Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Reflections on the Medicine of Cycling Conference

It has been a while since I've posted anything here.  It's not that I haven't had much to talk about, but life has been extremely busy both in and out of the Vector Cycle Works studio.  Sometimes, I like to take a moment to reflect and realize how good things are.  It has been really good - I am so lucky to meet the great people I meet through bike fitting and cycling.

I am and will always be a student of life.  Every person that comes in is a unique challenge, a unique character, and a new opportunity to learn.  I enjoy and appreciate the time I spend with them and what they teach me.  I only hope that I can return the favor.

In order to rise up to those challenges, my bike fitting processes, philosophies, and choice of tools are constantly evolving and adapting in order to provide a better solution.  Bike fitting is not about the bike - it's about adapting the bike to work for the body.  To reflect this philosophy, I have a new Vector Cycle Works tagline: "The body and bike in balance."

In order to find that balance, we must first understand the body, and adapt the bike to it.  The body is asymmetrical, but the bike is not.  In an order to find comfort and performance, we must understand the challenge in front of us, and determine which solutions are best right now.  A bike fit isn't necessarily about where we want to be a year from now, but where we are right now and formulating a plan to get where we want to be.  When a customer comes to me, they enter a performance and comfort partnership.  Vector Cycle Works is designed to support your evolution.  We are not building a better bike.  We are building a better cyclist.

In the constant search for better solutions, I am often reading, studying, experimenting, and exploring things that, at first glance, might seem to be beyond the realm of bike fitting.  Bike fitting is often seen as a mix of art and science, and both aspects offer plenty of opportunity to explore.  There are a lot of things that a bike fitter can pursue to add value to the service, and there are things that might not add that much value.  I often pursue things accepting the risk that the effort might not result in an adequate perceived value for my customers.

As my exploration gets deeper and broader, the reality of what I do is getting to be more and more quasi-medical, for lack of a better way to put it.  The way we interact with our bikes is amazingly complicated, but it's not because bikes are complicated - it's because the body is complicated and always changing.

Dr. Andy Pruitt, one of the pioneers in bike fitting,
leads a discussion of various fitting case studies.
I learned about the Medicine of Cycling conference a couple of years ago and was finally able to attend this past weekend.  This was a very enjoyable trip, on so many levels.  Part of it is because it was in Colorado Springs, one of my favorite places on Earth.  Some of it was because of what I learned while I was there.  Some of it was learning that some of my fitting theories and philosophies (which I felt might be a bit "out there") were validated by other people doing much of the same stuff.  Much of it was the great people I met at the conference, many of whom I have interacted with in the past, but hadn't met in person.

With all that said, here are a few key things that were discussed over the course of the weekend that I really enjoyed.

Functional Movement Screening
When I first started exploring Functional Movement Screening (FMS) and the knowledge around it, I was somewhat skeptical of the value it might provide to bike fitting.  Even when attending the classes, it was obvious that I was one of few endurance sports people there.  There were a lot of strength and conditioning coaches, CrossFit coaches, and personal trainers.  But, I felt there was something of value there - FMS looks at us a species in motion and not just a cyclist, triathlete, or CrossFitter.

I have a lot of people come to me hoping to get faster.  Faster is relative and there is only so much that can be done with the bike itself before we reach our personal limits.  It's then a matter of "building the engine" to produce more power.  The problem is that the engine is flawed.  Our bodies are asymmetrical and a series of deficiencies resulting from accommodations as a result of our history.  In order to truly unlock our potential, we have to address those deficiencies.

I've pursued FMS as a way to identify and potentially correct those deficiencies - helping the rider understand what is holding them back, while helping me understand what I see as I observe the rider on their bike.  Greg Choat, a respected and very knowledgeable fitter and strength and conditioning coach from the Las Vegas area, presented FMS to the group and touched on the portions of the screen that align well with cyclists, specifically.  Greg's presentation validated so much of what I felt, and he was saying things - almost verbatim - that I find myself telling people all the time.  FMS has become a cornerstone of the Vector Cycle Works solution, and I learned a couple of tricks to further cement FMS's place in the process.

Assessment of the Foot
It is sometimes difficult to explain the importance of the foot on the bike, how it affects your mechanics, the aches and pains that stem from our feet, and how the foot behaves differently on the bike than it does when walking and running.  Foot mechanics were a major topic throughout the conference.

The foot assessment and metrics I've been using have been good enough, but I always wanted more.  Armed with some new tools, the foot assessment will get better, as we'll be quantifying how the foot behaves weighted versus unweighted.  This will also give me a better picture of appropriate shoe size for a rider.  I will also be delving into custom footbeds, which I had avoided thus far because of concerns of not being able to receive adequate training and support for something so complicated, and at the same time, questioning the return on investment for the rider.

Crank Length and Aerodynamics
John Cobb discusses his research related to short crank arms
and aerodynamics.
I've often talked about crank arm length with customers.  There are many advantages to going shorter, and John Cobb presented his results of testing different riders in the wind tunnel as their positions changed over time with different crank arms and subsequent fit adjustments.  We can try lengths down to 150mm at Vector Cycle Works, and if you're at a point where you would like to give it a try in anticipation for next year, we'll work together to find the right solution for you.  I can get shorter cranks from various manufacturers - SRAM, FSA, Shimano, and many others will make cranks down to 165mm, while Rotor and Cobb will go as short as 150mm and 145mm, respectively.

Bike Fitting as an Extension of the Medical Community
One of the more difficult conversations I have with people is that sometimes, I simply can't help them - I'm not a doctor.  We may identify issues during the bike fit that are a symptom beyond the bike fit itself, and suggest a need for medical intervention.  One of the neat things about the Medicine of Cycling conference was the mixture of people there - fitters, Physical Therapists, and Doctors.  I continue to build relationships with professionals in the medical community, and we've got some great Sports Performance organizations in the area that are helping to bridge the gap between sport-specific training and medicine.

Where do we go from here?
There is certainly more to come.  There was a lot more covered, and it was all really good stuff that I feel will help improve the quality of the fitting experience for Vector Cycle Works customers.  The evolution continues.  There are a lot of bike fitting services available in the area, and they vary quite a bit in their scope and value.  My goal is to provide the best solution for you, by having the right tools to do it.  Vector Cycle Works has become a bit different approach than the other fitters in the Indy area, and it was good to meet and spend time with other fitters who are on a similar path.

Of course, the only way for you to know if what Vector Cycle Works does for you is the best option for you is to give it a try.  If you don't think ForeverFit is the best bike fitting solution available, not only is it guaranteed for life, but I will give you your money back if you are not happy.  You can schedule at

If you haven't had a Vector Cycle Works ForeverFit yet, or haven't been in in a while, I hope you will consider visiting Vector Cycle Works soon!

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