Getting an invitation is nice. Getting an invitation to a triathlon shopping mecca is even nicer. Getting an invitation to a bike fit is at the very top of the niceness scale. Getting all of it, just blows the lid off! You can imagine my excitement when I received an invitation to come and visit TFN in Nottingham and be treated to a complementary bike fit by Tim from Speedhub. Eastbourne isn’t exactly round the corner from Nottingham and traveling with a bike on the train is always an adventure.
The shop tour
When I arrived at Beeston station, finding TFN’s premises was my next task. I need not have worried because it’s a straight forward (quite literally) ride 5 min up the road from the station. Mark and Martin expected me already, some fellow age group triathletes were already there, being in the middle of their bike fits or waiting for their turn.
After a quick tour round the shop, saying Hello to Tim and observing the on going fitting for a while, I was plied with coffee and biscuits to prepare me for the brain work: answering questions about my triathlon journey, the challenge year and the perennial favourite, my sporting heroes (the interview will be online soon, and I’ll post the link so you can find out the answers).
After the interview, I had time to look around the shop in more depth. I had a good look at the lovely bikes on offer, checked out the bike shorts (still hunting for a good pair for Flanders) and accessories. There’s a wide range on offer to suit everyone’s needs. I bypassed the wetsuits as I’m quite happy with my Mako Extreme, and went straight for, yes, the girl’s pleasure palace: shoes! I’ve recently switched to Newtons and so had a look at the extensive range on offer to see how the other models differed from my Lady Isaac.
If you’re anything like me, the SALE rack has magical powers of attraction. I’m looking for some nice 2-piece kit for the longer triathlon distances and the selection didn’t disappoint.
It was easy to start a discussion with the knowledgeable staff about kit and my Kuota Kharma. From there we moved swiftly on to set the triathlon and cycling worlds to rights, to swing back to advise a female customer on wheel choice. Time flew by and I hadn’t even noticed how late it was. Like a good bookshop, TFN is the kind of place where you can happily browse the shelves, discuss favourites with staff and when you decide on a piece, walk out happy in the knowledge that you’ve made a good choice.
The bike fit
Finally it was my turn to get fitted. Tim had done and extremely thorough job with the other athletes which meant, we were a bit short on time due to the trains I had booked. After I described the problems I had had last year, we agreed that Tim would check out my position and make some adjustments to get me more comfortable for now, but we would do a follow-up fit where we would go into the nitty-gritty and potentially try out a few different saddles. This would actually be quite useful as it would allow us to get me comfortable in a road position for Flanders, and then make some tweaks and get me comfortable for time trialling and long rides on aerobars later.
After a short warm-up, Tim checked leg length and flexibility, then got me back on the bike. Just from looking at me during the warm-up, it was apparent that my handlebars were too wide for my narrow shoulders. My bike is the men’s model, so it has men’s handlebars which I’ve never changed. The handlebar width is often associated with tight shoulders, if too wide, and also locking out your elbows, so you can’t really relax, and place more strain on your wrists.
It was obvious that my position wasn’t right, because I didn’t place my hands on the hoods. I put them further back, so my saddle wasn’t in the right place. All this, and I wasn’t even connected to the motion capture system!
Next step, I got cabled up with the sensors. This sounds worse than it is. In actual fact it’s just one long bit of cable that connects the sensors which are attached with velcro dots along the body.
Retül uses a real time motion capture system, where sensors are placed along the side of your body. When you pedal, the system captures all your movements in 3D, so you can see for instance if your hip rotates or how your knee tracks.
All this is fed into a computer program that then compares the values with ranges and angles that are considered ‘normal’ or efficient. It has to be said that what is ‘normal’ may not be ideal for an individual due to differing flexibility or prior injuries etc and a good bike fitter will take all this into consideration.
After some pedal action, Tim told me, that the good news was that my knee tracked straight (meaning it goes up and down without much sideways movement). The bad news was, that this was the only good news. My hip angle wasn’t right which put a lot of pressure on all the muscles and joints, never mind I was bouncing about on the bike like a little monkey because I couldn’t get comfortable on the saddle.
Up the saddle went and a good bit forward, and hooray! I could reach the hoods and sit a lot more comfortably. After some more pedalling to see how the changes translated, it turned out the values and ranges hadn’t changed that much. Some more adjustments were needed.
When it was time to head for the train, my position was substantially different and I was a bit sceptical how my body would like that. However, the ride to the station felt already more stable and comfortable and my turbo sessions during the week went really well. Throwing caution to the wind, the following weekend, I went for my first long ride outside since September. After 83km, I came back one happy customer having had no issues with my leg at all. What a difference!
Following Tim’s suggestion, I have now also ordered new handle bars. I can thoroughly recommended him and look forward to the fine tuning of my position post-Flanders.
So all in all, if you are looking for a shop that has it all in terms of triathlon, head to Nottingham and pay TFN a visit and your bike fitting needs are excellently covered by Speedhub.