing the stem length (down from 100mm to 80mm). Combined with the cleat position change, I could feel the difference almost immediately, effectively using more muscles throughout the pedal revolution and feeling more ‘connected’ throughout the full stroke.

Looking at the before and after photos, you might actually struggle to see the differences – but this just goes to illustrate (or not!) how very small changes can really make a big difference to how the bike feels.  We also tried reverting away from the recently-fitted ISM saddle back to my old Specialized Tri-tip – long story short, we changed right back to the ISM! ‘Nuff said.

A couple of turbo sessions later and I can definitely feel some ‘adaption’ going on in my legs, they’re aching in new places and I can actually feel a little ache in my (to date, non-functioning) glutes! I’m taking this as a good sign – but it’s also a good indication that bike fits are best done well in advance of any important races; it’s important to give your body time to adjust.

As is clear from the photos, our aim with this bike fit was not to achieve the most aerodynamic position possible.  Instead, given the limitations of my current inflexibilities (which I need to address separately) the focus was on getting me comfortable and powerful – after all, there’s no point in going full-on aero if you either can’t hold it for the race duration or it actually produces less power!

So I have some homework to do – to get used to the new position AND to work on my flexibility and strength so that we can continue tweaking the position over time.

Bike Fit AFTERIt’s difficult to explain from the photos just how different the bike feels – everything is more comfortable, from the saddle position to the elbow pads and cleats. I don’t have a power meter, but I definitely ‘feel’ like I’m getting more power into each complete pedal revolution.  It’ll be really interesting to see what my first few 10 mile TTs produce!

I can’t thank Garth at Vankru (which, in case like me you were wondering, is simply a combination of surnames, not a Nordic God!) enough.  He was seriously thorough, open to all sorts of inputs and inarticulate explanations of how I was feeling.  If you’ve never had a proper bike fit (road or TT – I haven’t discussed my road fit, but it was equally revolutionary in ‘feel’ and much, much more comfortable!), I highly recommend you check out http://www.vankru.com/ and give Garth a call about your needs.

I’ll report back as things progress and do my first couple of races on the new set up (currently, the shorter stem is on order, waiting to arrive!).




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Matt Fisher runs TriathletesDiary.com - so it's all his fault! He pretends to be a triathlete, but really he is a husband, father and company VP. But he has raced for the GB Age Group squad a few times and is a two-times qualifier for the IM70.3 world champs