The no. 1 most important point about equipment: Get your bike professionally fitted! A fitting is substantially more involved than the typical “quick fitting” involving no more than the typical saddle fore/aft and height adjustments. So often, those simplistic adjustments are done incorrectly. The result: You will not be riding up to your potential.
I had the typical “after sale” fitting on my first bike. It felt comfortable, and I was riding well with it. What did I know? Four months later, I received a Christmas present of a professional bicycle fitting. It took about two hours, was captured on video, used sophisticated equipment, and was accomplished by a fitter trained by John Cobb, a man who has worked with Lance Armstrong. The trainer upon which the bicycle was mounted was equipped with a power meter to record subtle differences in power output. The fitting included not only adjustments to the bike, but also included a new stem and shoe/cleat adjustments with shims to compensate for a leg length discrepancy. It was interesting to watch the progress not only visually on a TV monitor, but also graphically as I watched my ability to generate more power display itself on the power meter.
The bottom line: At the end of the fitting, I was generating substantially more power on each stroke, my position was very comfortable, and I was suddenly winning sprints at the end of club rides!
Ideally, if you can afford and want the absolute optimum fit, purchase a custom-made bicycle made-to-measure. I have two custom made bicycles that were a delight to ride right out of the box.
My Guru time trial bike required two fittings to find my aerodynamic “sweet spot” and comfort zone. The result was I went under the state record for the 5K time trial the first time I rode the bike in competition. Most professional fittings will do future adjustments at no charge.
Now for those of you who are really hard core with bank accounts to match, there are fittings available in wind tunnels such as the one a 58-year-old Masters cyclist friend of mine used last year in Texas to have his already very efficient (he is a past Canadian national open and Masters time trial champion) aerodynamic position tweaked even more. The upshot was that he turned an incredible time of 52:56 for 40 kilometers at the 2007 USCF Florida State Time Trial Championships – that’s an average of 28+ mph for just under 25 miles!!
In a future article, I will discuss equipment specific to bicycle racing.