Sunday, April 29, 2018

What is FUSION?

At the end of 2017, I felt it was time to review and update the fitting services offered at Vector Cycle Works.  Those who know me know that I am one to constantly scrutinize and reevaluate everything I do in order to provide a better service that is appropriate to the needs of my customers.  My knowledge focus, process evolution, and desire to innovate in the bike fitting space is a reaction to what I see and hear with the people who come in for a bike fit.

There's no doubt in my mind that bike fitting is a very confusing concept from a consumer perspective.  There is a wide range of services generally labeled as a "bike fit" - from something as basic as getting the seat height good enough to the in-depth services that dedicated fitters like myself and others do.  Prices range from free to $$$$.  Within the fitting industry, there are disagreements in philosophies as to what is most effective, with some fitters taking a more geometric approach, while others are more medical (I say "yes" to both, but the emphasis depends on the customer's needs).

Further complicating matters, you have the concept of a pre-purchase bike sizing (i.e. the Vector Cycle Works MATCH service, formally known as RightBike), which some will call a bike fit, versus what I consider a bike fit, such as the Vector Cycle Works CORE and FUSION services.  It's confusing, and hard to understand what to expect when you schedule a bike fit with Fitter X.  I'm probably muddying the waters a bit by offering a sizing service as well as two different fit services.  So, let's see if I can clarify that a bit here.

My philosophies are shaped by a few key tenets:

1.  It's not about the bike.  I sometimes toy with calling what I do "cyclist fitting" or "ride tuning" or something like that, just to reduce the emphasis on the bike, but that would just further confuse matters, so "bike fitting" it is.  The key here is that it's about the human and how they interact with the bike - those few points where you touch the bike.  Everything we do is about mating those surfaces up better.  We fit the bike to you, not you to the bike.  Sure, there may be a need to swap some bicycle components, but the fact is that we are only doing that as a reaction to the needs of the human powering the bicycle.  The CORE of what we do as bike fitting goes (see what I did there?) is about accommodating the human, as is.  I've come to the realization over time that what I do is closer to athletic training or physical therapy than it is to the services offered by a bike shop.

2.  You are an athlete.  Many of my customers come in as a result of being inactive for a period of time (often measured in decades) and deciding that riding a bike looks like a good way to get in shape.  They then learn it hurts a bit more than they remember as a kid.  Sometimes, these folks sell themselves a bit short - "I'm just looking to get in shape."  I don't care what others might say, but I look at every person that comes in here with a sense of pride in them, and as an athlete.  You are a cyclist, and you are an athlete.  Whether you want to ride another mile without pain or are looking for a higher step on the podium, you are an athlete performing at whatever level is your maximum.  As an athlete, you will push your boundaries of human performance, whatever they may be.  When we push those boundaries, that's when we learn how much we can do, or how much it hurts to do it or exceed those boundaries.

3.  You are an energy system.  There are a couple of terms I use a lot in the studio - stability and energy conservation.  A core tenet of every Vector Cycle Works bike fit is energy conservation.  In order to be more efficient, we need to not be wasting energy on things that are not being put into the pedals.  We expend a lot more energy on a bike than what we put into the pedals.  You might be able to sustain 200 watts for an hour, but you will burn more calories than what is needed to produce those 200 sustained watts.  Power to the pedals is just one component of the energy system.  Unstable on the saddle?  That's a waste of energy because the "core" muscles have to work harder to keep you stable.  Less than optimal foot/pedal interface?  Another waste of energy because the oxygen-hungry muscles in the lower extremity are working hard to stabilize every pedal stroke.  Not relaxed?  More wasted energy.  Wasted energy results in increased fatigue rates, which results in more discomfort further into the ride.

From what I've seen in the studio, most folks are not optimized off the bike, let alone on the bike.  We are all asymmetrical piles of meat and bones, yet we try to interact with this crazy pile of carbon fiber, aluminum, and other stuff which is mostly symmetrical.  As with any sports-specific movement, cycling is going to strengthen and develop some muscles (our prime movers) while utilizing, but not necessarily developing other muscles (the muscles that stabilize the movement).  We develop imbalances through repetition, and repetitive use injuries are common among my customers.  I expect everyone who comes in here to have some level of dysfunction, but the number of people who are on the verge of injury or have already experienced it is concerning.  A proper bike fit could prevent some of these, but it's not the complete cure.  How does the old saying go?  An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure?

The Vector Cycle Works CORE bike fit is as good or better than what other fitters will charge $300+ for - we are establishing a stable foundation for your comfort and efficiency.  We will make you more comfortable, which allows you to ride longer or more often, which allows you to build the engine so you can be faster, or increase your performance.  CORE is as comprehensive and thorough as any accommodative bike fit will be.  Every Vector Cycle Works fit is a partnership in comfort and efficiency.

FUSION takes this further yet.  FUSION goes beyond just accommodating who you are right now and accepting that for what it is.  I like to think of FUSION as being the ultimate cycling-focused human performance system.  We are now delving more deeply into our understanding of the engine and learning what aspects of that engine are preventing it from performing at its maximum.  In essence, we are looking to blow the lid off what is holding you back and increase that maximum.  It's a little bit of work off the bike to be better on the bike.  Here's how it works:

1.  Initial Session - The initial FUSION session is similar to the initial CORE session, with 2 additional pieces: 1) We perform a Functional Movement Screen to identify your deficiencies.  2) You receive an online workout from Functional Movement Systems with videos of functional exercises tailored to your needs.  Generally this is about 10-15 minutes a day of simple exercises to help you be a better you.  Most require very little equipment, although I've found that a foam roller is a critical piece of equipment.  If you don't have one, you probably should (you can get them cheap at

2.  Two Week Visit - At your first visit, we will schedule 3 follow-up sessions.  At week 2, you will come back without the bike (unless you are experiencing any pain - then we will accommodate).  We are going to focus on the functional movement correctives during a one hour session.  We're going to work on some basics and build on the online workout you received after your initial session.  What is fun about this session is that we start to really dial in what works for you.  We will measure, try an exercise, and then measure again.  Did your movement improve?  If so, we have identified a useful tool.  If not, we throw that out.  We're not about wasting time - we're looking for the most bang for the buck with your movement plan.  You really only need 10-15 minutes a day.

3.  Four Week Visit - Like the week 2 visit, we are going to continue our focus on the corrective strategies, and if you've shown some progress, we're going to continue to build on your base, continuing to move up the ladder of mobilization, stabilization, and strengthening.

4.  Six Week Visit - Your "final" (and I really hesitate to call it that) FUSION session involves bringing the bike back.  We tidy up any fit issues, perform an additional Functional Movement Screen, and send you home with another online training plan tailored to the new and improved you.

So far, we've seen some really nice results in the studio.  It's obviously a bit of a commitment - we're looking at close to two months of working together (and I'm flexible - we can stretch that out as you need to, although I'm not an advocate of tightening up that timeline).  This works very well leading up to an "A" race or a targeted event, and we just have to start the process out a couple of months before that event.  Locally, a couple of very popular events that my customers target include the Ironman 70.3 Muncie in July, the RAIN Ride in late July, the Rollfast Gran Fondo in September, the Brown County Epic in October, or the Hilly Hundred in October.

The time is getting tight to complete the FUSION process for IM Muncie or RAIN, but there is time.  If you are interested, you can schedule your FUSION initial session at this link.  I look forward to helping you get the most out of your ride!

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